A hammam is traditional Turkish bath. It’s basically the Middle Eastern variation of the Roman bath. It involves steaming, cleansing, sometimes a massage, and more steaming. That’s a hammam in a nutshell! Read on to find out what you should expect at a hammam.
What to Expect at a Hammam
I had my first hammam experience in Dubai and since then, have come to enjoy Turkish bathing! Read about my traditional Oriental hammam experience in Dubai here.
You need to be okay with a certain level of nudity. Bring your bikini bottom, or use the disposable underwear provided by most spas. Before entering the steam room, your robe comes off, and you’re naked except your bikini bottom. Being naked in front of your designated spa lady is one thing. But be prepared to be naked in front of a group of other naked people!
I remember the spa lady at the One&Only Resort in Dubai didn’t fully explain the hammam process. As a result, I brought my iPhone INTO the steam bath (thank goodness it still worked). Furthermore, my friends and I were not prepared to disrobe in front of each other! Don’t worry – only the same gender bathes together.
The Hammam Treatment
Entering the steam-filled hammam in Dubai, I noticed the tall ceiling and the large marble table in the middle. The entire space was dark, steamy and filled with people. Different treatments were done in the smaller chambers and alcoves. If anyone knows how hygienic hammams really are with all those sweaty, naked people, do let me know!
First, we started in a small steam chamber with a glass door. The steam in there was more concentrated than the lower intensity steam in the larger space. We sat on the marble seats in110°F heat for about 10 minutes. The small steam chamber accommodated up to 4 people, so it was just us in there.
Then, we went back into the cavernous space in the middle. Traditionally, a hammam is a communal bath, so this is where everyone bathes together. We lay down along the perimeter of the warm marble table. The spa lady washed me with black Moroccan soap then rubbed a clay masque all over my body. With my particular treatment, she also drizzled honey on my face. This luxurious concoction was left to work its magic for around 10 minutes.
Next, it was time to wash it off. The spa lady led me to the bathing alcove. I stood there with my eyes closed as she took a small bowl filled with water and splashed it all over me. I gotta say, it felt so weird being splashed like that by someone! The treatment concluded once everything was rinsed off.
Outside of the steamy hammam was a pool that you could further soak in. But we preferred to lounge in the relaxation room with sweet dates and tea. Looking out of the lounge, we noticed that it was the men’s turn to enter the hammam after all the women had left.
If you’re uncomfortable with extreme humidity or have a heart condition, you might need to rethink doing a hammam. The steam adds to the sensation of heat and makes it hard to breathe.
If you ever get the opportunity to try a hammam spa either in your hometown or another part of the world, you should give it a try! Just remember, there’s no room for modesty or shyness.