Miraj Hammam Spa, located just south of the Granville St. bridge, isn't your run-of-the-mill Western spa. Instead, Miraj bases its treatments on the centuries-old steam and exfoliation treatments of traditional Turkish baths, or hammams. Having never experienced a real hammam or a spa experience based on one, I approached their media preview day (and my treatment two weeks after) with great curiosity.
As president and owner Surinder Bains Kassour explained during the media preview day, hammams originated in Islamic nations. Worshippers leaving their mosques would head to the closest hammam after prayer. Once there, their cleansing ritual began with relaxing in a steam room. They progressed to an even hotter steam room afterward to further open their pores and cleanse their bodies. Bath attendants then splashed the guests with cold water, exfoliated their skin, and massaged their weary bodies. The therapeutic benefits of hammams appealed greatly to Europeans, who in turn built steam baths in their home countries.
After filling in Miraj's paperwork and being shown the changing room, I showered, slipped into the proffered slippers and sarong, and entered the steam room. Inside, the air was languid and moist, and the steam hung thickly in the air. After sweating for 20 minutes in the steam room, I went into the glass-walled inner steam room where the temperature was even hotter. It was so warm, in fact, the attending esthetician gave me a pitcher of cold water and a glass and advised me to stay hydrated while I was in there. The steam treatment was followed by a rinse-down with cold water and a quick exfoliation with black Moroccan soap.
Then I was off to a massage room, where a massage therapist rubbed ylang ylang-scented oil into my skin and kneaded away residual neck and shoulder tension. The whole treatment was so relaxing, I was practically asleep when it was time to go to the Sultana Lounge, where I reclined on couches and cushions, reading magazines while enjoying hot tea and sweet cake.
Good points aside, Miraj isn't for everyone. Being a bit of a prude, I expected this spa experience to be like my previous ones, where multiple towels were layered on me and only flipped back to reveal the body part being exfoliated or massaged, one body part at a time. This is not the case at Miraj, so be prepared to be comfortable in the nude in front of your esthetician and massage therapist. That being said, the hammam's appointments are staggered so that only one client or group goes through at a time. Plus, there are separate appointment days for men, women and couples, so you don't have to share facilities with strangers of the opposite sex.
If my treatment is anything to go by, Miraj's Middle Eastern flavour is a unique spin on the traditional spa experience; spa enthusiasts should try a hammam at least once.
Special thanks to Miraj for letting me try their hammam and gommage treatment. For more information or to book an appointment, visit their website.
P.S. Entered my Shabby Apple dress giveaway yet? Do it now!