x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Luxury hammam ritual shows the benefits of steam power

After a luxurious, Moroccan-style hammam that left her feeling the cleanest she's ever been, Hala Khalaf vows to make this a bi-monthly ritual

The luxury hammam ritual room at Sisters Beauty Lounge in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sisters Beauty Lounge
The luxury hammam ritual room at Sisters Beauty Lounge in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sisters Beauty Lounge

I love booking myself a pampering treatment at Sisters Beauty Lounge. I'm a regular at the trendy, beautifully decorated Abu Dhabi branch: a three-storey villa in Al Bateen on 28th street, between streets 11 and 9. In fact, I call Sisters the one-stop beauty shop. You can get everything done there, from manicures and pedicures to facials, body treatments, haircuts and dye jobs.

What I'd like to know is why no one ever told me about their best deal: the luxury hammam ritual. Of all the treatments I've ever tried, anywhere, it is hands down my favourite and for a surprisingly affordable cost. Moroccan hammams, I find, always cost upwards of Dh900 or even Dh1,000 in various spas around the country, and especially in hotels. This one, however, costs less than Dh500 for two hours of incredible pampering, using delightful products. Who knew you didn't have to fork over a wad of cash to feel this good? And hammams? My new favourite spa treatment, hands down. What's not to love about leaving a spa salon feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and so incredibly clean that my skin is practically squeaking?

The set-up

On arrival, I am whisked up to the first floor and ushered into a dressing room, where I am asked to fill out a form before commencing the treatment. I'm a little perturbed, considering the nature of the questions: Have you ever suffered from claustrophobia? Is your pain threshold low, medium or high? Do you wear contact lenses? Do you bruise easily?

What in the world have I signed up for?

No matter; I'm too curious to turn back now. I arrange my clothes on the hanger provided, tuck my belongings away in a cupboard and don the disposable tube-like bra and mesh underwear - both a matching pink colour - before calling out to my therapist Khadija, from Morocco, that I am ready for the unknown. I leave my modesty behind on the bench I had just vacated, and step into the treatment room.

It takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. I had just walked into a marble room heavy with steam. Soon, I am able to distinguish a large, marble slab in the middle of a beautifully decorated room, and rain shower heads on either side.

The treatments

First, I am hosed down with warm water. Khadija then slathers a butter-like, purifying black soap all over my body. "This is Moroccan soap," she tells me. It's made of olive oil, is rich in vitamins E and C and contains eucalyptus. The smell is fresh and invigorating, and soon, the steam-filled room is heavy with the aroma. All soaped up, I am asked to lie on the marble slab for 15 minutes to make the most of the steam. Once the time is up, I am hosed down again and the real work starts.

Khadija wets a black, coarse mitt - a Kessa glove - and asks me to lie on my front. She uses the Kessa to scrub my skin with long, confident strokes and immediately, ugly, long strips of dead skin litter the marble slab and fall to the floor. I exclaim in shock at how much dead, revolting skin is being sloughed off my body. "This is completely normal," says Khadija.

Following the exfoliating scrub and another hose down, Khadija says it's time for the body mask. She slathers a black, mud-like substance all over my body, including my face. Its most prominent ingredient is Moroccan Argan oil, and it leaves my skin feeling silky and smooth. Another 15 minutes in the steam, and after a hose down, Khadija sits me down on a wooden stool and uses a L'Oreal shampoo and conditioner, both of which contain more Argan oil and some green tea, to wash my hair. I've never been so luxuriously pampered in my life.

After drying off, I am led to another treatment room, where the lights are dim and the music is a soft afterthought. I lie face down for a half-hour back massage. Not a single knot is left in my usually tense shoulders, and by the end of it, I just want to curl up and go to sleep.

The service

Khadija does her utmost to make me feel comfortable at all times, cautioning me to be careful on the slippery marble, explaining every part of the procedure, placing a yoga mat on the marble slab so I'd be comfortable, and blanketing me in warm towels while she massaged my back. She explained that I'd benefit most from the hammam if I made it a regular occurrence, perhaps twice a month. "After the second or third time, you'll really start noticing a difference in your skin: it'll be softer, more uniform in colour and lighter, too." To be honest, I felt the change immediately; I couldn't believe how soft my skin was.

As I was getting dressed to leave, I had to face facts. I may have just experienced what could very well be one of the best Moroccan-style baths available in the UAE. Without one of those scrubs every few weeks, there's no way I'll ever feel clean enough from a regular bath at home.

The benefits

"This is the best way to take overall care of your skin," explains Khadija. "It's anti-ageing, plus gets rid of skin discolouration. For example, you'll notice after a few times that your armpits are lighter. And it improves circulation and just leaves you with soft, clean skin that is always silky to the touch."

The prices

The luxury hammam ritual is two hours long and available only at the Abu Dhabi branch of Sister's Beauty Lounge, all for a very reasonable Dh475. Alternatively, you can try the hammam ritual, which does not include the massage and is 90 minutes long, for Dh340, or the Moroccan bath scrub for 60 minutes, which does not include the body mask and costs Dh235.

Book online at www.sistersbeautylounge.com or call 02 222 2502

hkhalaf@thenational.ae

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