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Take a Spa Day at a Hammam in Edmonton

During the prolonged Edmonton winter, it can feel like the cold is seeping into your bones and making your skin dry and itchy. The best remedy? A luxurious steam and scrub in a traditional Middle Eastern bath called a hammam, of course! And you don’t have to venture far to find one — we have two options right here in Edmonton.

The Ritual
Also called a Turkish or Roman bath, the hammam is part of a ritual that began in the Roman city of Constantinople. When the Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1450 (and renamed it Istanbul), they imported their own bathing customs and eventually merged these customs with the Roman ones to create the cleansing tradition called hammam — or spreader of warmth.

Historical hammams throughout the Middle East are elegant marble and stone structures with high-domed ceilings, sweeping arches and elaborately carved columns. The treatment areas feature heated marble, often inlaid with geometric mosaics in shades of blue, green, or grey. Inside the cavernous, warmly lit space, it’s easy to close your eyes and travel back to an age of grandeur and indulgence.

Istanbul is where I first encountered — and adored — the hammam experience, which involves several stages: steam, scrub, and rinse (sometimes followed by massage).

The Edmonton Experience
In Edmonton, the Healing Waters Spa on Whyte Avenue and Kaya Kama Hammam and Day Spa on 34 Avenue offer this traditional experience, though on a smaller scale and with a few adaptations. For example, traditional hammams are community gathering places, with multiple bathers enjoying the ritual at once. In contrast, Edmonton’s hammams prioritize privacy.

Healing Waters provides robes and wraps for the steam room, and private body parts are covered with towels during the body scrub and rinse. “The estheticians are aware that not all people are comfortable in these situations and are respectful of the client’s modesty,” says Carla Pichonsky, the owner, manager, and an esthetician at the spa. At Kaya Kama, clients receive disposable undergarments that are mandatory for males and optional for females.

Although the physical grandeur of the original hammams can’t be duplicated here, they’re still incredibly relaxing and a unique experience that’s definitely worth trying!

Healing Waters Spa
Pichonsky, who has owned Healing Waters Spa for five years, says their hammam service “is a calming and cleansing treatment… we don’t call it a bath because people [incorrectly] assume we have tubs.”

The service begins with a cozy Epsom salt foot soak — the perfect remedy for frozen toes — before a half-hour steam in the private hammam room. A revitalizing full-body salt or sugar scrub on a heated marble surface exfoliates and stimulates the skin. After a gentle rinse, the finishing flourish is a warm lotion application to replenish moisture. The earth-toned tile work and soft candlelight create a serene ambience that will help you forget the cold outside.

The Healing Waters hammam is a relaxation experience, but it’s more than that. Pichonsky says, “The salt scrub is invigorating and helps renew the skin [and] the steam will soothe sore muscles and detoxify the body.”

Kaya Kama Hammam & Day Spa
Shiv Arora, owner and manager of Kaya Kama, opened the spa with his wife Anju in 2006. He says she had a desire to “calm and serve people [and] feels she has ‘a Turkish soul’,” so they included a hammam in the spa. Arora explains that it “cleanses the exterior body and detoxifies the interior body [so it’s] a holistic treatment that’s also luxurious.”

Arora says that the spa focuses on providing complete relaxation. “We don’t try to rush things. We take our time.” The treatment begins in the glass-enclosed, high-intensity steam chamber in the hammam room. Eucalyptus in the steam removes toxins from the body, and the steam itself opens the pores. During the session, which lasts about 20 minutes, the client controls the temperature from inside the chamber.

The skin-cleansing scrub takes place on a heated concrete bed with a smooth epoxy coating. Middle Eastern-style lanterns cast low ambient light. The imported black Moroccan soap contains mineral clay called rassoul. It’s olive oil based, so
it moisturizes without harsh chemicals. The esthetician exfoliates the skin with a coarse fibre glove called a kessa, and the final rinse reveals supple skin.

After the treatment, clients can enjoy sipping masala chai, juice, or mineral water and nibbling on a cookie or chocolate in the lounge. —Tracey L. Anderson

Healing Waters Spa | 10740-82 Ave. | 780-988-7873
Hammam treatment: 90 minutes, $180
Hammam packages with additional services available; couples accommodated.

Kaya Kama Hammam & Day Spa | 9328-34 Ave. | 780-988-5554
Hammam treatment: 30-40 minutes, $79.95
Hammam packages with additional services available; couples accommodated.

Mention this article when booking at Kaya Kama to receive a 25% discount on your hammam service!

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