February 22, 2013

Miraj Hammam Spa, Ancient ritual in an urban oasis

Miraj Hammam Spa
On a late winter day, when the mountains beyond downtown Vancouver have been reduced to a memory behind mist and drizzle, I have entered a door to a much warmer place. In the lobby of Miraj Hammam Spa, I immediately catch the scent of citrus and spice that together with elegant arches and brick-colored tiles calls up the warmth of the Middle East. As I sit on an elegant carved wooden bench to wait for the treatment to begin, the calming burble of a fountain set in mosaic tiles cancels out the sound of traffic rushing to and from downtown Vancouver just on the other side of wrought iron-screened windows.

Set in the fashionable Granville Rise district, surrounded by art galleries, antique dealers, designer shopping, and some of Vancouver’s best restaurants and cafes, Miraj Hammam Spa offers a convenient yet exotic escape into the storied tradition of the Turkish bath.

My therapist for the day, Veronica, comes to fetch me and leads me the short distance to the change room, where I am invited to put my street clothes into a locker and don a printed sarong that has been laid out. She then takes me into the adjacent marbled chamber where the Hammam and Gommage treatment will take place.

First, the Hammam, or steam bath. Veronica leads me through the dark, steamy, candlelit room to an even hotter and steamier inner chamber. With a pitcher of cold water for hydration, my task for the next 15 minutes or so is simply to relax and sweat away my cares and toxins. Soon, the walls disappear in the mist and I stretch out on the marble bench, lulled by the intense heat and the sound of splashing water.

All too soon, Veronica comes to guide me back into the outer chamber for the Gommage. This is a full-body scrub and exfoliation with Moroccan black soap, followed by a cleansing rinse at just the perfect temperature and water pressure. I feel like an Egyptian goddess.

Afterward, I am cloaked in a soft spa robe and escorted down the hallway to the lounge. Plush with velvet couches and cushions, it is the perfect place to await an Orientale Massage to lengthen the bliss or to relax after the Hammam and Gommage. In this luxurious setting, I am served sweet cake and fragrant tea on a silver tray, and left simply to enjoy.

This compact spa only serves a handful of clients at a time, so it is wonderfully tranquil environment for relaxation, before heading back out into the city. Men are welcomed on Thursday evenings, or de-stress with your significant other on Sundays.

Miraj Hammam Spa

~ Christine Rowlands, Spas of America. When not discovering spas, Christine is a Vancouver-based writer and editor. Visit her website at: www.christinerowlands.com

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