Hamam Hugs

imageLast week I had my first experience in a Turkish hamam, better known as a Turkish bath house.  It’s interesting that I generally only seem to have these experiences in foreign lands: German spa in Baden Baden,  a spa on the outskirts of Mexico city, or Korean Spa in Los Angeles, .  I brought a bikini as I read in my guidebook that these were optional.  I informed this to the staff attendant as she led me to my personal changing room, she looked in my bag at the bikini, and then looked back up at me.  “Relax,” she said with a smile in her broken English.  Relax, sure.  I will do as the Turks do, going naked into the hamam.  At least all staff and customers were females on this side.  I slipped over the red and white towel they had given me and put on the wooden platform sandals, as I waddled into the hamam, not wanting to fall on the floor.

My senses were in heaven, as I entered the room Cagaloglu Hamami, built over 300 years ago.  The room had one massive dome, with patterns of Arabic stars and astronomical shapes that surrounded it.  I followed the routine the regulars seemed to do.  Walk over to a basin that’s filled with a pail of warm water and pour it over myself and my towel.  The next step is to walk to the circular massive marble flat, lay your towel on it, and naked body above.  Your job is to simply “relax”.  Feel your pores begin to open slowly, and gaze at the dome, or take a nap.   Some people choose to do a self treatment, as I am sure the cost can be exorbitant if you come to the hamam once a week, as recommended by the Turks.  If you chose to purchase treatment, an attendant would awaken you when your turn arrived.  I opted for their exfoliation and massage treatment.  I waited for thirty minutes, but no attendant came.  I reminded a staff member of my service when she entered the room.  I must have been the only one who was not used to relaxing in steamy marble room for this amount of time.  Patience, I reminded myself.

Eventually my attendee arrived in the hamam.  She was a fifty something woman, who first came into the room and did a self service.   Initially she bathed herself with a pail of warm water in her towel, then proceeded to put on her bathing suit.  After she ensured that her body and mind had adjusted to the soothing environment, she could care for me.  She walked towards me with a smile, broken English, I can’t recall her name.  She then escorted me carefully to the basin to pour warm water over me gently.  As I laid back on my towel over the hamam, she began to exfoliate my entire body prior to bathing, and then massaging me.

In American society, the only times you generally receive this kind of detailed treatment is when you are either a child getting bathed by your mother, or a geriatric in a nursing home.  Somewhere in between we forget how special it feels for someone to take care of us.  There’s quite wonder that occurs not just when someone massages our backs, but cleans behind our ears, or lathers the shampoo on our scalps.  The irony is the person who is doing this treatment to me is a stranger, in which we do not speak the same language.  This is her job, body after body, she cares for in the same manner.   She offers each a sense of detailed special attention, and for a moment the recipient feels like royalty.

Although all of us has different types of roles and jobs in our lives, can you offer that detailed attention and awareness perhaps to the customer or product that’s in front of you? For a moment imagine you are serving royalty.  It’ll come back to you.

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