In which our travellers get the desert dust scrubbed off, and then some. Understandably there are no pictures to accompany this particular post. So we added pics of Damascus and the mosaics of Madaba instead! You’ll just have to use your imaginations…
Who wants a body massage? Evan and I were both massaged really thoroughly in Damascus, Syria. Me by a very large scantily clad older woman and Evan by a strange old man in a robe. It was the most interesting experience I have ever had in public and oddly enough I loved every minute of it. Evan on the other hand has yet to snap out of it.
When we went to the hammam our first stop was in the men’s building where Evan was going to spend the next hour being stripped down and bathed by a stranger. I was led to another building where the women bathed. The building dates back to the 12th Century A.D. but with recent renovations to have it resemble that time period. The inside was very beautiful and had a very cozy feel. When I stepped into the woman’s building I was quickly escorted to my section of the room with a drawer where I would store my clothes and shoes while I was in the bath. As soon as my shoes were off I was ordered to take off everything except my bottom undies. Off came the clothes without hesitation because I really didn’t feel uncomfortable and I knew I would never see anyone ever again! But before I even had a chance to take of my bra, the lady who ordered me to strip down had it off in a flash! She then wrapped me in a towel and had me follow her into another room where she gave me a bucket with soap, a scrub, and shampoo.
She then started to point to the door where I was supposed to have my bath and tried very hard to explain what I was supposed to do. I had no idea what she was saying and quickly ran out of patience trying to explain and swung open the door to the next room and walked me in. When we walked in to my direct left there was a tap running with hot water into a basin and next to the basin sitting on the floor was the very large scanitly clad older woman who motioned for me to come. The other lady pulled off my towel and over I walked. I was splashed a few times by the lady on the floor and then placed into the sauna. The sauna was the size of a closet, extremely hot and dark! I had no idea if I was supposed to sit there until she came to get me or if I was supposed to just come out. I sat in the closet for as long as I could and came out to have the lady motion me back over to sit with her on the floor. She splashed me down a couple more times and then ordered me to lie on the floor. She then put on a scrubber and began to start to scrub me down.
All was fine until I was laying flat on my belly. The lady was just scrubbing away on my rump and in walked a group of girls. Lovely! I can just imagine what I would have looked like. I should have just been naked! The lady scrubbed around as if I was naked anyways! Once she was done scrubbing me down I then got on a table where she soaped me up and gave me the most intense massage of my life. I should mention to you that while she was going to town with the scrubber, she was grunting the entire time. I was having a really hard time trying not to burst out laughing.
While I was laying there, I was just picturing Evan going through the same thing and thinking how uncomfortable he must be! Picturing Evan going through that made it even harder for me to not start laughing. I later learnt that he had a far less invasive treatment! After this I was sent to shower off and then go get changed. Being in the room where the showers were was so relaxing. I had time to kill and really enjoyed being so warm that I washed my hair three times before going back to get dressed. While getting changed, I had a cup of flower tea and blow dried my hair before walking back to meet Evan. If you are thinking about going to a hammam I would strongly encourage it! It was an intense experience but after I felt so clean and so relaxed! If you are comfortable with getting naked and going with the flow then this is definitely for you! Not that I was looking but I did notice a girl wearing a bathing suit.
Evan said that in the men’s bath you wear a robe on your bottom half the entire time and at no point do you get completely nude. If I have the chance to do it again I will in a heartbeat. I think that this is a great local experience that any traveler should take advantage of. It allows you to experience what earlier generations did for hygiene. Although Evan and I were both able to go for a bath at the same time in different buildings, in earlier generations the bath houses were for men and woman but they would go on different days. Women had Monday’s and men had every other day of the week. How fair is that?
- Katie Powell