Another five minutes…? The sing song voice of my therapist Pema drifts into my cubicle. ‘Why not…’ I murmur in return. A small river of droplets slip from the bridge of my nose, forming a miniature pool at my feet. I sit in my own personal steam cubicle, contemplating how quickly the minutes have already passed. I am beginning an afternoon of therapy, having signed up for a traditional Turkish hamman, followed by a signature Arabian massage at the newly relaunched spa at Anantara the Palm
An integral part of Arabic culture and with roots in the ancient Greek and Roman empires, the Hammam is an therapeutic and medicinal restorative treatment designed to help aficionados decompress, detox, cleanse and exfoliate. Fortunately for me, the hammam at Anantara is more on the therapeutic side – a true haven where East meets West.
After what feels like seconds, I am guided from the steam area to the treatment room, to begin the ritual.
There’s something uniquely comforting, yet slightly disconcerting about surrendering yourself to a therapist to be soaped, scrubbed and exfoliated. Pema hails from Bhutan and we talk a little about the Phobjikha Valley as I lie on the strangely comfortable, warm, marble surface.
After I am thoroughly cleansed, Pema exfoliates and gently buffs my skin using a kessa glove. Next comes quite possibly my favourite part. I laugh aloud as she twists the cotton against the flow of the water to create a billowing cotton pillowcase of bubbles which rest on my stomach, limbs and back before disintegrating. The remaining foam is then gently massaged away. Next comes a most pleasant form of water therapy as iron jugs of warm water are poured ritualistically over me, until only memories of the bubbles remain.
The therapy continues until Pema gently helps me to to my feet to stand at the basin to be rinsed a final time, this time with icy water and Charme d’Orient traditional harman oil. Although I am warned about the cold water, I still shudder as it slips down my back. But, fortunately the oil is a diversion – like adding honey to a spoonful of medicine. This oil, Pema assures me will close the pores and make the skin glow.
Next I move to the hammam relaxation area decorated with images of ancient bathing rituals and am led to an elaborately cushioned and curtained private space. Here, the bubbles and froth continue with a silver vestibule containing the traditional Turkish drink Aryan a light mix of yoghurt, water and salt is presented to me. Like a child with warm milk before bedtime I sip the Aryan and drift off before awakening ready for my massage.