One of my favourite places on earth are the gardens of Babylonstoren in the Cape Winelands – I try to make a trip out in that direction at least once a season as there is always so much to see and discover. (see pics of my previous visits here) Recently I was invited to visit the Garden Spa at Babylonstoren to experience their Hammam. This is a steam room, similar to a Turkish bath, where people go to cleanse themselves. In Islamic cultures or countries such as Turkey and Morocco, these treatments are a weekly ritual. The focus in the treatment is on the purifying aspects of water – in it’s liquid and steam form.
I arrived on a cold winters day feeling excited, and a bit nervous, about my first hammam water ritual. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I hadn’t even done any reading up as to what the process involved. Needless to say I was in for a surprise….
I was greeted by friendly staff in the Garden Spa reception and shown to the changing room where I was given the essential robe and disposable undies! EEEK! (Silly me hadn’t packed my bikini bottoms) I was then led to the Hammam room which is a beautiful room covered in marble and mosaic. The room was filled with steam and in the center was a huge marble slab.
The treatments starts with a cleansing ritual where your therapist washes your body and hair with olive oil soap and then rinses with many splashes of lovely warm water followed by one with VERY cold water! The experience of this felt really exotic and really made me feel like I was a pampered princess in an ancient culture… Quite surreal in fact especially considering the gorgeous surroundings.
After a few more cleansing splashes I moved to lie down on the marble slab in the middle of the room where my very professional therapist explained the rest of the process and really made me feel relaxed and cared for. The next step in the process was a very vigorous and invigorating body scrub – not the most relaxing part of the treatment as your skin is literally scrubbed from top to toe but I can honestly say that my skin never felt so smoothe! This was followed by a rather different stretching exercise known as dynamic body flexing. The idea is to release tension in your body and the warm steam in the hammam make your muscles more flexible. Some of the positions the therapist contorted my body into felt quite unnatural but the level of relaxation reached afterwards was amazing. The last part of the treatment is a body and scalp massage, although this is a shorter part of the treatment than the other aspects, so it’s best not to arrive expecting a relaxing massage but that being said I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience (which is unique in South Africa) and felt transported to another world for the hour.
A visit to the Hammam includes lunch selected from the exclusive spa menu and served in the gorgeous, green, garden-themed chill out room. The two lunch options available are a delicate ribbon vegetable salad with salad greens, fragrant herbs and edible flowers served with a ginger and sesame dressing or soba noodles with a coriander, ginger and miso dressing plus fresh garden juice. I choose the warm soba noodles with miso dressing and it was delicious, like the food served at Babel and the Glass House, it was prepared with produce from the farm.
The Private Hammam Water Ritual costs R1290 for 60 mins and includes the cleansing ritual, full-body exfoliation, dynamic body flexing, body butter massage and a head and scalp massage plus a delicious lunch. An alternative option to enjoy the Hammam cleansing ritual is the Hammam Honey and Salt Scrub with Steam which costs R490 for 30 mins. Or see all the other treatments available on the Spa Menu.
If you hurry and book the August Spa Special at Babylonstoren before the end of the month you can take a friend along with you for a free pedicure or neck & back massage while you enjoy your treatment! Why not make a day of it and plan a walk around the gardens followed by tea in the Glass House before your treatments? Bliss!
Other Winter Specials valid are until 30 Sep 2013
For more information visit babylonstoren.com
Images: Dook; Kathryn Rossiter