Turkish Bath

Trip Start Oct 13, 2005
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Trip End Dec 22, 2006


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Flag of Yemen  ,
Monday, December 19, 2005

Ahlan wa sahlan,

Well, I'm coming to the end of my time in Yemen and this will probably be the last email I send, so you can all breath a collective sigh of relief. Not just yet though, as I have one last little experience to share with you...

Just before my trip to Kamaran this last weekend I headed with my teacher and a couple of other students to a local 'hamam' (in this context it means Turkish bath). I'd been warned by other students who'd been to hamams in other countries that it would be really dirty and unpleasant, but my teacher had invited me and it would have been insulting to turn him down. Plus he'd assured me that this hamam was clean because it was 'new'. As we pulled up to the jurassic building that was the hamam my heart sank, and as we headed down into its sub-terrainean depths so began the brutal assault of my senses.

The place stank of mould and damp because the walls were all concrete but the air is permanently filled with the moisture and steam of the heat. As I began to undress, a cockroach scurried across the wall no more than two inches from my clothes. I could only shudder and wince as I knew there was no getting out of this whole situation. We were then ushered into the hot steam-room. They ordered me and Andreas (the Swedish student) to take off our flip-flops, but on this occasion we couldn't oblige with their customs - there was no way we were going barefoot in this sh*t-hole! Having offended the locals we sat bemused in the steam room wondering how the hell we'd got ourselves in to this mess.

Then one of the hamam attendants grabbed me by the hand and took me into one of the cooler adjacent rooms in order to scrub me 'clean'. I could only sit frozen in horror as the man started to scrub my body violently with a blatantly used thus dirty flannel. All I could do was close my eyes and pretend that this wasn't actually happening to me.. that I wasn't really being felt up by a scrawny local, nor was he really rubbing the sweat and dirt of the morning's clientelle directly into my face and body! After he was done I headed back, minus my dignity, to the steam-room to contemplate the past ten mintues of my life.

After a while longer we headed back to the changing rooms where I discovered a cold shower in the corner - 'al-hamdu-lilla' (thank God!). I promptly cleaned off my ordeal thoroughly and got dressed. As we returned to the car my teacher said: "so Tom, I bet you feel nice and clean now don't you?". "Oh yes, Adil", I replied, "I had a great time, thank you!".

Okey dokey, well I guess this is the end for the time being. Insha'allah, I will return to Yemen in the new year as I'm now determined to crack this pain-in-the-ass language now that I've started. I've had a great 10 weeks here and I have no regrets in coming. However, I'm now very much looking forward to getting home just in time for Christmas, and I hope very much to see as many of you as possible upon my return.

Thanks for reading. Ma'a salaama,

Tom
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