I was looking forward to this. On a busy Tuesday evening, in the middle of rush hour at 6 p.m., I quietly slipped into the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto and headed upstairs to the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris. As I walked in, both receptionists stood up to greet me. Seeing them do so reminded me of the hospitality of people in the Middle East, where I lived and worked for eight years.
My aesthetician Kassie arrived before I knew it and guided me down what looked like a labyrinth of doors and rooms. It felt like a tour of the world as we passed by each treatment room and I read its name: there was Babylon and Marrakech, Casablanca and Damascus. Meanwhile, the decor authentically replicated the design of buildings in the Middle East.
As always, I had my phone at the ready to take notes and, in my true journalistic attitude, I bombarded Kassie with numerous questions, to which she had all the answers. She explained that the treatment I was about to try — called Hammam and Gommage — was a two-step experience. Hammam is the steam, sauna experience, whereas Gommage includes a full-body exfoliation.
First, I was taken to a private high-intensity and low-mist steam chamber, where I was able to relax and enjoy the high heat. If it got too warm, I had the option to turn off the continuous steam from building around me, by pressing a lit-up button. This would control the amount of steam in the room at any given moment.
The next part was the full-body exfoliation. I grew up in a very multi-cultural family and remember that, for many years, we used the special Turkish “kese” gloves in the shower. Each family member had one. I later learned that this approach is also widely practised in Morocco. The idea is that you rub your skin with this glove, to fully exfoliate. Typically, the key “composition” of the glove is floss from poplar trees, making it a highly “organic” and natural way to exfoliate. I have also seen “kese” gloves made from 100% silk. This removes any dead skin cells. Since the entire experience means rubbing the whole body with the glove, it also improves blood circulation.
As I lay relaxed on marble, Kassie did the full exfoliation with eucalyptus-infused black Moroccan soap and the “kese” gloves. According to the spa, this experience is considered to be the ultimate detoxification treatment. The smell of eucalyptus was incredibly pleasant.
At the end of the treatment, Kassie took me to the relaxation area, where I had a glass of tea, served with fresh grapes on the side. At first, I wanted to do my favourite thing after going for a spa treatment: I wanted to read a magazine. I even reached out for one; then, attempted to get my phone out to surf the Internet. But my mind was so at ease that for the first time in years, I just sat there, absorbing my surroundings and really enjoying the tea. My skin felt amazing and I felt incredibly energetic. Leaving the spa that day took me back to my childhood memories, which I re-experienced in a luxurious environment, with a Middle Eastern touch added.