I just visited Cemberlitas Hamami yesterday (22 June 2018). I was prepared for the experience to be anything from the best to the worst after reading the reviews below. I found it to have been utterly peaceful and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I had the theory that those people who experienced too abrupt service probably visited during busy times. I noted the hamam opened at 6am, and was there at 7:30am. I was the only person there, aside from the employees. A woman guided me as to what I should do and where to go (where to find the lockers, remove clothes, use towel for modesty, go into steam room and lay down for 10 minutes). She even shouted up instructions when I couldn’t find the light inside the locker room.
One reviewer had a bad experience with her wallet being stolen. I had locked my backpack in the locker and had no trouble. Perhaps I was just lucky, but it could also be because no one other than staff was there. I’m guessing the theft was not employees but other visitors. In addition, I always, always lock my backpack so it cannot be opened by pickpocketers. It doesn’t prevent the theft of the entire bag, but makes me less of an easy target than the people I’m surrounded by.
Then I moved into the steam room. It is such a beautiful room with the light filtering through the holes in the dome onto the hot marble stone in the center and the small nooks circling the outter ring for cleaning. My only disappointment in the whole experience was when I was told I couldn’t take a photo, even though no one was inside. No joke - the room is hot! My corneas steamed over many times. But you get used to it. My advice - deep cleansing breathing. Another reviewer noted the distracting loud chatter of other patrons. Not when you’re the only one at 7:30am! (I love experiencing new places in the early hours before the tourists wake up. It’s just you and the locals.)
The person who attended me in the steam room (#42) was so attentive and took her time in the process. I tried to appear nonchalant, but totally gave myself away by peeking at the bowl of suds and the bag of foam - what a decadent feeling to be covered in bubbles! I let her guide me through the process (FYI ladies - if you’re wondering, I felt I did it correctly by only wearing panties under the towel. At least no one giggled and pointed.) She took me over to one of the rinsing nooks, where she rinsed me down and washed my hair (everything gets soaked in the hamam process, so don’t wear makeup or do anything special with your hair). Then I was directed to lay back down on the marble stone.
About 15 minutes later, just as I was about to stress that they had forgotten about me and I would die from dehydration (but at least I would be extremely clean!), the masseuse (#66) opened the door and asked if I was ready for the massage. I followed her to another room where I experienced one of the top 5 best massages of my life. I opted for the whole body oil massage (whole package cost 250 lira) but it included a little reflexology and a mini face massage. She was such a talented and attentive masseuse that I was tempted to pay her another fee on the spot to add a reflexology session - but I consoled myself with the thought that maybe I could visit again before I departed Istanbul.
I finally left the hamam at the end of my services around 9:00am. Clearly there was no one rushing me through. There were brushes and blowers available to fix your hair, but I opted to just pull it up and leave it at that. The steam room and masseuse were hanging out with the first woman who had given me instruction, in the center area of the changing room. I provided each of them a tip based upon a little over 10% of the entire package price. I think it was well deserved.
My advice to you- go and experience this for yourself. If you like the peaceful serenity of your own thoughts and knowing that you’re getting a leisurely experience, then go early before the crowds are waiting and the women who work there are exhausted from a long day.
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