With Middle-Eastern origins rooted in Turkey, the hamam (also known as a Turkish bath) has quickly become a popular spa ritual across North America. While hamams are historically public baths for communal cleansing and relaxation, the hamam treatment is a full body cleansing ritual performed by a spa specialist in a heated environment. While the experiences may vary from spa to spa, the purpose of the hamam is to accelerate blood circulation, release toxins and cleanse the body.
Lourdes Juan, owner of Soma Hammam & Spa in Calgary, says it’s one of the only spa experiences available where you are “cleansed and treated from head to toe.”
Here are a few things to expect before you go.
1. There will be extreme heat and extreme cold.
Traditionally, hamam treatments expose the body to extreme temperatures. So if you’re expecting a relaxing day at the spa, you might be in for a surprise.
“Exposing your body to both hot and cold sensations is incredible for your pores, circulation and is a form of detoxification,” says Juan. “It is important to have an open mind going into this treatment as you’ll be getting your entire body treated and exfoliated.”
2. Exfoliate, scrub, massage and hydrate.
A full body exfoliation is typically done with a traditional kessa mitt designed by Moroccan weavers. This is followed up by a scrub, scalp massage and a hydrating cream applied to the full body.
3. You might be in a steam room or on a heated stone table.
The treatments are often performed in a steam room, but that’s not always the case. “At Soma Hammam & Spa, the room is kept between 28 and 30 degrees [Celsius] and does not steam. However, the treatment is performed on a heated stone table.” says Juan.
4. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your treatment therapist.
Be sure to let your treatment therapist know if you need to get into a more comfortable position or if you have any tender or sensitive spots you’d like them to avoid. “The treatment is all about you,” says Juan, “So don’t be afraid to talk to your therapist throughout the experience.”
5. You can be naked or wear a bathing suit.
Some hamam treatments can be performed in the nude so that the therapist can exfoliate as much skin as possible. However, a bathing suit will also do the trick so make sure to ask.
6. You’ll feel squeaky clean.
You’ll walk away from this experience feeling cleaner than you have ever been before, with zero dry skin left and a new respect for bathing rituals.
Five hamams to try
Highlight: It’s attached to the Marriott Hotel in Seton, a new southeast Calgary neighbourhood.
Highlight: It’s located in the city’s Fashion District on King Street West.
Highlight: This was Canada’s first hamam when it opened in 2000.
Highlight: An on-site dining and bar area provides organic food, tea and juices, such as artisan charcuterie plates and locally made Kombucha.
Highlight: Treatments here use Charme d’Orient products made argan oil, which is known to eliminate signs of aging.