Hammam Guide

Being too naked in Çinili Historic Hamam, Üsküdar

by admin on Jul.12, 2013, under Asian side hamams

Open 7 days/week; Men’s side: 7 to 10 pm, Women’s side: 8-7:30 pm
Murat Reis Mahallesi, Çavuşdere Caddesi No. 204, Üsküdar / İstanbul
Tel (Erkekler için): 0 216 553 15 93
Tel (Bayanlar için): 0 216 334 97 10


Çinili Hamam, located on Çavuşdere Caddesi in Üsküdar on the Asian side, is an historic bath built in 1640 as part of a mosque complex, apparently for the builders working at the site. The donor being one of the most powerful Ottoman empresses of the 17th century, I expected it to be rather grander than it was, and rather more evident. It took some time to find it, perhaps because not one of use had brought a useful map when embarking on our trip from Taksim. Neither had we properly clarified exactly which ferry terminal would take us to Üsküdar; it is Besiktaş, which is not on a tramline, and not Kabataş, which is.

But back to the baths; as I say, having been spoiled by historic baths like Çemberlitaş in Sultanahmet, this one was more modest than I had expected (although at least here the charming changing rooms have not been demolished). I should be clear that this was the women’s side; the men’s side, from pictures, seems a bit more ornate. Upon entering the foyer lined with the changing rooms, we were greeted by a polite fully dressed lady and a cat, the former informing us of the prices – 40 YTL for the full deal, which means entrance and kese (I have to insert here, interestingly translated as ‘stroke’ on their website) – oil massage would be more. We were given a key to one of the changing/resting rooms and went in to change.

I had arrived armed with bathing suit. My friend had nothing. It was her first time at a hamam, but I had been to many and certainly remembered going to Çemberlitaş when I was 19 totally starkers. I have seen others there in the altogether since too. So, I thought, we’ll just go naked. And we did.

The inner chamber again was not as grand as I expected; it is not a ‘large-domed’ hamam, although it is not tiny, and there was room on the gobek taş to lay out on our peştemals and enjoy the steam. The heat was a good level – not too hot, but enough to make you sweat comfortably. A hamam has to be one of the few places one can really do that. The architecture, although not grand, was rather lovely, ogee arches and ornate flourishes tempered by starkly white-washed walls in a shabby-chic way pleasing to those gentrified souls who think French chateaux and Swedish farm houses are wonderful, and not horrible murderous places.

Soon the keseciler arrived and started bossing that one ‘lay here’, ‘move here’, ‘sit here’ in what is more or less the usual fashion when one has female keseciler. (I should add here that I have had male ones – odd and sometimes creepy. Not so recommended.) (I am tempted here to deviate on an even more disturbing conversation with a taxi driver about this topic, but I spare you.)

My friend was very pleased with the scrubbing, having never experienced it before. I was not disappointed, per se, although I wanted them to have taken off at least 10 more years. I have heard stories about places (outside of Istanbul) that give you a very ‘thorough’ wash. This was not one of those places. When ordered to roll onto our backs, the keseci delicately lifted the end of the peştemal and covered up our offending bits. This, we thought, was just politeness. Later on, though, when we were walking about trying to decide where to sit (the gobek taş had become full with washees), the ladies clammered for us to cover up with our peştemals. It was then that we realized we were just too naked for this hamam.

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