Throughout the Arab world, there is the tradition of the hamam. I remember reading about them when I lived in Paris, and have always wanted to go. Today, I finally had the chance. Now this was not a totally authentic hamam experience. This was a five-star job in a boutique hotel. Next time, I'll go with a local to something more real.
The view outside the hamam.
The hamam is a veriation on the Turkish bath. but being in Carthage, the whole thing had a very Roman feel. Colleagues Kat and Maryanne kindly included me in their twice-monthly hamam habit at the Villa Didon. Here's how it went. One is provided with slippers and a hamam towel - what my mother would have called a huck towel - something without pile. You strip down to your underpants and walk through the refrigidarium, the rubdown room, and through to the bath itself, the calorium. Everything is marble or some other stone. I tried to take pictures, but steam does not photograph very well.
Tons of atmosphere!
There are four basins, two on each side, in a two-foot tall shelf. You sit on the stone shelf, put your feet and legs into the basin and fill it with whatever temperature of water you prefer. The room, already hot, begins to fill with steam. You take huge ladels and pour water all over yourself. You keep doing this until you are called for your friction rub - maybe 20 or 30 minutes. A diminutive person uses a friction glove and soap to take every particle of superfluous skin off every inch of your body. It feels like heaven. Then you shower. A clean, dry robe and a hair towel appear. You float out to the relaxaruim (I'm making that up)
Picture me lolling here. No peeled grapes served until after Ramadan!