Money paid vs. Actual value: It was a fair price for services rendered.
What: Massage By Ahmed // Hammam Bethesda
Where: Bethesda, Maryland
When: September 22, 2019, 10:00am
Why: Because I'm a spa fiend.
I went to a get a Moroccan Hammam style Spa service and I loved it!
What is a Moroccan Hammam?
Moroccan Hammams are similar to Korean Spas in that they are large gender-segregated bath houses with saunas, massage tables, and more. Hammams are a crucial part of many Moroccan's life and is often a weekly ritual that people do as a social activity or with their families. When you go to a hammam in Morocco, you'll first sit in a heated room to prepare your skin, then you'll wash yourself with black soap and exfoliate your skin (you can also pay someone to do this part for you). You may or may not treat your skin with ghasoul clay and argan oil. It is a simple bathe ritual similar to what one may see at a Turkish bath house.
A Moroccan hammam spa at a hotel would be much different. Treatments vary by hotel, but the general process is that you first soak in a pool or sit in a steam room, then you’re rinsed, exfoliated, and massaged. Here are all the dirty details of my experience.
What is a Moroccan Hammam Spa Service?
A moroccan hammam at a spa is different in that it is (1) less casual, (2) more expensive, and (3) someone is doing the treatments for you instead of you doing them yourself.
What is so different about a Hammam Spa vs Regular Spa?
Regular spas often focus on massage and not the washing/exfoliating aspect (unless explicitly requested or advertised as a part of the service. A hammam treatment will ALWAYS focus on the skin washing, exfoliating, clay masking, and argan oiling. Massages can be added on but they are not inherently apart of the experience.
My experience//My Review
Hammam Bethesda is a quaint spa close to downtown but slightly off the main road. They share a staircase with a bridal shop. Ahmed and Fatima own the spa and are the sole massage and hammam therapists. This spa experience is very personal! Fatima was kind enough to open the spa to me on a Sunday so me and my mom had the entire place to ourselves.
The Zen Room: Because there is only one hammam room, one of us got our treatment while the other relaxed in what they called the "Zen Room". My mom went first while i listened to meditation music, sipped real moroccan mint tea, took selfies, and nibbled on middle eastern desserts.
The Treatment: You first walk towards the back of the spa into a changing room where you take off your jewelry and clothes and change into a plush white robe. Next you walk around the corner into a dimly lit room with deep vibrational meditation music and lay down onto a heated bed. (Actually I don't know if the bed is heated or if it just seemed heated because the whole room is a dry sauna.)
So you're laying there in the semi-dark and the music is intensely relaxing and the heat starts to melt your muscles and just when you think you'll fall asleep, Fatima starts pouring warm water all over your body. It's slightly shocking because if you're like me, you haven't been on a spa bed and completely drenched. After your fully soaked she starts massaging Moroccan Black Soap into your skin. (Moroccan Black Soap is similar to African Black soap but with different benefits and better for spa usage. Want to know more about Moroccan Black Soap? Click here.) After the soap has been thoroughly massage into your skin she uses an exfoliating gloves and exfoliates every inch of your body. It's not painful but it is not gentle either. At times it bordered on painful but to me it was worth it because I was the SOFTEST I had ever been. You can literally see the layer of dead skin she scrubs off of you. Next she rinses you off and covers your body in ghassoul clay mixed with rose water.
Ghassoul clay is a clay mined from the Atlas Mountains (where Fatima is from!) and is super nourishing and healthy for the skin. Ghassoul clay can increase skin elasticity, reduce blemishes, eliminate black heads (due to it's negative charge), and alleviate body acne. One of the reasons why it is so good for the skin is because it is extremely high in silica and magnesium. After your body is covered in clay she will wash your hair and then treat your face. Next you hit the shower and wash all of the clay off your body and rinse and condition your hair. The final part of the treatment is the argan oil massage where she will rub warm argan oil into your damp, freshly exfoliated and clay-masked skin.
The whole thing takes an hour with an option to extend to 1.5 hour.
Final Verdict: My skin was literally reflecting light after the treatment.
I LOVE this spa and really enjoyed getting to talk to and be treated by Fatima.