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Holistic hammams

india Updated: Sep 08, 2012 01:51 IST
Zofeen Maqsood

While the steam and sauna baths have been popular for a while in the city spa culture, beauty experts are all set to jump start the new season on a uniquely compelling traditional beauty note, dating back to the sixteenth century. Hammams — The Turkish equivalent to English steam room is the new addition in city spas.

Beauty expert Shahnaz Husain says, “While the modern day steam and sauna have been derived from the same principle as the age old concept of hammam, a traditional hammam treatment is different as it is a social experience combined with a beauty ritual.”

In ancient Turkey and Morroco hammams were communal baths, where men, women and children gathered to bathe in gender specific water pools preceded by a hot and cold steam treatments. They were also handed over mitts, scrubs and soaps before entering the hammam and could either use a masseur or help each other out in a hammam. While it’s common for people in middle-east to still visit hammams to cleanse and catch up with friends, elsewhere in the world spas have started housing hammams for a traditional experience.

Tracey Poole, director, Six Senses spa which has just come up with hammams for men and women says, “While we create the same atmosphere as a traditional hammam, often people here want to keep the experiennce private. We encourage couple hammams and also groups of up to four friends to experience hammam together.”

It’s the thrill of the experience and many folkloric stories about hammams and Arabian queens that has sustained it as a beauty therapy over centuries. Jacqueline Tara Herron, director, Imperial spa explains the science behind the age-old practice. “The steam therapy preceding hammam stimulatessweat glands and is the healthiest way to boost circulation. The hot and cold balance is important for endocrine glands.” Shahnaz Husain says, “The rose petals sprinkled in the water soothe and heal the body as rose contains vitamins and minerals such as calcium and potassium.”

Poole says, "Besides the benefits the feel of dipping in the pool with friends or partner is a great stress buster on its own. So hammams are here to stay."