Also known as the Turkish Hamam or Turkish bath, the hammam is the Middle Eastern equivalent of a steam bath, kind of 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 by making hammams available to people of all statuses.

The hammam ritual is rather simple, but it does involve several steps aimed at cleansing and relaxing, which many modern-day hammams still utilize. Typically, the treatment lasted a certain period of time, but guests were free to lounge in the cooling areas for as long as they liked.

A Typical Experience

– As you enter the camekan, or entrance room, there are areas for changing and a place to have a cup of tea or a cold drink before or after the bath.

– Before you encounter water, the tellak (staff member) will bring you to a transition area, the iliklik, or intermediate room, where you receive your towels and adjust to the heat.

– From there you enter the hararet, or hot room, which 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 an application of special soap.

– Following this step, there is a rinse process and usually a massage treatment.

While a hammam treatment is best described as “full-body” neither men nor women are scrubbed in any of their private areas, and if you wish to stay covered you are typically able to do so (ask ahead).

At Miraj Hammam Spa at the Shangri-La Toronto, you can indulge in traditional Middle Eastern Hammam and Gommage treatments while your imagination takes you on a mystical journey into the past with design inspired by historical and cultural influences from Paris, Marrakech and Istanbul.

We Recommend: The Hammam and Gommage Package
Between a private high intensity and low mist steam chamber, the Hammam will cleanse your body while stimulating your senses and imagination. Lay relaxed on Jerusalem gold marble as you experience an invigorating full-body Gommage (exfoliation) using eucalyptus infused black Moroccan soap. This experience is considered to be the ultimate detoxification and de-stressing treatment.

To find and book a hammam near you, search WaySpa’s listings.