“Entering the Hammam is akin to a journey….
winding corridors turn this way and that, dramatic archways entice you on,
until, suddenly, one enters the heart of Hammam, a haven of space, warmth and comfort.”
One&Only Royal Mirage Hammam Manager, Med Saif, continued to enlighten us as he led us to the ladies quarters where our personal attendants awaited. He added, “You see, the traditional Hammam, has long played a part in the cultural and social life of eastern cities. And now, you get to retreat into our One&Only Royal Mirage oasis for our signature Hammam experience.”
Relaxation was redefined for us as we retreated into this Oriental steam bath and exfoliated our daily stresses away. Just imagine this. The soothing sound of running water echoes from the ornately tiled walls. Steam rises and fills the room. All you can see are rays of lights through the mist, as you close your eyes and surrender to serenity.
Our personal attendant prepared us for the complete Hammam experience, and dressed us in the traditional wrap called a pestemal and slipped on some loose sandals. Then escorted us to the domed chamber with steam rooms, heated marble tables where we began the series of exotic body treatments – a body scrub from head to toe, body wrap with ghassoul mud with a honey mask, topped off with a calming massage (see steps for Hammam below).
We reclined into our lounge chairs in a resting room with rose scented cold washcloths on our foreheads. We felt like a magic wand had granted us a personal escape as we sipped mint tea, and delighted tasting the sweet dates.
For more background, read about the history and meaning of the Hammam (from the One&Only Royal Mirage site below):
A Ritual of the Orient
Resting, fully relaxed, on a heated marble slab, the expert masseur attends to your body’s every need, rejuvenating your skin and invigorating tired muscles. The masseurs-experts from Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, known locally as Tayels or Tellaks – are masters of their craft. Under their gentle guidance (the word ‘massage’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘mass’ meaning ‘to press softly’ or ‘gentle touch’) even the most hesitant guest cannot fail to entrust themselves to the care of the masseur.
The treatment begins with a vigorous exfoliation, beginning with the back and moving on to the face, neck, shoulders, chest, stomach, hips, legs and feet – care is taken over every inch of the body, leaving the guest, in effect, with new skin.
The ancient Greeks praised the virtues of daily bathing, judging it to be not only therapeutic, but also convivial. The tradition was taken up, and enhanced, by the Romans, who transformed what had been modest facilities into grand structures, often incorporating gymnasia and even public libraries. Soon, the wealth and importance of a city could be judged by the number of public baths to be found there.
The tradition of bathing was also an important aspect of Islamic culture, and was closely associated with the beliefs of the faith, The Prophet himself having highlighted the virtues of hygiene.
In Search of a Lost Time
Dressed in a traditional wrap known as a pestemal and loose sandals, one is guided to the heart of the Hammam, slowly acclimatising to the building heat and moisture, where streams of water flow gently from wall-mounted stone basins. Here, movement is scarce and spare and, while the body perspires, the mind is free to relax. A state close to meditation is achieved, and one finds one’s thoughts quickly clearing of day-to-day burdens. As the steam rises, one’s vision rises too, up towards the architecturally stunning dome that filters the daylight. The overall effect, it is said, is to make one feel like royalty in a bygone age.
A Lady’s Conversation
In the days of the Sultans, brides-to-be would pamper themselves for hours in the various chambers of the Hammam, wholly dedicated to the pursuit of personal beauty. These fortunate few would receive delicate skin treatments, exotic body wraps – often based on ancient family recipes, passed on from one generation to another – and, of course, the traditional black soap or clay body wrap treatments.
These moments were spent in the company of close friends, away from the pressures of the impending marriage, and savoured as a time to share the latest news, either learnt or observed. Again, the social aspect of the Hammam was as important as the treatments themselves.
The Power of the Hammam
When one enters a Hammam, one leaves the outside world in the changing room. And in ancient times, there was little hurry to return to it. Following the treatment, patrons would rest in quiet seclusion, enjoying a final rejuvenation. Games would be played, books read and enjoyed, conversations shared. No one and nothing was permitted to disturb this timeless moment in this temple dedicated to wellbeing.
Steps for a Hammam Experience:
1. Traditional Shower with bowls of warm water
2. Spend 5 mins in steam to open skin pores
3. Full ritual cleansing with black natural soap, olive oil, herbs and eucalyptus
4. Shower and steam, then full body exfoliation with a loofah
5. Full rub with natural ghassoul mud clay from the Atlas Mountains diluted with warm water
6. Rose water washcloth on eye, and honey masque on face
7. Relaxing Moroccan massage with soap on warm marble slabs
8. Rinsing off clay and soap
9. Relaxation room with Moroccan mint tea and dates
To experience the Oriental Hammam, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Patricia Stone, a travel writer and consultant for Global Adventuress.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank One&Only Royal Mirage for hosting our Hammam experience. All opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
Credits: some photo and excerpts provided by One&Only Royal Mirage