THE STORY:Hammam al Andalus, Granada, Spain
The tradition of the hammam is well documented in Moroccan history and played an integral part of daily life during the reign of the moors in Southern Spain. No where is this more prominent, than in Andalucia. In Granada, the magnificent Alhambra offers a glimpse of the public baths as they once were and makes it the best spa in Granada. Visitors can walk through the various bath house rooms with star light roofs, but it doesn’t give a sense of how the baths operated. Enter the Hammam Al Andalus chain of hammam bath houses across the region. With locations in Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Madrid, these hammam spas are faithful recreations of the traditional hammams from Moorish times.
THE BEST SPA IN GRANADA:
During a visit to Granada, I made some time to visit the local spa chain, situated in the shadow of the Alhambra. Said to be located on the site of a former historical hammam, although the evidence is a little sketchy, this labyrinth of bathing pools has been tastefully recreated in the old moorish traditional style.
The baths are beautifully designed. Islamic geometric patterns, tiling and low lighting set the scene with gorgeous archways and hidden coves ensure that it’s private and personal.
After swapping street clothes for swimming costume in the changing rooms, you are met by one of the attendants who gives you a quick tour and instructions. Two warms pools, a hot pool, cold pool and steam room give plenty of options to spend an hour or so relaxing. And there’s enough to occupy your time. You book a slot of 1.5 hours to use the various bathing pools, or you can upgrade your visit with a treatment, which offers a much more authentic taste of the hammam tradition.
The treatment menu combines massage and the traditional scrub rituals, known throughout Morocco. Most people seemed to choose a simple relaxing massage, but the best bet is to book the whole works (Al Andalus Ritual) with kesar mitt scrub, foam massage and cleaning wash. Having had a number of traditional Turkish and Moroccan hammam treatments, I can say that this was a close recreation of the real thing. Much gentler than previous experiences, the scrub was fairly vigorous still, but the massage was quite gentle. You are given a choice of four aromas – pomegranate, lavender, rose or amber. You are gifted with the kesar scrub mitt and the soap that’s used in the treatment.
Post-treatment there’s a heated marble stone in the central treatment area to relax or head back to the heated pools. Mint tea is served in warm room and is sweet and lovely.
The spa was busy, but with plenty of space and lots of pools, it didn’t feel crowded. The staff are quick and efficient, but managed to avoid the ‘conveyor belt’ effect. To conclude the session a bell I rung, so you know your time is up.
It’s a lovely way to spend a late afternoon in the mystical city of Granada. If you are nearby, it’s definitely worth the money to upgrade to the full works treatment.
THE SPA MAN’S BEST BITS:
The kesar scrub
Foaming pillow massage
Relaxing in the warm pools surrounded by intricate Islamic mosaic tiling
Relaxing bathing experience – 24 euros
Bath and Al Andalus ritual – 55 euros