You know that horrible feeling of having just stepped off a long-haul flight, totally whacked and desperate for a long hot shower? I’ve found the solution.
The Turkish bath experience.
Arriving in Jordan as a guest of the Jordan Tourist Board, my colleagues and I were thrown into a rigorous sightseeing schedule before we had even checked into our hotel.
Touching down in the capital Amman 24 hours after I left home, we were taken immediately to the Citadel where Jordan’s many layers of history and religion are revealed all in one remarkable spot.
Now, I’m renowned for packing as much as possible into every day – my kids have often said that I walk faster when I’m travelling – but this was a punishing schedule even for me. The sun was blazing and my hat was still in my suitcase. I felt tired, yuck and in desperate need of a bath. The Turkish bath experience couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s completely segregated, with male attendants in the men’s section and female attendants in the women’s. They provide a small (and I mean SMALL) modesty wrap or you can wear your bathers if you prefer.
According to reports from the men in our group, the male attendants furiously tried to keep the blokes covered up. With our women, on the other hand, it was a case of ‘let ’em rip’.
Any modesty went out the door as soon as we gals stepped out of the change room into the main bathroom, when the cloth wraps were whipped from us and we were ordered to take a shower.
I’m not sure how long we were in the tub but it felt so good I didn’t want to get out.
When my turn came, I was led to a communal marble table where the attendant proceeded to slap me all over with soapsuds.
(As photos weren’t allowed, you’ll have to be content with this photo that I took once the room was cleared.)
The soapsuds made the table so slippery I was sliding all over the place, and the attendant did a great job of wedging herself against me to stop me from sliding off! My skin felt silky smooth from being scrubbed and pummeled all over, but the best was yet to come.
Finally, we were led to massage tables in individual dimly lit alcoves, where the attendant soothed my weary body with sweeping circular movements. Afterwards, we were given a cup of mint tea and I felt at peace with the world. What an ordeal it was to have to change back into dirty smelly clothes! The whole experience took about two hours.
Lonely Planet has some harsh words to say about the bath experience – I don’t know which bathhouses their reviewers visited but the one we visited was lovely. If modesty prevails, insist on wearing bathers, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying the experience. It’s quite possibly the best introduction I’ve ever had to a country.
Related post: Postcard of the Week #6: Madaba, Jordan