The nearest I’ve been to having a Moroccan Hammam was a trip to a Turkish Bath while on holiday as a teenager. I shiver at the memory of having freezing cold water doused all over me by a Turkish lady. But I do remember having fun lathered up in soapsuds and feeling exceptionally clean that day.
These days, the idea of the cold water isn’t quite as appealing. However a more luxurious version of this north African tradition in the form of London’s Dolphin Square Spa immediately drew me in.
When Belle heard this hidden sanctuary in Pimlico was the winner of a Good Spa Guide National Award, it was a sure-fire reason to see what all the fuss was about.
I went along on a Sunday afternoon to experience the 23-Carat Gold Body Ceremony. The name itself sent my indulgence radar into an excitable frenzy. And as the afternoon went on, I discovered this was one of the most unique spa experiences I’d ever had.
After filling out a health questionnaire and putting on my bikini and robe, I was invited to sit in the steam room to unwind.
A therapist invited me into a darkly lit chamber where I lay on a stone ledge and she doused me in lovely warm water. She then scrubbed my whole body with an exfoliating mitt. It was vigorous to say the least and made my home exfoliating efforts seem pathetic! I asked her to ease the pressure. But within seconds I’d got used to it. It was like she was scrubbing my toxins away.
The scrub followed with her smoothing my entire body in La Sultana de Saba Savon Noir – a black soap made from pure olive oil. She then left it to work its magic. After ten minutes she washed it off with more buckets of warm water. I then put on my robe and lay on a heated ceramic bed in the spa’s relaxation room where I was served sweet mint tea from a giant golden teapot. I felt squeaky clean and my skin smoother than I could ever have imagined. And the best was still to come.
Down a candle lit corridor I met my therapist for the 23-Carat Gold massage and facial. After she gently pushed all areas of my back to help me unwind, she placed hot flannels over the backs of my feet and began an all over body massage from head to toe.
I wrote ‘firm’ in the part of the questionnaire that asked what level of pressure I wanted during my massage. And as she vigorously kneaded into my back with energetic movements, that’s what I got. There was no sleeping here.
But eventually, the combination of hot stones, fragrant oils and squeezing out the tension in my back and limbs sent me into a zen-like state. My mind slowed down and any thoughts of the working week slowly dispersed.
The facial began with a thorough cleansing of the skin followed by the steam machine to allow opening of the pores. This followed by the therapist applying a Gold anti-ageing scrub to smooth the skin.
All the products used in this treatment are from La Sultane de Saba gold range which contain gold extracts and caviar. According to legend, Cleopatra applied a mask containing gold before she slept and it’s been used in many healing treatments.
It was the first time I’d ever had gold placed on my skin. And as the patchouli and cedarwood aromas of the anti-ageing mask surrounded my senses, the therapist then began a relaxing head massage using oils and hair mask. I felt utterly sleepy.
After this, hot flannels were used to remove the mask and I was given a face massage using the Gold anti-ageing elixir serum and moisturiser. The therapist squeezed, tapped and smoothed my skin to give it a full glow. I woke from a dream-like state to find my skin glittering with gold.
The ‘ceremony’ ended with a glass of champagne in a Moroccan-style lounge by the spa’s courtyard. I felt like I’d escaped from reality for a week.
It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But trust me. You too can indulge like Cleopatra. I think that award was very well deserved.
23 Carat Gold Body Ceremony, 2hr 30 min, £199.
Dolphin Square Spa, Chichester Street, London, SW1V 3LX, 0207 798 6767.
by Lucy McGuire