Timeless benefits of a traditional hammam

PENNY McCormick re-sets her body clock by chilling out at the Talise Ottoman Spa, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, The Palm, Dubai


If you’ve travelled to Dubai or are planning a trip, you’ll notice that flights tend to arrive very late at night, or early in the morning with the resulting time difference and jet lag throwing you off kilter for several days.

On my last trip to Dubai, I booked a morning at the Talise Ottoman Spa, as soon as I arrived. I’d got in at 3am, been unable to sleep and staggered to the spa bleary eyed and questioning my logic. Even the spa therapist looked slightly alarmed as she ushered me the changing rooms of the Middle East’s largest spa.

I was in exactly the right frame of mind for a treatment - with no sense of urgency, and no other plans for the rest of the day. The treatment list at Talise is extensive but I decided I’d go for the full traditional hammam which can have several regional variances.

Traditionally, hammams were popularised by the Romans and were public steam baths. At Talise it is a Turkish hammam in keeping with the opulence of the surroundings, with inlaid tiling, vaulted roofs and pools of water (Jacuzzi and plunge pools) leading up to the entrance of the wet sauna area.

Hammams were originally social occasions and they can be booked with a group of friends – usually you can expect a couple of other women to be in the hammam at the same time. Don’t worry though this is not intrusive as you soon float away as the therapist soaks douses you with warm water collected from overflowing basins.

Once you have acclimatised to the warmth and water, special soap is applied, (and sometimes Rhassoul a Morroccan mud) which aids the removal of dead skin. This is rinsed off before a more vigorous scrubbing with a rough mitt. This can be administered as you wish, some women prefer not to have the bust area exfoliated, but it’s the perfect way to prepare skin for sun tanning or even self-tanning. One of the many special touches at the Talise Ottoman Spa were the heated marble slab beds on which you lie, as well as a special pillow of foam applied over the body in a cloud; its benefits include helping to hydrate the skin as it gently soaks into the body. After this you can opt for a facial scrub and massage as well as a hair masque. The whole process takes around an hour and afterwards you are led gently to the relaxation area for some herbal tea and dates.

When I got back to the changing room and looked in the mirror I was glowing. The treatment had not only been good for my circulation, and removal of dead skin it had reawakened my jet lagged senses. Oriental beauty treatments can often seem extreme, but they combine ritual and respect which are sometimes lacking in their European counterparts. At Talise Ottoman Spa the beauty of the surroundings, the discreet service and the efficiency of the treatment all combine to make the experience truly first class.

When I checked out of the spa a few hours later, the receptionists didn’t recognize me. My holiday could not have started any better.


To book a treatment at Talise Ottoman Spa, call Jumeirah Zabeel Saray: +971 4 453 0455

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The SPA Traveller - Tips for Hammams:

• Make sure you take a swimsuit as well as a change of costume, should you want to use the pool afterwards

• This is an ideal monthly treatment to exfoliate the whole body professionally

• If you have sensitive skin, it’s best not to have a hammam immediately after depilation

• Indulge in the ritual of this ancient tradition and book out a morning or afternoon. The Talise Ottoman spa is adjacent to Jumeirah Zabeel Saray which offers afternoon tea and several dining options. It’s a shame not to enjoy the surroundings fully.

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