ISTANBUL – In a Turkish bath in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district, attendants wait for their next customers wearing only towels around their waists – and masks and plastic visors on their faces.
As Turkey relaxes measures put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it has reopened its famous hammams, or Turkish baths, albeit with preventative measures.
At the 16th century Cemberlitas hammam, customers are required to sanitize their hands as they enter the building and have their temperatures taken with a handheld device.
They are assigned spaces in the changing rooms that keep them apart from other bathers, said Ayna Nurberdiyeva, who works at the hammam.
In the hammam’s stone chambers each customer is attended to separately, with the attendant covering them with soap bubbles which they then massage into the body.
Bathers are only allowed to remove their masks when they enter the hammam, said Nurberdiyeva, although some keep them on as a precaution.
The special bath attendants, called “tellak” for men and “natir” for women, wear their masks and visors throughout the session.
Mustafa Keskin, a bather, said he felt safe with the new measures.
“When they take these measures, we don’t experience any problems. This is our old culture. They say the virus goes away in the heat of the hammam anyway,” he said.