I squeeze my lips together, holding my mouth tightly shut as a bucket of water is dumped on top of me. My left cheek is pressed against the floor of a public bathhouse. I am lying on my side nearly naked, sprawled in a lukewarm slurry of soapsuds and sloughed-off skin from the women who went before me. A strange lady with enormous bosoms holds my right leg at a 90-degree angle, scrubbing my inner thigh with a sandpaper-like rag and the force of a fire hose. A room full of local children, women and grandmothers look on in mild amusement. On the other side, an awkward group of Western women sit in a row against the wall, trying to avoid eye contact at all costs as they wait for their turns in their underwear.
Welcome to the hammam: the other side of your comfort zone. Continue reading