Turkish pestemal bath towels go chic, reach larger export market


An indispensable part of the Turkish "hamam" (bath) culture, the "pestemal" (or peshtemal), a traditional soft bath towel with a moisture-wicking feature, is increasingly dominating beach and bath collections and experiencing higher export rates. In the last few years, the demand for the traditional bath towel has risen in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, aside from European countries and the U.S.With chic designs and high-quality fabric, pestemals are an ideal and compact gift for friends back home and Istanbul's busy Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar have shops selling them for tourists.

A large amount of these bath towels are produced in the western Denizli province town of Buldan, where 15 companies and around 400 workshops engage in producing pestemal made of Turkish cotton. Each year, around 400,000 pestemals are exported only from Buldan with a turnover of 1 million euros. The local producers have come up with creative towel designs the last few years, and work with international brands introducing them as collections that can be used at spas, pools or sports facilities and even for babies.

Feeling luxurious against the skin, the towels' fabric does not undergo any heating or chemical process during weaving as more customers prefer healthy and organic fabrics. It is also expected to see more pestemals taking the place of beach towels in upcoming summer seasons.

Having been used in Turkish baths for hundreds of years, these towels have several benefits, like being super absorbent, lightweight, drying very quickly and easy to fold and carry. All of these qualities for good reason have made pestemal very popular with travelers. Some pestemal productions utilize organic materials like bamboo. Bamboo-blended pestemals are in general are the lightest of their kind and preferable for outdoor activities.

The town of Buldan in Denizli has a special place in weaving history in Anatolia. The wedding dresses of Ottoman emperors' daughters and the shirts of sultans like Osman II were woven in Buldan, according to accounts available at Topkapı Palace.

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