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The Pestemal: practical or versatile?

Hamam towel sales start to pick up this time of year but because the weather has been so cold some customers frown and say it's hard to imagine something so "thin" getting you dry. But as I love saying to visitors at Smithbrook, switching to using a pestemal simply means taking on board a different way of getting dry. It's more of a poolside or gym thing, rather than that desire to envelop yourself in a big fluffy towel on a cold winter's morning.  Every seller of hamam towels will make mention of how these lovely products also double up as a sarong, scarf or throw (and more). But to turn to the main point of this article, I want...

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Father Christmas and the Bishop of Myra

First posted 5th December 2012 The subject matter of this blog could not be more topical, given that tomorrow - December 6th - is St. Nicholas' Day. And did you know that this person (who is the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus) actually came from the south of Turkey? In the ancient region of Lycia, near Antalya there is a town called Demre - if you visit in the hot summer you will be amazed to see a rather incongruous-looking statue of Santa Claus on a column in the middle of a square, dressed in full winter Christmas attire. This statue (see photo below) is situated in front of the old Church of St. Nicholas. Demre used to be...

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Workshop Visit

First posted 8th September 2012 In an earlier post I mentioned that at some point I would try to get to see some villages near Denizli where weaving "atolyes" still function. This Summer one of my suppliers obliged, and took me to his workshop in a small town which is historically one of the most important weaving centres in Turkey I was a very lucky boy as it was a Thursday just after the end of Ramadan. It's the custom for a lot of people to take the whole week off since it really is a huge holiday (four and a half days, so essentially a week), similar to the Chinese New Year where everybody goes back to their families....

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The Fast-evolving Turkish Hamam Towel

First posted May 26th 2012 The weather is brilliant so it's the perfect moment to talk about Turkish Hamam Towels (often written as "Hammam" Towels). The actual Turkish name is Pestemals (pronounced "peshtemals"), and a dictionary defines them as a waistcloth or a loincloth - so a very traditional and simple wrap-type garment associated with the Hamam culture. But these lightweight towels are a great example of how a really traditional product has leapt over into fashion territory. Villages in Southern Turkey have been making pestemals for literally centuries. I've read recently that villages around Denizli are the home of the Pestemal, and I'm hoping to finally explore some in a few weeks' time. I never managed it during my...

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