Photo credit:  Carissa Lamkahouan

Houston hammam offers traditional take on bathing

By Carissa D. Lamkahouan

Photo credit:  Carissa Lamkahouan

Photo credit: Carissa Lamkahouan

The recent opening of Hammam Spa in Houston, Texas, brings Morocco’s treasured tradition of hammam-style bathing and washing to the Bayou City, a move sure to appeal to the large Moroccan population in Houston and even to those who are unfamiliar with this unique experience.

In Morocco, a hammam is an integral part of life and is a mainstay of the country’s cultural fabric. Not simply a spot for washing, these bath houses also serve as a social-gathering place and are one of the central parts of time-honored pre-marriage rituals for both men and women.

Because of its long history and popularity, hammams are ubiquitous in Morocco and range from simple neighborhood establishments to up-scale luxurious destinations spots for natives and tourists alike. However, many Americans aren’t familiar with these types of baths, but Hammam Spa aims to change all that.

Looking to recreate the true Moroccan hammam experience, the spa makes, uses and sells all of its own natural products, including the black soap Moroccans use in the hammam, and of course, products and lotions made from the famous argan oil which is indigenous to the North African country.

The rare oil, which can only be found in Morocco, has many topical uses and for ages Moroccans have used it to treat skin diseases and as a cosmetic agent for the hair, creating shine, and for the skin to prevent and treat wrinkles and stretch marks.

To bathe like the Moroccans, visitors can soak in the spa’s Jacuzzi bath, then be treated to a private scrubbing session in which their entire body is cleaned with a loofah-like sponge, called a keesa glove, with use of the Moroccan black soap. The full-body scrub also includes argan oil body, foot or facial treatments. In addition, customers can choose an argan oil facial which comes complete with special eye treatments, or they can indulge in a full-body clay wrap, or scalp and hair treatment.

The spa area is decorated in traditional Moroccan-style wall tiles and visitors are treated to mint tea – that most Moroccan of refreshments – green tea flavored with fresh mint leaves and liberal amounts of sugar.

Texas native Elizabeth Johnson recently returned to Houston from Morocco, where she spent a year living and working as a teacher. Being familiar with hammams from her stay overseas, she said she was excited when she first learned of the new business.

“Hammam is a bathing experience unlike any other. It’s an exfoliation of the top layer of dead skin cells that accumulate over time that normal bathing doesn’t get rid of,” she said. “It’s also a wonderful place to rejuvenate, pamper yourself and just get away from the world to relax and refresh your mind. I highly recommend it.”

She added Houston, with its large international population, is an ideal location for such a venture to flourish.

“I think it’s going to be very successful,” she said.

If online reviews of Hammam Spa are any indication, Johnson’s prediction may prove true.

One recent customer, who had never been to a hammam before, said the experience left her “more relaxed than I have felt in years,” and called it better than any massage she ever had.
Another reviewer said her skin was nearly unrecognizable, “It’s never been this smooth,” after her treatments and called her time there “a cultural experience.”

For more information about Hammam Spa, visit, call 832-968-4262.


Bin Hammam Loses Appeal of Lifetime Ban

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

SOCCER-FIFA/Qatari soccer official Mohamed bin Hammam, who challenged Sepp Blatter for the presidency of  international soccer’s governing body, lost an appeal against his lifetime ban from the sport, FIFA said on Thursday. He’ll now appeal to sport’s top court, his lawyer said. Bin Hammam was head of the Asian soccer confederation and was banned in July after being found guilty of buying votes for the FIFA leadership contest against Blatter. Bin Hammam said the ban was politically motivated and that he had the resources to fight for years to clear his name.

“The appeal made by Mohammed bin Hammam has been rejected and the decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee confirmed,” FIFA said in an e-mailed statement. “The sanction of being banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for life has therefore been maintained.” The Zurich-based body’s three-member appeal panel was led by Ecuadorian Francisco Acosta and included officials from Argentina and Senegal.

FIFA’s decision to expel Bin Hammam came after an investigation led by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Louis Freeh into claims he offered Caribbean soccer officials envelopes containing $40,000 while campaigning in the region. FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who arranged Bin Hammam’s visit to the Caribbean, was also suspended and quit the sport before the end of Freeh’s inquiry. He denied wrongdoing.

The papers will be lodged with the Lausanne, Switzerland- based court once Bin Hammam receives a full written statement from FIFA explaining its latest decision, Gulland added. “I will continue my battle until I prove my innocence and that my suspension was a political decision and an absolute abuse of power to deprive me of my right to contest for FIFA presidency,” Bin Hammam wrote on his personal blog last month.

Bin Hammam’s legal team has also lodged a separate action with CAS that challenges FIFA’s right to designate China’s Zhang Jilong as “acting president” of the Asian Football Confederation and appoint him to sit on the FIFA Executive Committee, Gulland said.


Mohammed Bin Hammam Withdraws from FIFA Election

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of,


President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Mohamed bin Hammam speaks during an interview in Doha in this January 5, 2011 file photograph. Mohamed bin Hammam will appeal against his provisional suspension from FIFA in the hope of taking part in the governing body’s congress this week.

Picture taken January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad/Files

Qatari soccer official Mohammed Bin Hammam withdrew from the race for presidency of international soccer’s top post of president of FIFA in the midst of corruption charges. The withdrawal of the only challenger paved the way for the re-election of a man who has been swimming in controversy since he set foot in office, current FIFA president Sepp Blatter. And that re-election is now official. Bin Hammam was subsequently suspended even before any investigation was undertaken. It has been alleged that he offered $1 million in bribes to Caribbean football officials.

Bin Hammam released a statement regarding his suspension. “I was punished before I was found guilty,” he said. “In a letter to Fifa sent this morning, Mohamed Bin Hammam protested against the unfair way he is treated by the Fifa Ethics Committee and the Fifa administration. Despite his explicit written request, he was not provided with the motivated decision of his suspension in due course and he was not able to file his appeal and was denied his last opportunity to get access to the Fifa congress.

“In his letter, Mohamed Bin Hammam stated 10 points which demonstrate very clearly that he is not getting a fair proceeding. “Most importantly, there is absolutely no justification for a suspension. The suspension is not necessary to conduct the investigation but constituted a grave violation of his reputation and created substantial damage without any necessity. Mohamed Bin Hammam repeated: “I was punished before I was found guilty. There are reasons to believe that the suspension was a solitary decision of the Chairman and not the Ethics Committee. A solitary decision of the Chairman is only possible in emergency situations, which was absolutely not the case here. The panel of the Ethics Committee was fully present.

“Mohamed Bin Hammam does not understand why the Ethics Committee found the statements of the sole eyewitness truthful when it came to the allegations made against him but disregarded the written statements of 12 CFU officials in his favour. The behaviour of the Fifa General Secretary at the media conference on Sunday evening was absolutely unacceptable and against all principles of justice. Sitting next to the Chairman of the independent Ethics Committee, he abused the event to voice his personal opinions and to comment on the results.”

“Because of this very unfair treatment, Mohamed Bin Hammam reserves all his rights, against this unprofessional and one-sided attitude, with the judicial bodies of Fifa and beyond. I am very sad and disappointed over what has happened in the last days. I will never accept how my name and my reputation have been damaged. I will fight for my rights. I thank all the people who have supported me during the last weeks and will support me further. Good days bring you happiness, bad days bring you experience.’”