Hammam culture in Dubai

We look at the rise of Turkish baths in the city

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Born centuries ago (in the 1300s), the hammam bath is still a symbol of Ottoman and Turkish culture, even outside Europe. And lately, Dubai seems to be becoming home to more and more of these temples to cleansing – curiously, with a concentration on Palm Jumeirah.

A hammam typically features a large, heated marble slab in the centre of the room, with ornate taps, basins and jugs lining the outskirts.

It’s fitting that the latest hammam to open in Dubai comes courtesy of Turkish hotel chain Rixos, which opened at Royal Spa in Rixos The Palm Dubai earlier this year. Though the rest of the hotel has a distinctly art deco feel, the spa’s theme is harder to place, combining arty red lighting with delicate oriental touches. Set across two levels, there are regular treatment rooms on the ground level, while the Turkish influence lies downstairs. It’s something of a maze, but this gives it a more private feel than some larger, grander hammam spas in town.

A therapist at one of the hammams we visited (who wished to remain anonymous) noted that although there are an increasing number of spas in Dubai offering a hammam option, either on the traditional marble slab or adapted to the confines of a standard treatment room, it’s not something the local clientele have embraced wholeheartedly yet. At the moment, most guests booking hammam treatments tend to be European, which she speculates could be to do with the relatively open-plan and less private nature of the Turkish-style baths. Nevertheless, the city’s spas are well known for their ability to provide a high level of privacy, discretion and understanding of clients’ individual requests, so you can always be assured of feeling comfortable.

A Turkish hammam treatment with its traditionally vigorous scrub should be tried at least once – if nothing else, it’s a great way to get rid of dead skin during the hot, sticky summer.

Aroma Spa
The hammam: Istanbul meets Marrakech at this spa: the Moroccan bath is a large, steamy room with a traditional marble slab in the centre, as well as shower facilities on one side. The royal hammam experience begins with a wash using black Moroccan soap and a full-body scrub. Then it’s into the shower for a rinse, followed by a mineral-rich clay body wrap and a honey facial while the mud works its magic. After another rinse, it’s off to a treatment room for a full-body massage.
Best for: Indulgent pampering and a spot of relaxation.
Hammam treatments from Dhs350. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah (04 304 8081).

Chocolate by Jelena
The hammam: The small scale of this spa makes it more conducive to those who want to pop in, have their hammam experience and not linger afterwards. The hammam itself is basic but functional, though the plastic sheeting that the therapists place on the stone slab (for hygiene purposes) is a little disconcerting. The treatments are also slightly more affordable than those offered at many high-end hotels, ideal for anyone who wants a vigorous scrub down (and it is vigorous) without breaking the bank.
Best for: An affordable, fast treatment.
Hammam treatments from Dhs295 (one hour). Shoreline Building 10, Palm Jumeirah (04 437 6001).

Talise Ottoman Spa
The hammam: This opulent spa houses the Middle East’s largest hammam, plus a cool indoor pool and private booths in which guests can relax before and after their treatment. In the manner of traditional Turkish baths, you may find yourself sharing the large, hot marble slab in the hammam itself (male and female hammams are separate, of course), but the treatments are as traditional as they come – therapists use a mitt
to scrub away dead skin, before applying olive oil-based bubbles for a final cleanse and massage.
Best for: Visitors looking for an impressive yet authentic experience.
Hammam treatments from Dhs325. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0000).

Rixos Royal Spa
The hammam: There are several hammam treatment rooms in this spa, housing one or two gently warmed marble slabs each. Opt for the traditional hammam to experience a no-nonsense scrub, rinse and massage. Expect to feel clean and invigorated afterwards.
Best for: A real hammam vibe.
If you really want to feel like you’re in Istanbul, book in with friends to complete the sociable side of the cleansing ritual.
Hammam treatments from Dhs350. Rixos The Palm Dubai, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 5555).

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