Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

An elaborate hammam at Rixos Premium Dubai's Natureland Spa is a taste of the original ritual in Istanbul


Nivriti Butalia

Published: Fri 31 Aug 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 31 Aug 2018, 2:00 AM

On a trip to Istanbul this year, I had every intention to visit a hammam. I was chuffed to have finally made it to one, a supposedly historic joint called the Çemberlitas Hamami. Never before as an adult had I been scrubbed and cleaned like this. There's something about another person taking care of you that sends you back to infancy.
I enjoyed the experience in what, as a naïve tourist, I thought was the authenticity of it. The echo of water splashes and women chattering in a high-ceilinged building gave me a clue about what hammams must have been like in good, old times. Not so much luxury as an indispensable part of the culture - bathing together, a weekly gossip, someone sloughing off your dead skin. The Rixos hammam is on a whole other level. The vibe at the Istanbul hammam was fuss-free, middle-class even, therefore charming. Here, you get luxury. When I told the Turkish spa manager at the Rixos, Leyla Ozev, about my Turkish experience, she seemed delighted and said, "Oh, you went to one of the good ones." Hotel spas can't have the hustle-bustle that those hammams offer. For one, the architecture differs. Those are much older and larger and have better acoustics. Having said that, the hammam at the Rixos Premium Dubai is as close to the 'Istanbuli' experience as you can get.
Therapy time
Five minutes in the sauna followed by five minutes in the steam and I was ready for the hammam. Linda, my Balinese therapist (who kept addressing me as "Ms Lia") had me lie down on a raised marble platform. She then proceeded to exfoliate my skin with a coarse mitt called kese. The exfoliation was followed by a swathe of foam and soap and a 'gold face scrub', some glob with distinct citrus notes and flecks of gold. After massaging that into my epidermis, Linda emptied (maybe) five litres of cold water on me with a copper jug. The treatment was rounded off with a bucket of ice to seal pores.
What we loved
The bubble bath. A pillow case-sized white cloth was wrung into a bucket of foam, and then unfurled to let the air work up more bubbles. It was then swept across my skin post one round of scrubbing. Quite delightful. Ice cubes post warm water may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it worked for me.
What we didn't
The fragrance of the soap (100 per cent olive) and lotions was basic. Also, I'd rather be asked if I want to relax in the unisex lounge or in the all-female area, instead of being ushered into the former. Nitpicking now, but there could also be an option for a shorter, cheaper session.
Luxury Gold Turkish treatment
Natureland Spa, Rixos Premium Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Road, The Walk
Reservations: Call 04-520 0000, extn 8833
Website: www.naturelandspa.ae
Cost: Dh550 (60 minutes)
Our rating: 4/5

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