August 22 2014

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Turkey’s Latest Hot Spot


There are certain moments when you feel so far removed from your everyday reality that you can barely remember it. As I lay totally naked on a slab of cool white marble in Turkey last week while a woman methodically massaged my muscles into jelly, I had one such moment.  Istanbul’s newly opened Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Bath is full of them. Housed in a renovated sixteenth-century hammam that was a carpet store and a makeshift facility for prisoners before being restored to its former glory, the spa is located smack-dab in between two of the city’s greatest treasures, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. As you walk through its impressive entryway and descend into the massive multilevel locker room inside, you are handed slippers and a Turkish-style wrap before being led by your therapist into the hammam area. The ritual begins in the hot section, where you sweat it out while being doused in warm water. Then it’s off to the tepidarium, where you are treated to a thorough (and I mean, thorough) head-to-toe exfoliation with a traditional mitt. Next, you lie down in the central area of the hammam, a cool towel draped over your head, as you are covered in foam and cleansed. A rigorous massage and a hair washing with a flowering Judas tree-scented shampoo and conditioner follow before the final rinse. If you haven’t heard, Istanbul is in the midst of a cool revival. Make that a cool and hot revival.

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