Tucked away on the corner of 6th and Granville Street in Vancouver’s posh West Side is an unlikely oasis called The Miraj. Inspired by the bathhouses of the Middle East, The Miraj Hammam Spa is a place of cleansing for the body and soul, something one can only truly understand through experience. A “hammam” is essentially a steam room, a gathering place where people go to bathe for hours and just hang out. It’s a weekly thing, I learned, and an essential part of Moroccan social life.
In Vancouver, however, on this day I went alone. I went for the full one hour-long package – a little taste of everything. I got the traditional “gommage”, or body exfoliation, followed by a brief massage, and ending with the “nettoyage de peau”, or just simply a facial.
I was told to disrobe completely. The other option was disposable underwear provided by the spa. Not liking the idea of wearing what I imagined would be plastic undies, I decided to go “au naturel”. Never having bared all at a spa, I was feeling truly exposed not knowing what would come next.
A young woman took me into the steam room and I was wearing nothing but a sarong. She showed me how to control the intensity and temperature of the steam and left me to lie in a luxurious mist scented with oils from the East. Alone at last, I slipped out of the sarong to stretch. For a moment time stopped as I let the warmth envelope me like a womb.
After fifteen minutes I was called for my body scrub. I was taken to a low mist outer chamber and asked to lie face down on a slab of marble. It may not sound very comfortable, but you’re still in the steam room where it’s very warm. Once the “gommage” begins, it all seems to work.
A very professional young woman applied a combination of olive oil, eucalyptus and sea algae on my skin, an exotic blend imported from the markets of Morocco. Then using gloves with a rough surface, she gave me a good scrub, stimulating my circulation and rejuvenating my skin. It’s all washed off in a tepid, yet cooling shower which topped the experience.
I was then introduced to my massage therapist who asked me to dry off and follow her into another room. The short massage and facial were the perfect follow to the body exfoliation. The products used are all natural and very gentle on the skin. For the massage she used a scented oil made locally of cloves and orange, and for my facial a natural cream from Paris.
My masseuse was very friendly and, although I’m usually not very chatty on the massage table, the conversation was casual and comfortable. We talked about travel to exotic places and shared some of our interests.
She also explained how the place came about. A love story that began many years ago, the hammam’s owner was sitting alone at a restaurant in Paris, when a Middle Eastern man approached her table. He remarked that a woman should never be drinking wine alone in the City of Lights. They struck a conversation and a friendship. He took her to the hammams of the French city and they fell in love. She ended up marrying the guy, and bringing him and the concept of the bathhouse to Vancouver where she opened up this intimate establishment 15 years ago.
In general, the mellow atmosphere is enhanced by a laid-back, yet helpful staff. Since it was my first time at a hammam, I had a lot of questions. The staff there was only happy to oblige and made me feel comfortable. At one point I felt like the only person there, feeling more like a guest than a client.
The establishment is intentionally small and inspired by the curves and colours of Morocco. It has only one steam room, just 400 square feet and it includes a glass enclosure for intense steam where the temperature rises to a high of 120 degrees. The outer chamber is for the “gommage” where the temperature peaks at 95 degrees. There are three massage rooms, one change room with showers, and a lounge with mats and cushions for some leisure time after your treatment. Because there’s just the one steam room, they can only fit one party at the time, so you’re either alone or with your friends, giving the place an intimate, private feel.
When the locale first opened, it was a space for women only. However the concept has evolved over the years, and on two days a week the place goes co-ed, mostly catering to couples.
If you’re up for an adventure in your journey towards healing and rejuvenation, the Miraj Hammam Spa in Vancouver is definitely a place for you. Never having been to Morocco, it was a surprising and decadent experience. The treatment left my skin feeling soft and glowy, and I left the place feeling rested and smelling of sweet spices of the East.
- Showers, one change room with lockers
- Steam Room
- 3 Individual Massage Rooms
- Relaxation Lounge
$$$$ = Pricey
1495 West 6th Ave.
Canada, V6H 4G1
The Miraj Hammam Spa just opened a new location in Toronto:
Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris
Shangri-la Hotel, Toronto
Fifth Floor, 188 University Ave.,
Toronto, Canada M5H 0A3
HOURS OF OPERATION
Monday 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Tuesday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Thursday 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Friday 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Thursday 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Sunday – Must Inquire
Sunday 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
HOW TO BOOK AN APPOINTMENT
I booked the old-fashioned way. I picked up the phone and spoke to one of their friendly staff members.
Telephone: (604) 733-5151
Telephone: (647) 253-5770
Book Online: https://rsweb.mirajcaudaliespa.com/