By Carissa D. 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 www.thehammamspa.com, call 832-968-4262.