I started with a soak in one the private thermal suites at Ickbal Thermal Spa (60 minutes, £20). The bath itself is quite small at around 1.5-metres square. The water temperature is 42 degrees: very hot for the uninitiated, and I speak as one who loves soaking in a hot bath! I had already had enough when my therapist, Mualla, came to collect me for the Sehrazat Hammam treatment (30 minutes, £16).
Mualla took me to The Peeling Room in the women-only spa area: a separate space for those who are having a treatment rather than washing themselves in the main hammam. Mualla was dressed in swimwear, as are all hammam therapists; there is so much water and soap involved, anything else would be impractical.
Hammam treatments involve being wetted first, so I lay down on the heated slab with a folded towel as a pillow. Mualla tipped bowls of water over me until I was completely soaked. Exfoliation comes next: using a traditional kessa glove, Mualla vigorously rubbed every bit of my skin. She also did a more gentle scrub of my face.
More rinsing, then comes the theatre. Mualla soaked a large cream-coloured cheesecloth bag in some very soapy water. She then swung it from side to side to fill it with air. She held it over my legs and squeezed out the air -- and huge amounts of suds. She repeated this several times, each time covering a different part of my body: a wonderful thing to watch and experience. I lay back and listened to the sounds of water and women’s voices echoing through the large steamy rooms. Mualla used the slippery foam to massage every part of my body.
After rinsing all of the soap off me and the hammam, Mualla washed and conditioned my hair using lots of water and suds. Once I was as clean and shiny as a seal, she wrapped me in towels and led to me to the spa area for the thermal mud bath (30 minutes, £16).
Until recently, mud baths were just as they sound: lying in a bath full of mud. However, the logistics of cleaning up afterwards means that now you are manually covered with mud whilst lying on plastic sheets on top of a treatment bed. The room had four mud bath beds separated by clinical plastic curtains. This felt more about health and less about pampering.
My therapist, Arzu, gave me a miniscule disposable thong to wear and I lay down on the sheets. A small cauldron of mud was already heated next to the bed. After putting a dab on my arm to check that it was not too hot, Arzu spread the mud all over my skin. She asked me to sit up so that she could cover my back and lifted my legs, quite unceremoniously, to cover the skin on the back. Arzu asked before also spreading the mud onto my face. Once I was completely covered with the thick brown mud, Arzu wrapped the edges of the plastic sheets around me and covered me with towels. I immediately wanted to scratch my nose, which was impossible with my arms trapped alongside my body in the plastic sheets.
Once I managed to forget about the itch, the effect was rather soporific; I had almost dozed off when Arzu returned. She unwrapped me and helped me into the nearby shower. It felt wonderful to rinse away all of the mud, which took several minutes. Wrapped in towels, I was off to another part of the spa -- the treatment area upstairs -- where I met Auyumi, my therapist for the Traditional Balinese Massage (50 minutes, £36).
Once again, I was completely without clothes, but Auyumi seemed unconcerned. I lay face down on the bed; Auyumi covered me in towels and spent several minutes firmly pressing and stretching my skin through the fabric. To reach my back, Auyumi climbed onto the bed and knelt between my legs.
Auyumi uncovered one leg at a time and rubbed in papaya lotion using very firm pressure. She spent several minutes on the soles of each foot, using her knuckles to press into my feet, which felt great, and cracked each of my toes. She massaged my back, then my arms and the front of my legs. Auyumi finished the treatment with a very firm face and scalp massage.
Try these treatments if: You need an amazing and comprehensive set of soothing therapies to warm you up, cool you down, and chill you out.