For those who haven’t been to Turkey, you may not know about the traditional Turkish bath, otherwise known as HAMAM. Imagine a combination of a steam bath, sauna, Russian bath and massage all wrapped into one, in a mystified, exotic setting with glittering lights, beautiful tiles and the sound of running water.
Distinguished by a focus on water, the HAMAM is both relaxing and stimulating at the same time. In Western Europe, the “Turkish bath” as a method of cleansing and relaxation became popular during the Victorian era. People would have a sauna, but one that is more closely related to ancient Greek and ancient Roman bathing practices.
I’ve done this in Turkey — on the coast and inland — and both experiences were similar…the differences lie in how much pressure they use and their philosophy around that.
You are given a colorful material wrap which adheres tightly to your body and because its fairly misty and dark from the steam, its hard to make out what else is happening around you, not does your mind want to focus elsewhere. In both cases, it was co-ed as was the case on my most recent experience in Winnipeg Canada. No, I didn’t get the country wrong.
Ida Albo, the wife of husband/wife team who own the Fort Garry Hotel and Ten Spa on the top floor, had a mission in mind when she set out to add a unique spa experience to the near 100 year old iconic hotel. I met with her on my last day in Winnipeg after hanging out in the area for a couple of weeks, having experienced their HAMAM treatment at the start of my trip.
Ida has a fascinating background which you can read more about in this interesting article about her in Winnipeg Free Press. Shew grew up in above her parent’s grocery store on the corner of Bannatyne Avenue and Isabel Street in Winnipeg, learning a whole lot about resourcefulness and running a business.
A fan of doing extensive research before making changes to the hotel and creating a spa, she traveled around the world investigating some of the best spas in Scotland, Italy, Germany, France and a host of other countries before coming across a HAMAM experience at a spa in Germany, which has a large Turkish population. She then brought someone over from Germany to train her own staff and had her staff visit their facilities. The result is a western more modern version of a HAMAM spa while keeping the best of what they offer in a treatment in Turkey.
You start off in a room referred to as the warm room, which is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air, allowing the bather to perspire freely. The tiled bench I was sitting on was also warm. I was given tea and a soft candy coated in white sugar powder before taken into the HAMAM room and asked to plaster my body with a salt scrub. After showering it off, my massage therapist brought me to a large heated marble platform where I laid on my back as she started pouring warm buckets of water on top of my body. It rolled off me and onto the tiled floor and as the steam and hot temperatures of the room relaxed my body, I was encouraged to hydrate often and cover my head and eyes with a cold washcloth. By then, I was already gone and it takes a lot for this type A+ cat to relax.
One of the things I loved most about the HAMAM room was the glittering lights that shone down on me from a dark blue ceiling, all of which made me feel as if I was lying on the ground outside on a dark starry night.
I was then soaped up with a soap scrub, which included gommage with kese followed by a head-to-toe olive oil soap scrub down. She poured more warm water on top of me which repeated for quite some time until I was told to relax, take a break, shower if I wanted to and drink more water before she brought me to a curtained off area with a massage table. The final part of the treatment is a more traditional massage however you are still relatively wet during the process and your muscles are obviously relaxed from the previous heat and steam process. (note this is if you opt for the Fully Loaded Hamam treatment, which I would recommend if you have the time.
As you relax post treatment, you are given an ayran beverage.
Thereafter, you can relax in one of their other spa areas, which btw, are white. All white….and very relaxing.
In addition to a self administering Hamam experience, you can sign up for the following treatments: (the prices are in Canadian dollars)
Intro to Hamam – This is the treatment for the faint of skin. Communal hamam experience with self administered aromatic salt scrub, soft steam on heated marble slab, with foot and scalp massage. Over one hour with relaxation $95
Hamam 101+ – Communal hamam experience with self administered aromatic salt scrub, soft steam on heated marble slab with foot and scalp massage, gommage followed by Olive Oil Soap scrub down and hair wash. Up to two hours with relaxation $150
Hamam Fully Loaded – Communal hamam experience with self administered aromatic salt scrub, soft steam on heated marble slab with foot massage, gommage followed by Olive Oil Soap scrub down and hair wash, flexibility-enhancing stretching massage. Over two hours with relaxation $185
And how’s this option for some group fun?
Warm Mud Party – For bookings of six to twelve people. All guests receive an exclusive hamam experience with self administered aromatic salt scrub, followed by self application of five specially selected body and face muds and clays, soft steam on heated marble slab, warm, cool and cold water rinse.
They have other more traditional treatments at Ten Spa as well such as facials, pedicures and massages.
Disclosure: I was hosted by Tourism Winnipeg however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.