The art of barbering has a longstanding tradition in Turkish culture, thanks to the brave men who rebelled against the closure of the coffee house barber shops during the Ottoman Empire. The barbers continued their craft on the streets, becoming ‘walking barbers’ or hamam (Turkish bath) barbers.
A Social Event
Turkish barbering has long been a skill handed down from generation to generation. A master barber would only pass on his title to his apprentice after many years of training, after all, who would want a burning rag shoved up their nose by a novice? Most men in Turkey would not dream of shaving themselves every morning. Turkish men visit a barber’s regularly to have a straight edge shave which will last a couple of days. A visit to the barbers is considered a social event where men gather, have a shave and maybe a haircut, drink tea and have a chat.
Visiting a Turkish Barber
I have never felt the need to visit a barbers shop in all the time I’ve lived here but was thrilled when Şener, the husband of our BLUE guide invited me to come along on one of his weekly visits. This barbers shop looks like many others I have seen over the years – an unassuming interior, kitted out with mismatching furniture, TV on the wall, belting out the latest chart entry and a picture of Atatürk which you’ll see in almost every business and office in the land. Being in a touristy area here in Marmaris, it doesn’t matter at all that I am a female in a man’s world; the barber and his apprentice don’t bat an eyelid and with a discreet nod to Şener, motion him over to the battered old chair and the procedure commences.
Hair Removal at its best
The barber deftly whips the shaving cream into a froth and with a cutthroat razor starts the shave, taking care around the ears and base of the nose. I wince with apprehension but Şener appears quite relaxed and seems to enjoy the experience. Next, a thick, gloopy wax is applied to the skin, allowed to cool and then ripped off with a lightning fast motion to remove any stray hairs which escaped the blade.
The barber continues at a leisurely pace and at this point decides to take a tea break. We are also given a glass of çay along with a couple of elderly men who are waiting at the other end of the room. They are not bothered by the interlude, happy to wait their turn and sit back. One returns to his newspaper and the other continues with the click, click clicking of his prayer beads as he passes them through the fingers of one hand.
It’s getting hot in here
The final part of the hair removal process is quite startling at first and certainly not something I expect to see. A piece of gauze (or is it a piece of old T-shirt?) on the end of a stick is lit and the flame is darted around Şeners ears and nose, back and forth to remove the most stubborn of hairs which also managed to evade the wax attack. Hair removal over, the barber douses his hands in fragrant cologne and give Şeners face, neck and shoulders a vigorous rub in a massage which lasts a good 10 minutes or so. Thoroughly relaxed and rejuvinated, at the end of the session Şener hands over a tiny amount of money the barber and a small tip to the apprentice.
The entire barbers shop experience is simple and with none of the frills you’ll find in the trendy hair salons in town. The service, however, is thorough and first class. If it’s your first time in Turkey and you fancy a reasonably priced treat, pop along to the barbers shop and take your wife, girlfriend or partner with you. You will find a barbers shop near almost all TUI BLUE hotels in Turkey where you can enjoy the pampering and they can take the pics!