Treat Yourself: My Hammam and Gommage Treatment at the Miraj Hammam Spa

After telling friends that I would be trying the Hammam and Gommage, the signature Middle Eastern detoxifying and body-exfoliation treatment at Shangri-La’s Miraj Hammam spa (located in Toronto and Vancouver), the reaction was consistently enthusiastic with many saying “You’re going to love it!” and “It’s amazing!” So when I walk through Shangri-La’s sophisticated lobby (so many chic people wining and dining), I am smiling as I approach the elevator for the ride to the fifth floor where the spa is located.

After filling out a brief form, I am escorted to a well-stocked change room (shelves of toothpaste, cotton tips, lotion (Caudelie), hair products, brushes – all the bathroom essentials). Though a plush robe is hanging in my locker and tempting me to wrap myself in its fleecy fabric, I am handed a lighter waffle-knit robe because – I am warned – where I am headed is going to be incredibly humid (don’t commit on a good hair day!). Several signs warn me to only use my phone in the lobby so I pack it away in the locker with my jewelry.

After I change, Amber greets me in a  soft voice that reminds me of a Disney princess. We walk into a large space that is the two-part steam room. We walk through the low-intensity steam room (very warm and humid ), through a large glass door and into the high-intensity steam room (120 degrees celsius and foggy) for the detoxifying segment of the treatment. Here, Amber gives me a glass of cold water and tells me to hang out for about 15 minutes. She’ll be in the other room if I need her. For someone who is constantly tethered to my phone, this is a strange feeling. If anything is going to highlight my iPhone addiction, it is this experience. I try to lie patiently on my back when little drops of condensation drip from the ceiling onto my face. I shift onto my stomach and then sit upright, rubbing the slick sweat off my arms and scanning the space, imagining how many people could fit in the low-intensity  steam room (my guess is about 25, comfortably). Restless would be an understatement. Amber brings me more water and informs me I still have about six minutes.  During the next six minutes, I try to ignore my initial urge to move around and embrace the smell of eucalyptus that I am just now relaxed enough to really acknowledge. Sigh, I am finally settling into this space and, in that same breath, Amber retrieves me and instructs me to lie down in the low-intensity steam room on a gold marble bench.

She rubs me all over (legs, arms, stomach – even underarms) with Moroccan Black Soap (olive oil-based and infused with eucalyptus) that feels incredibly silky on my skin. Then Amber dons an exfoliating glove and repeats the same pattern as she did with the soap. It feels like she’s scratching every itch I’ve ever strained to reach. This is the only environment that having a stranger ask you to lift your arm before vigorously scrubbing your armpit is not weird. The singsong Disney princess voice helps, I think. After the treatment is over, she literally hoses me down with cool water. Not going to lie – this  part makes me feel a bit like a beached whale. But it’s still nice!

Next up, the highlight of my trip. After I am dry and wrapped in my robe (I wish I brought the big fluffy one sitting in my locker), I am taken to the Alhambra relaxation lounge with magazines and little draped nooks filled with plush crimson and gold pillows (very Arabian nights). I get nice and cosy in my robe with the GQ style issue and I am brought a tray with sweet tea, three large green grapes and a small baklava. A part of me wants to grab my phone (still in my locker) and snap this moment: “a magazine, me and a sweet tea. Decadence” would be my Instagram caption.  But the best part of the experience is that Miraj Hammam has me completely detached from the outside world. This post-treatment sit is giving me time to absorb my experience and let it all sink in. I have no idea what time it is, how long I’ve been in here or whether  there is a delay on the TTC. It’s pure bliss.

For anyone interested in this treatment ($130), I recommend splurging on the clay mask or massage to extend your visit – treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself. And always take the plush robe.