Vanity, Modesty, and the Hammam Part 2

I changed, ready for my treatments, disposable underthings and all, and trust me – that WAS all. I will just leave it at and you can sort the rest out for yourselves.

I stepped out of the Ladies changing area and relaxed in a lounge area. Ginger tea sat on one of the low tables waiting for me and small tea light candles flickered down long hallways beyond the waiting area. I started to think about how easy it would to get used to this – to come regularly and just be.

“Miss Lily?”

A young woman called my name and motioned for me to follow her. She introduced herself to me as Y, and clarified which treatments I would be having that afternoon. She then asked me if I had ever had a hammam before. No, no I have not had this kind of treatment. She looked and me, gave me a reassuring smile, and brought me into the treatment room.

So many thoughts entered my mind that I did not know where to begin. I wanted to remember every single minute, every single moment, and I knew that from the beginning. The black marble room was dark in a seductive kind of way. Water poured down the walls and ran around the sides of the room as steam rose up from the corners and out from the sides of the walls. In the center of the room rested two large black marble “beds” with dark chocolate brown towels on them. The room smelled of lemon and lavender. It was dimly lit from the ceiling, and everything seemed to just glow – much as I expected my skin to after the treatment. I just stood there and took it all in. Y asked for my robe. I paused, not quite sure what to do. There were lights on, and well, it was going to be a very interesting moment – the handing over of the robe and all that. While there was steam, there was certainly not enough steam to cover things up. She just stood there and looked at me as if the clock was ticking and we had to get on with things. And I just let it go – the robe and my modesty, and climbed up onto the marble slab to lie face down for the treatment.

The sound of water got a bit stronger, and I could hear it splash on the floor. Seconds later a bowl of almost too-hot water poured onto my right leg – my breath stopped and chills ran down my spine. Water splashed on the floor again, and another bowl of water poured onto my left leg. I felt every muscle in my legs contract. More water, more splashing, and chills on my spine – not due to the water temperature, but the surprise, the shock, and the lack of control and what would be happening next.

My back, my arms, my neck… and so it went.

Black soap was scrubbed into every pore of my skin. My hair came tumbling down and water poured over it.

“Miss Lily, please turn over.”

More water, more soap, a mask on my face, a rinse in my hair, a light massage, a cool washcloth over my eyes, and even though I was lying on a marble slab in what can be described as tomb – something that Lestat from Interview with a Vampire could only imagine in his wildest dream, I felt light and almost as if I was floating. I started to think about the ritualistic nature of the process, the cleansing process, and while a brief image of a corpse in a CSI morgue flashed thru my mind, I also thought about the Ancient Egyptians and the rituals that were performed on bodies after death. OK – a bid dark perhaps, but almost every modern day religion (Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Baha’i Faith) has ritual purifications of one kind or another, so it is not that different. I just keep thinking about the religions and somewhat morbid thoughts until Y started to scrub my skin.

It brought me back to my senses and I was no longer floating. My eyes were covered so I could not see what she had in her hand, but I would not have been at all surprised if she showed me sandpaper. She rubbed it into every inch of my skin in circular motions.

“Is the pressure alright?”

I could barely respond but managed a humble “Yeess.” before breathing deeply and trying to think happy thoughts. I thought about how great my skin would look afterwards. How all the dead skin (all 10 layers) was being removed, I would glow, I would be radiant, and my modesty was long gone and vanity had set in, but not for very long because Y managed to scrub that away too. Immediately after the scrubbing more water was poured onto my skin, and I would be lying to you if I told you it felt amazing.

Afterwards she asked me to step over to a shower in the corner of the room where I sat down and rinsed off. She handed me several towels and brought me to an outer room to dry off. And then, only after everything, I was led to the relaxation room and presented with mineral water and lemongrass tea. I slid into the reclining marble chairs and gazed out over the water.

(photo from Yas Hotel, ESPA)

60 minutes of cleansing, relaxation, shock, humility, and luxury. And then I touched my arm, I looked at my legs. “Ohhh, wow, this is good stuff,” I thought to myself. My skin kind of shimmered despite the red splotches from the sandpaper oven mit. I could not get enough of my own skin… modesty left, vanity crept back in, and I already starting planning my next treatment.

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