If you think you have to fly to Casablanca to enjoy an authentic Moroccan hammam, think again. Since Moroccan hammams are located in the exotic Sahara, it’s only fitting that there’s a U.S. version also located in a desert, but this time it’s the Sonoran in Arizona.
Hammams have their roots in Roman and Arab cultures dating back as far as the seventh century. In the Arab world, many were located near mosques so men could participate in washing and purification practices before prayers. When women were finally admitted to the hammam, they embraced it wholeheartedly. It was not just somewhere to bathe; it became the center of their daily life, giving them a place to socialize and scout for future daughters-in-law.
Today, hammams can be found in every city and town around Morocco. And though they vary greatly in décor and services, many are quite basic and often more communal than Americans are used to. Women and men are separated, but forget a private room. Water is heated by wood fires, and buckets are used for the wash-down, with bathers trotting back and forth to the hot and cold fountains to mix water to the perfect temperature. The women gossip; and often there are plenty of noisy children in attendance, so quiet and tranquil it’s not. The washing is usually topped off by a head-to-toe scrub-down, done either by an expert attendant, yourself or one of your fellow bathers. Moroccans are used to this seriously abrasive treatment aimed at scrubbing away layers of dry skin, so it’s definitely not for the faint of heart or sensitive of skin.
Joya Spa in the InterContinental Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., has tweaked the basic hammam principles into a far more luxurious experience. The Moroccan-inspired spa occupies a 31,000-square-foot building and includes another 5,200 square feet of outdoor space, including a rooftop pool with stunning mountain views.
The hammam experience at Montelucia is a good deal more tranquil, not to mention more upscale, than the public hammams in Morocco, but the principles of bathing and exfoliating remain the same. The 25-minute Moroccan Ritual starts with relaxation in a warm room on a heated platform before an attendant arrives to escort you into a tiled treatment room for a Black Soap Body Cleansing, which is considerably less abrasive than the exfoliating scrub-downs given in Moroccan hammams. This is followed by a trip to the steam room, a cool break under a cold waterfall, a dip in the whirlpool, then trips to the sauna alternating with cold deluges.
Properly relaxed and invigorated, the next step is your treatment of choice. I figured if I was going to go Moroccan, I should go all the way. And there were plenty of Moroccan-inspired choices, including a menu of 80-minute treatments inspired by various Moroccan festivals.
The Rose Festival, a nod to the annual May celebration when farmers harvest the fragrant flower in Morocco’s Dades Valley (also known at the Valley of Roses), is a sweet, red-rose body treatment. The ritual starts with herb-infused mud, followed by a rose and plum body soufflé, good for oxygenating, skin softening and anti-aging.
The Cherry Harvest Festival celebrates the harvest of the thousands of cherry trees in the walled town of Sefrou. This treatment features a sour cherry wrap and cherry-plum body soufflé; the result is tightening, lifting, hydrating and firming.
But it was the Harvest Festival treatment that called to me, since it was touted as being especially good for those with dry skin, like myself. Morocco’s Harvest Festival takes place in Erfoud, an oasis town with nearly a million date palms. Every October the town’s people celebrate a bountiful harvest with music, dancing and camel races. At Montelucia’s Joya Spa, the Harvest Festival treatment includes a pumpkin, orange and quince apple body mask and a pear and apple body soufflé and toning wrap, which hydrates, making even my super-dry skin feel soft and moist.
Properly pampered and smelling delicious, I moved on to a Berber mud body wrap. Moroccan Berbers are known for their skill with clay. Besides making pots favored by collectors, the Berbers used clay for building houses appropriate for their harsh desert climate. Montelucia has taken the protective properties of clay one step further. Their exfoliating clay wraps are designed to target specific areas and counteract the effects of desert living. I was drawn to the Serenity Clay Wrap, which promised to produce inner calm, lessen stress and — a biggie for me — treat prematurely aged skin.
Glowing, feeling hydrated and relaxed, who could resist topping off all of this Moroccan-inspired pampering with a henna tattoo? The spa’s henna artist creates a one-of-a-kind design using symbols and patterns believed to protect your body from negativity. Tempting as it is to go for an intricate design, keep in mind this rule of thumb: the more involved the tattoo, the higher the cost.
If it’s in your price range, the spa’s Grand Plaza Suite is a sight to behold. This over-the-top luxury venue would no doubt render a typical Moroccan hammam-goer speechless. The 850-square-foot space is outfitted with a king-sized daybed, an oversized bathtub, a fireplace, a flat-screen TV and, the pièce de résistance, SO-sound treatment tables that gently move to the rhythm of soothing surround-sound music.
No question that the Montelucia Joya Spa is a Moroccan hammam on steroids. Still, despite being light years away from a typical simple Moroccan hammam, a trip to Montelucia is bound to conjure visions of Arabian Nights and the intriguing Sahara, with plenty of Western luxury thrown in for good measure.
Intercontinental Montelucia Resort & Spa
4949 E. Lincoln Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85253
tel 480 627 3020
The Oberoi, Marrakech introduces its new holistic wellness program, SAHA. Meaning health in Arabic, SAHA aims to help guests reach their full wellbeing potential. The program operates on four key cornerstones: soul & spirit, active body, holistic treatments and a better plate.
There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*
Filled with sunshine and beauty, Valencia, Spain, is also a great destination for diving into culture and art. Named World Design Capital for 2022, Spain’s third-largest city boasts a wealth of museums providing glimpses into history and fine art.
Nassau Paradise Island resorts pull out all the stops for foodies this season with new culinary offerings to elevate guests' experiences. The Bahamas is home to chef-driven, award-winning restaurants, authentic meals and delicious drink options. In the next couple of months, the offerings and festivals provide an unforgettable culinary experience for everyone.
Start planning that long-awaited trip to the island of Ireland. With all travel restrictions now lifted, there has never been a better time to visit.
Rosewood Vienna opened Aug. 1, marking Rosewood’s first hotel in the German-speaking market and its fifth European property. The 19th-century hotel, situated at Petersplatz, sits just steps away from many of Vienna’s historical and cultural sites, including St. Stephen Cathedral and Kunsthistorisches Museum. Guests won’t even have to leave the hotel to immerse themselves in the rich history of Vienna, as the hotel encompasses the apartment where Mozart lived and wrote The Abduction from the Seraglio.
Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa’s new summer offers provides guests with unique and memorable ways to explore the region and relax on the property. The Lowcountry Adventure offer, in partnership with Outside Hilton Head, features a custom-designed, five-hour program for up to six people. The offer includes a variety of all-day adventures and activities around Hilton Head, such as boating local waterways, visiting private islands and exploring small towns. Guests wanting to book this experience can book a three-night stay through Oct. 31, with a 21-day advance booking required.
United Airlines remains firmly committed toward sustainability in aviation. The latest development in its eco-conscious goals includes working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with biotech firm Cemvita Factory. Cemvita looks to develop a revolutionary new way to produce SAF by using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Additionally, United Airlines Ventures (UAV) recently announced an equity investment in Fulcrum, and United has invested more in SAF production than any other airline in the world.
For the first time in American Queen Voyages’ history, the cruise line offers free round-trip air from select gateways for guests booking their entire voyage from either San Diego to Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta to San Jose, Costa Rica. These new itineraries offer 15-, eight- and nine-day voyages to these destinations beginning Oct. 3.