It’s 100 degrees outside, but you’re in a Hammam now. So, strip down to your bathing suit, get into a steam pool, then the sauna, and then lay on the hot stones while you wait.
Say what? What is this place?
Shortly after arriving at the Spanish school, we heard students talking about their Hammam experiences: “it was amazing”, “just like paradise”, “I’m going again”.
OK, I had to ask: “what the heck is a Hammam?!”
Arab Hammam – What is it?
A teacher told me that a Hammam is an Arab bath, kind of like a spa. Huh... After all the oohs and ahhs we heard from others, we decided we better give one a try.
So, three of us, Tim, myself, and another student, made a reservation for one afternoon at 4PM through the administrator at our our language school. This was a good idea because reserving through the school saved us about 13 Euros each. We paid only 23 Euros and normal price is 36 Euros. We were told that this included nearly 2 hours in the baths and a 15-minute massage – I heard the magic word “massage” and was sold on the idea.
Arab Hammam – Logistics
The school told us to bring bathing suits and be there 15 minutes before the scheduled 4PM time. Upon arrival, each of us received a thin towel and disposable booties to put over our shoes and were shown into changing areas (Tim in men’s and us two ladies in women’s).
When we walked in, right away, I noticed a difference in the atmosphere – all lights were dimmer and the decor was very ancient-looking. We quickly changed and followed the signs to get into the spa area.
Arab Hammam – The Place
We entered into, what seemed like, a different world! WOW!
It felt like we were taken back in time. We were now in a little room with a small cold pool. The walls were made of brick with stone and there were intricate arabic designs carved into them – beautiful.
Several tea pots were set on a tray for us to enjoy some sweet tea. The lights were very dim with candles everywhere that gave the place a meditative glow. The first room was connected into a series of other rooms and each had a pool in it. The place was very quiet and mysterious looking.
Tim was already waiting there too.
A man walked out to meet us quickly and led us through the baths to explain the process. Basically in the back, there were showers, which we were required to use before our experience could begin. There were a total of 4 pools in varying sizes, from small to large. One cold (I mean like ice cold) pool, one hot pool, one very hot pool, and a room temperature pool (I guess I would describe it as cool). There was also a steam room/sauna.
Beyond the pools was an area for massages with individual rooms for each massage table and a large hot stone platform.
Arab Hammam – The Experience
We were told to soak in any pool we liked and wait until someone came out to get us. We were also told that there would be a bell to let us know it’s time to leave.
So, we spent the next while going from hot to cold pools and relaxing. It was so peaceful! Any time someone talked too loud, one of the attendants came out to shush them, so not to disturb others. I think we were there during a pretty busy time because there were probably about 20 people in the pools in all.
After about 20 minutes (we think, in reality we lost track of time) in this heaven, a man came out to take us to the massages. He told us to sit (or lay) and wait on the hot stone platform.
When a massage table was available, someone came out to get us for our 15 minute massage. We were given a choice of a massage – concentrated or overall – and pressure strength. There were also 4 different massage oils to choose from. I chose a back massage, with medium pressure, and rose oil. It was heavenly!
After the message we stretched out on the hot stone table for a while, soaking up the heat, followed by a trip to the cool pool. Then some tea. We then proceeded to try the different pools and eventually ended up in the sauna – holy hot! Again followed by pools and more tea.
It was an extremely relaxing experience – calming and introspective. I enjoyed it very much. There were people meditating in the baths as well but, for me, there were too many people and I would have been too distracted – perhaps during a less busy time would have been better.
- Flip-flops – find out if you need them, some Hammams require them and some don’t.
- Don’t talk and don’t disturb others – this is a time for everyone to relax. The Hammams in Spain seem to be more of an individual sport. Although, we went in a small group, and we saw another group there, I think that takes a away from the experience. I believe in Arab times the baths were meant to be a social gathering but they do not seem that way now. They are more of an intimate experience.
- Bring a bathing suit (at least all the Hammams I looked at all required it) because Hammamas in Spain are co-ed. In Morocco men and women go separate and go naked.
- Bring a bottle of water and keep it in your locker (lockers are provided in changing room, as are showers, hair driers, towels, and even soaps) for afterwards. I was totally thirsty after the experience despite drinking all that tea.
- If you don’t understand Spanish, don’t be afraid to ask for English translation. Most of the staff there spoke English.
- Leave your camera at home – they are not allowed.
Side note: I tried to figure out how the baths are kept clean and sanitized but I couldn’t find any info. I did smell some chlorine in the large cool pool but not in the smaller ones. If I had to guess, I’d say the constant flow of water, goes through some sort of a filtration system. But I really don’t know.
The experience was extremely refreshing – I know you wouldn’t think so since it was 100 degrees outside, but it was. We had a marvelous time in the Ándalus Arab Baths in Granada. I have been to many spas and I have had many massages (some better than the one in the Hammam) but the Arab baths are a very unique experience. I would highly recommend it!