Nishiraj A. Baruah gets soaped, scrubbed, cleansed, oiled, massaged, steamed and showered at a Hammam, the latest addition in India’s spa culture
While the steam and sauna baths have been popular for many years in the spa culture, beauty experts are now haling the benefits of a uniquely compelling traditional Turkish beautifying and rejuvenating experience – The Hammam. Hammams date as far back to the 16th century originating in Turkey and Morocco but are now the latest trend in the European and Asian spa culture. Says Tracey Poole, Director, Six Senses Spa, India, “Any modern day advanced spa facility should have one”.
So when I hear that Jaypee Greens Golf Resort and Spa in Greater Noida has introduced Hammam treatments, I decide to spend a weekend there to write home the experience for you. And a good one it is.
In ancient Turkey hammam was a communal bathing style where men, women and children gathered to perform these beautifying rituals on each other within the hammam chamber. Whilst it may still be common in Turkey and some middle east countries to have these kind of hammam experiences, elsewhere in the world many spas have started housing and providing the traditional hammam experience with modernised facilities that take the whole experience to another level. “While we create the same atmosphere as a traditional hammam, often people here in India want to keep the experience private. We provide private hammam experiences for singles, couples, family members and groups of up to four friends to experience hammam together,” says Poole.
So on a sunny Sunday morning, I land up at the reception of the Six Senses Spa, following which a giant of a man who looks like the younger brother of Hulk – only that he isn’t green – greets me with a namaskar and a smile: “I will be your therapist, sir.” And so saying he leads me by hand to an inner chamber where he provides me a gown, disposable underwear and slippers. I go inside, change and come out, only to be told to take my gown off and sit down on a stone slab. Minus my clothes, I am feeling like a plucked chicken/rain-drenched dog trying to maintain as much dignity as I can muster up in my skimpy nothing. He then takes a copper bowl, dunks it in a copper bucket and douses me with fragrant water, bowl by bowl. This, even as he explains the ritual: “It is a bath for the royalty in Turkey. Hammams became numerous during the time of the Ottoman Empire and were built in almost every Ottoman city.” With water running all over my face and body, my responses become no more than monosyllabic ‘oks’ and ‘alrights’. “On many occasions they became places of entertainment and ceremonies, such as before weddings, high-holidays, celebrating newborns, beauty trips,” my therapist says.
This done, my gentle giant holds my hand (does he need to hold my hand? I ain’t a kido) and leads me to a steam bath. I sit down on a bench that looks like it’s made of Turkish blue tiles, but actually fibre. The steam room is divine – the steamy heat nearly lulling me into a slumber. Sweat starts to build up. But now I am told that the hammam ritual also involves taking an ice shower – you are actually supposed to rub ice on your body after a warm bath. With near freezing temperature outside, this frightens me and I am beginning to dread the moment. Gentle giant offers me a bowl of paste that has turmeric and other herbal ingredients. “Please apply these on your sensitive areas,” he says.
Fifteen minutes later he returns: “Can we proceed, sir?” “Sure,” I say, now melting like an ice cream. I am led to a marble bed – actually this particular treatment room with two beds is for couples – and I now lie face down. The bed is heated and it is comforting. Then comes the scrubbing – it is almost as if you are being sandpapered with all sorts of natural minerals – as my therapist scrubs me vigorously with a loofah that can be worn like gloves. “I got these from Morocco,” says our guy who is originally from Kerala but has worked in Dubai for years. The scrubbing is supposed to rid me off dead skins, impurities and clear the pores on the skin. After a while, he gently turns me – a piece of dead wood by now – around to scrub my front, my face facing the ceiling, my neck rested on a rolled towel, as my giant towers all over me, working on me. Next I’m thoroughly cleaned with hot water and am ushered into the steam room. That is divine again. After sweating it out, I get out to take a warm rain shower. With all the paste and oils sticking on my hairy self, I spend a considerable amount of time removing these. Else, my clothes may get stained.
Following this my most dreaded moment comes: The ice shower. However, it isn’t as scary as I thought. All you need to do is to rub the ice on your body, the treatment room adequately heated. A cold shower is next and I am ready to slip on my fresh underwear. Am I done? “Yes, sir,” Hulk’s younger brother says, “now it’s your turn for facial.” That’s another story, but meanwhile, I am feeling refreshed, distressed, all toxins gone, my skin soft as a baby’s. So go ahead, water you waiting for?
At 90,000 sq ft, Six Senses Spa at the Jaypee Greens Golf Resort and Spa in Greater Noida is one of the largest spas in India
Besides Hamman, all regular treatments including a hair salon are available
Book a weekend package that allows the menfolk to play golf and the women to enjoy spa sessions
Six Senses Signature Hammam Treatments come for Rs … (50 minutes) and Rs …(1 hour 20 minutes).
For details, call: 0120-2339900