Hamams & their towels

For many travellers a trip to Turkey would not be complete without a true hamam experience.  And indeed the population of turkey has for centuries had an enduring love affair for this cleansing, rejuvenating and almost spiritual ritual.  Vestiges of Roman and Byzantine cultures, refined through the ages across Anatolia; the Turkish Bath or ‘Hamam’ is more than just a place to cleanse the skin.

Ottoman miniture painting of the harem women in the hamam.

All ranks, creeds, colours, male and female, rich and poor, young and the frail are all welcome to come and go freely from the hamam.  The process is inextricably linked to important and memorable life events in the Anatolian culture.

Among the many items used in the hamam including a tin of soap, ‘kese’ (exfoliating mitt), jewellery boxes and copper hamam bowls; there was the pestemal (often more than one).  These pestemals have a unique history all of their own.

A “pestemal” (pesh-te-mahl), a large towel fringed at both ends and wrapped around the torso, from below the armpits to about mid-thigh, as the woman made her way to the marble basin.  Traditionally the pestemal would be striped or checked, or a coloured mixture of silk and cotton, or pure cotton, or even pure silk.  Today we see another score in the hamam timeline with pestemals being loomed from organic cotton and the more sustainable bamboo.

While its traditional use is in the hamam because of its absorbency and quick drying nature, we have found the pestemal has many more uses in today’s world.  Sarongs, beach towels, throws, even table linen.  Below is a table of the pestemals that we stock and their most popular uses.

Pestemal type Popular ‘other’ use
Linen/cotton (50/50%) Table linen, table runner, napkins
‘Pasha’ bamboo/cotton (70/30%) Throw
‘Bodrum’ cotton 100% Perfect for updating the old bathroom   towels
‘Istanbul’ herbal silk/cotton   (25/75%) Throw
‘Americain’ cotton 100% Sarong, beach towel
‘Marmaris’ cotton 100% Sarong, beach towel
‘Sultan’ bamboo/cotton (50/50%) Throw



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1 Response to Hamams & their towels

  1. portaka1 says:

    Great article! I love my pestemal I bought from Nomadic Son before Christmas. I’ve been using it as a table cloth and a picnic rug!

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