Women at Turkish Baths

Last Updated on July 7, 2022

In a traditional Turkish bath (hamam), men and women are rigidly separated by gender. Women bathe with women, and massage is done by masseuses (females). Men bathe with men, and are massaged by masseurs (males).

There are no “mixed” or “co-ed” baths.

Yeah, dream on, dude…
Ladies, stay away.

No modest Turkish woman would accept a masseur (male massager).

However, foreign couplesand groups of friends, often want to experience the Turkish bath together. Some hamams have adapted to this demand by accepting foreign men and women at the same time.

In most cases, the foreign bathers have swimsuits(whereas in the traditional bath, women wear bikini bottoms, or are naked, and men wear a wrap called a peştemal below the waist).

So far, there is no well-established tradition of males giving professional, respectful massages to women. As a woman, you may find such a masseur, and he may act professionally and not presume any romantic or sexual affiliation with you; but you cannot assume that this will be the case.

To avoid any such unplesasantness, you should receive your massage only from a female.

Larger, historic hamams (especially in Istanbul) may have separate bathing areas for men and women, but most hamams have only one set of facilities and segregate the genders by time: men bathe at certain hours or on certain days, women bathe at other hours or on other days.

Before entering the female section of a hamam, you can ask:

Sırf kadın hamamcı var, değil mi? (SURF kah-duhn hah-mahm-juh vahr deh-YEEL mee)

“The hamam attendants are only women, correct?”

If you have doubts about a certain hamam’s policies, ask about them: women only? Male attendants or female attendants? Bathing suits or naked?

Women only: kadınlara mahsus

Men only: erkeklere mahsus

Men & women together: erkek ve kadın beraber

Female massage-giver: kadın masajcı

Male massage-giver: erkek masajcı

Naked: çıplak

Swimsuit: mayo

With swimsuit: mayolu

Without swimsuit: mayosuz

—by Tom Brosnahan

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