Peştemal (pesh-te-mal), also known as a hammam towel or Turkish towel, are large, bath sheet sized towels, made from cotton. They have been used for hundreds of years in Turkish hammam culture to hide bathers modesty. There is a similar towel of Tunisian origin called a fouta (also spelled futa) also used by men and women to drape over their bodies at the public baths.
The painting above, by Jean-Jacques-Francois Le Barbier, depicts a typical scene from a female hammam in 18th Century Constantinople (now Istanbul). It was commission by Baron D'Ohsson in 1785 for a book about the Ottoman Empire.
Peştemal have been present in Turkish culture for decades and are now popular worldwide as functional and hugely versatile towels. They can be used instead of a traditional loop-towel in the bathroom, by the pool, on the beach or at the gym. Worn as a scarf during cooler times or use as a cover-up on holiday.
As well as being multi-functional, Turkish hammam towels have many other qualities, they dry quickly, they don't take up much room, they are easy to wash, the more you wash the softer they get, and they come in a whole host of amazing colours.