Vanity, Modesty, and the Hammam Part 1

(photo from Yas Hotel, ESPA)

It is not for the faint of heart, not one bit. It is not for the modest either. Perhaps even for those with a great deal of vanity, the experience might leave you a bit unsettled. However, do not turn away from it whether you are modest, vain, or somewhere in between, as it is an experience that will “take you to the other side” to quote my mother.

The Hammam Treatment… I planned to do it some years back when Dr. H & I went to Morocco. It would have been the perfect place. I had visions of water, steam, and rose petals. Some say its origins come from Turkey, and other say from the Roman baths. I will give them both credit – I will also give Morocco credit here since the spa called it a Moroccan Hammam. I knew that it involved water, steam, and some cleaning. Also, there are communal hammam in some countries, and I have read many books that describe these places in depth. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I now stand corrected.

But let me start at the beginning – what led me on this journey. Deep muscle pain and lack of sleep. The stress of moving from the States to Abu Dhabi had taken its toll. My shoulders hurt 24/7 and sleep has lasted only a few hours in the night before I wake up and stare at the ceiling, or peel back the heavy curtains and watch the workers building new houses outside at 1:00am, or turn on the light and read, or tip toe downstairs and watch National Geographic Adventure AGAIN. So finally I mentioned to Dr. H how much my body hurt.

“Get a massage.” He responded as if it was the clearest thing to do.

“Umm, ok?”

Back at home I have had a massage from time to time, but I have never had one in another country, so I really had no idea what to expect. Back at home I had the luxury of making appointments with people I knew at the Sports Club/LA Spa. Here, I knew no one. But I had seen the spa (ESPA) at the Yas Hotel and was instantly brought to a place of tranquility so I thought that booking a massage might not be a bad idea. And then I remembered lovely Maryam ( @mymarrakesh ) writing on Twitter how Hammams are the greatest beauty treatment ever. Well, she should know as she lives in Morocco, and when it comes to beauty – I definitely trust Maryam’s judgment.

Done – I booked it. In fact, I booked a hammam treatment and a fitness massage. I figured the two treatments would have me glowing and feeling magical. And quite frankly, if nothing else, I should be able to sleep better. Little did I know what I was doing when I booked the treatments – I brought myself to the point of no return. It was really all in the name of research anyway (along with lack of sleep and muscle pain). My mother is coming to visit next month, and I want to ensure she has an amazing time. To that end, I NEEDED to try the hammam.

The spa has an indoor waterfall and the sound of water surrounds you wherever you go. It over looks the water and a Michelin Star restaurant. Right near by is the F1 Race Track. All things considered, it is not a bad place to spend a few hours. After checking in, a young woman brought me into the ladies locker room and gave me instructions: where to change (why couldn’t I just do it there in the locker room?), the showers, the toilets, the steam, where to put my jewelry, where to dry my hair when I was done (I did not plan on taking a shower or washing my hair there, so I did not really pay a lot of attention to that), and then she handed me a small little plastic of disposable under garments. Hhmmm… I thought. Now things are starting to get interesting.

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