Thanks to Corinne for recommending a wonderful Turkish bath experience: Şengul Haman in Ulus in Ankara, Turkey.
I took my mom, visiting from the States. We were struck by the dreamy star-shaped skylights in domed ceilings, some green with moss, and the vastness of marble. We signed up for everything—coffee massage, soap massage, and oil massage.
Initially I imagined the almost-holy quiet of a spa. But what I encountered was lively, bubbly socialization—especially when a bachelorette party arrived. Elderly women sat by long tables of food, covered from head to toe. Young women danced in street clothes and hamam towels, their hands in the air, snapping and clapping. Traditional music boomed through the hamam.
I let the music wash over me, hearing soft murmurs of chatter and the occasional big splash. We both felt relaxed—walking over heated marble, sitting in a sauna or steam room, splashing water over our heads and bodies, kneaded by massage. It was an interesting feeling—relaxing and social, cleansing and festive, all at once.
As we finished, an auntie dance in front of a young woman, waving a basket of toiletries at her as the bride prepared for her bath, luring her in. Our attendants, wearing black bikinis, snacked on food and danced, in high spirits. One whistled high and loud as she approached my mom. She danced intensely, bouncing and whistling, and brought us into the dance. We felt alive and welcome. Days later, my heart is still dancing to the tunes we heard.