Hammam, Turkish bath, steam room, banya, sweat lodge, temescal or sauna – the name may vary. Some may involve dry heat, others wet; some may have cold pools, others ice-water buckets; some may be made of marble, others of cow dung; but the end result is the same – a community coming together to sweat out the impurities. Now, thanks to the joint efforts of Urban Retreat and MarocMaroc – Morroco’s leading skincare range – it’s Harrods’ female-only community (though the hammam is male-only on Tuesdays from 5.30pm) who are joining the gang.
It’s a rainy Tuesday morning, but the lift to the newly refurbished fifth floor peps my spirits by opening its doors at Urban Retreat, the spa and beauty area created and run by George Hammer; his daughter Reena is Urban Retreat’s creative and brand director. I am ushered by my kessala (or hammam assistant) to the changing room and into my robe, ready for my 80-minute signature hammam – just what I need.
The first room we enter is hot and the design gorgeous, echoing MarocMaroc’s outpost at Marrakech’s Royal Mansour. I can feel my body temperature rise, my skin moisten (ideal for exfoliating away dead skin cells) and my limbs and muscles relax, which prepares me for the massage.
I’m then taken to one of seven marble rooms divided by lattice screens and lie down on a hot marble stone. My kessala explains that she and her colleagues trained at one of Rabat’s ancient hammams, which date back to the 14th century. Little has changed since then, she says, and although they have slightly modified and enriched the products, the soft black-olive soap, sweet-almond moisturiser and rose water remain the bedrock of the treatment.
As she lathers my body using a soft-massage technique, she explains: “The black-olive soap is rich in Vitamin E and helps open up the skin’s pores. This massage is a key part of preparing the skin for exfoliation.” Next, she scrubs my body using a kessa glove. I feel a slight tingling as the pressure is taken up a notch. I can see the dead cells gathering on the material. The scrubbing also opens the pores and stimulates the lymph and circulatory systems, says my kessala. When she has rubbed every nook and cranny she rinses me off with buckets of warm water.
But if I thought that was the full scrub, boy, was I mistaken. Miel d’Ambre is a honey-coloured scrub with a granular texture. It foams up as she works it into my skin and I’m alarmed to see the debris that is coming away – it makes me want to check in every week!
With my body taken care of, it’s time for my hair. I’m asked to sit up while generous helpings of Amande au Lait – a nourishing shampoo specifically designed to protect dry and brittle hair – is applied. She also performs a heavenly scalp massage. To finish, an argan-oil mask with blossom extract is combed through my hair and I am left to relax for a few minutes while it soaks in.
The kessala then gently stretches my body, massaging in the deliciously milky Infusion d’Orange with energetic movements to enliven me and prepare me for the world outside.
But before I exit into the cold and rain, I take a few minutes to curl up in my robe, sip delicious fresh mint tea and nibble on dates and nuts.
There are very few treatments in the world as simple and effective as time spent in a hammam. But this ancient therapy housed in such an über-luxe shopping destination really brings two worlds together in a new way. The healing properties of the natural products teamed with the warmth of the steam and the unique massage protocol cleansed my skin, eased muscle tension and left me feeling clear-headed, energised and revitalised. What a great addition to an iconic place.
Spa Junkie is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies.