If, like me, you have pale skin and light facial hair, your arrival will cause a certain amount of amusement. Nonetheless, you will be treated with care and courtesy. A small boy will be dispatched to the nearest tea house for a glass of the sweet, strong brew. The barber, meanwhile, prepares your skin in the manner of icing a cake, plastering it with lather.
Then the blade appears, with quick strokes deftly slicing through the foam. Dead skin is sloughed off, along with the ruthlessly pared facial hairs. Then a spirit is applied - and set alight, to burn off any remaining fluff. Fortunately the flames are extinguished quickly.
One final part of the ritual: powerful hands knead away the stresses in your neck and shoulders, then the whole ritual is climaxed by a sharp, upward jerk.
You don't quite know whether to caress the new, smooth skin, or just check if your head is still screwed on correctly. Don't try this at home. Simon Calder
Flights to Istanbul: from pounds 150 return. A shave: about 50p.Reuse content