I first had a Hammam experience in Turkey many years ago. When I walked into the co-ed room, a massive tiled room where men and women alike were roaming around naked, I wasn’t quite sure what I had signed up for especially as I was there alone, without friends or locals that might have been able to say, “this is normal in Turkey kid.”
Then, a small man walked over to me, and without even a handshake, turned me upside down and slapped wet rags and towels on me which didn’t at first feel all that pleasant and I thought, hmmm, what’s next? Standing on my head and breathing deep? Not quite but some of those wet rag towel slaps hurt, yet inevitably they got the blood and toxins moving outward bound. This was about 20 years ago and since then, I had one more Hammam experience in Southeast Asia and a more recent one, this past summer at Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Hotel. (see my Fort Garry spa write up on my Turkish hammam experience).
Recently, I discovered the Trump SoHo on New York’s Spring Street, ideal if you’re a shopper, otherwise conveniently located away from the mid-town tourist traps if not. Apparently, the Trump SoHo offers the only Hammam experience in New York, which surprised me. Because of that, my fabulous Bosnian therapist told me that she has repeat clients who are locals. Enter the world of Hammam.
Unlike the Fort Garry’s extraordinary large Hammam room, the Trump SoHo’s Hammam room is very small – that said, it feels much more personal as a result. While you don’t have the Middle East aura of sharing an experience with the land of healers and beyond, the treatment is the same.
The hammam, also known as the Turkish hamam or Turkish bath, is the Middle Eastern variant of a steam bath, which can be categorized as a wet relative of the sauna. Although the first hammams originated in Arabia, and bath culture was a central part of Roman life, Turkey popularized the tradition (and is most often associated with it) by making hammams available to people of all statuses.
The Hammam is an incredibly important part of Moroccan culture and life. Men, women and children will visit their local Hammam at least once a week, and spend two or three hours there, catching up on gossip with their friends, and following the long rituals for cleansing their bodies until their skin glows.
With a Turkish Hammam, they use suds and soapy water which coats your body with hot water to make the muscles relax. I opted for the Moroccan Hammam which the Trump offered, something I had tried in Morocco many moons ago.
Although many Moroccans are becoming much more westernized, the roots of their culture are still very evident everywhere you go, with many women covering their bodies, sometimes still from top to toe, when out in public. Not so in the Hammam! Men and women bathe separately of course, but the women are far from shy with each other when it comes to the public Hammam.
The rest of the world doesn’t seem to be so ‘proper’ and are less afraid to show skin. C’mon America I often think – get over it. Women are women, men are men. Show your skin and live a little but that requires a novel I guess, for somehow, somewhere of why in 2013, we are still not comfortable showing skin and require massage therapists to spend a third of their time toweling every aspect of our skin to cover their bases rather than doing their best work. I still can’t get over this. Onward, please.
Historically, the Hararet, or hot room, houses the large marble belly or navel stone. Bathers, arranged on marble slabs around the fountain, alternate basking in the high humidity and being vigorously–and thoroughly–scrubbed by an attendant. Following the scrubbing, there is application of special soap (including shampoo, if requested).
For the Moroccan ‘experience’ at Trump, they used black olive oil soap and I immediately noticed a difference to my skin, even ‘while it was happening.’ Imagine buckets of hot water, black olive soap and scrub for 30 or so minutes, all part of the exfoliating of our skin process. Since I can never seem to totally relax, I used the time to learn about my therapist and her life. Note to the wise: don’t do what I did even though no doubt, your therapist WILL have an interesting story – we all do. Go there to be ‘taken in’ in and healed. Don’t talk, just absorb!
Trump SoHo offers the following treatments: calming to more vigorous massages to Turkish and Moroccan hammam treatments, a hydration “refresher,” a body polish, an organic body spray tanning treatment, a Moroccan rain body polish, multiple body massages, facial treatments and more.
Two thumbs up for the experience. I loved my therapist and the staff is SO there to help. BTW, they also have a great line of skin products – a great sulphur product that is supposed to help with acne and aging is due to arrive soon, so we’ll see. I’m open to all possibilities.
They also have great facial and massage treatments including a balancing, purifying and revitalizing massage, all at about $300 and upward for a treatment.
Read my write up about the Trump SoHO, other lodging recommendations and top spas here. Also, check out the Trump SoHo hotel review as well as write-ups of other spas around the world in our Spas & Retreats section.