3 mins

5 steps to taking a hammam

Nervous of trying a traditional hammam? We ask expert Diana Darke — author of Bradt guides to Syria, Oman, East Turkey and North Cyprus — for her knowledge on the Middle Eastern spa...

Tips taking a successful hammam (Shutterstock)

1. Choose your service 

Proper hammams are never mixed but have separate times for men and women (Shutterstock)

Proper hammams are never mixed but have separate times for men and women (Shutterstock)

Choose your service from the price list or, better, go for everything. Payment is up front; there’s no time limit. Allow one hour minimum, preferably two. Proper hammams are never mixed, but have separate set hours for men and women. Men never remove their towel from their waist; women can go topless or naked.

The modestly inclined can take swimwear.

2. What you'll need 

The essential hammam kit (Shutterstock)

The essential hammam kit (Shutterstock)

You are given a towel, wooden clogs, soap and a coarse mitt, then shown to the changing area – often a beautiful room with raised benches. Valuables can be locked up. When changed, clip-clop into the warm room to adjust, then pass into the steamy hot room.

3. Find a basin 

Inside a traditional hammam in Morocco (Dreamstime)

Inside a traditional hammam in Morocco (Dreamstime)

Find a basin and sit beside it, scooping hot or cold water over yourself and soaping yourself at leisure.

Did you know? 

The Ottoman hammam was the only place where women were permitted to socialise freely. 
Much matchmaking used to take place, with mothers eyeing up potential brides for their sons. 

4. The massage

Massages typically take place on a marble slab (Shutterstock)

Massages typically take place on a marble slab (Shutterstock)

When summoned for your massage, lie down on the central hot marble slab; allow yourself to be oiled and pummelled from head to toe.

5. The full body scrub 

Hammam scrubs tend to finish off with a soak in a soapy lather (Shutterstock)

Hammam scrubs tend to finish off with a soak in a soapy lather (Shutterstock)

Next, the full body scrub with the coarse mitt, which removes filth – and several layers of skin. After a final soaping into a frothy lather, you’re rinsed off. Back in the changing area you are given dry towels and tea; relax as long as you like.

Related Articles