We’ve tried: Barcelona’s Arabic Baths

    Barcelona does not deny having a cosmopolitan character: it is an international city and offers increasingly more to its residents and tourists in the way of services from around the globe. The last discovery comes directly from the Middle East and goes by the name of the Hammam Centre. It is an exclusively Arabic centre for health and wellbeing, located in the Borne district, very close to the Parc de la Ciutadella. The centre is dedicated to healing and relaxing both body and mind through methods typical of eastern countries, such as hot and cold baths, massages, substances used to achieve purification, scents, vapours, candles, silence and darkness, and unusual alterations in temperature…

    Dressing Rooms

    The dressing rooms serve as a prelude to what awaits in the baths, its objective being to allow us to enter and enjoy an atmosphere and surroundings inimical to those you later encounter: gentle lighting, candles and the smell of incense. The attendant straight away showed me how to use the locker, where I find completely fresh towels and shoes (these are used and later thrown away). Hygiene is a very important consideration here, especially in places where many people share common spaces in contact with the skin. The baths are accessed directly from the changing-rooms. The atmosphere becomes darker and the warmth increases- the light is almost non-existent.

    The Surroundings

    The baths occupy an area of nearly 100 square metres, with walls of dark stone, candles illuminating the surroundings and the smell of incense in the air. It is presented as a subterranean cave, which you can only reach via the changing rooms. The smock and shoe-clad assistants whispered in my ear two or three recommendations before a bell lets me know that I can get started. There are a total of 6 baths, each with different properties and substances and thereby all having different functions. As well as 4 swimming-pools at high temperatures and 1 at a very high temperature, there are also 2 cold swimming-pools. All of these contribute to the complete relaxation of both nerves and muscles. The shift in temperature is very strong, so strong in fact that the hot-cold oscillation is not perceived by the body in an absolute sense, but rather as a form of physical pleasure. We are talking about a difference of 40-50 degrees between one temperature and another at a relative humidity of 100%. The entirety of the bath is an aromatic sauna with an almost total absence of light. The vapours and scents mean that sweating is accelerated, aiding in the purification of the skin. The incense helps respiration and clears the respiratory passages.

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    The Baths

    I entered the first swimming-pool, the nearest to me, without knowing which it is. The sensation felt immediately is sublime. The heat extends across my body and straight away I notice that my nerves are relaxing, my muscles loosening and my skin becoming softer. The water is very hot, and causes a certain amount of sleepiness. The sense of relaxation is complete!

    The swimming-pool, laden with beneficial substances, scents and flavours helps to free up the respiratory passages and gives the skin a feeling of absolute cleanliness. Later on, I found my favourite of the baths: the salt bath, a vat of pure salt, which bubbles as if it were sparkling water, meaning the whole body gets a pleasant tingling feeling and giving you a new lease of energy.

    Lastly, I got into the cold swimming-pool, which is said to improve blood circulation. For me it was extremely difficult to submerge myself- I had to make a huge effort, as my body had become used to the intense heat of the other swimming-pool. The water is freezing and the change in temperature very strong: the body goes from 40 degrees to ten degrees in a second, with a near feeling of resistance. I would say that it is a pleasant experience, as the skin gains energy from resisting to such a sharp change of temperature, from hot to very cold. Waking up my relaxed, numb muscles proved to be revitalising. It goes without saying that I also tried out the hydro-massage bath, with its never-ending stream of bubbles.


    Personally, I love massages! The massage room is the darkest and most silent of all, the darkness and silence is almost absolute. Here, the key words are gentleness, silence and sensuality.

    This is not a hard massage, such as a shiatsu massage, or others similar. It is entirely the opposite: hands made velvety with cream slither over my body without too much pressure, using vertical movements.

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    The massage starts with the feet and ends with the shoulders, whilst the rest of the body is covered with a hot towel in order to maintain a stable body temperature.

    The care taken here is incredible- everything has a therapeutic effect. The details, which are closely studied, make this a great reproduction of a real Turkish bath, from the gentle lighting and stone walls to the vapours, smells and massages…all in all, here you will find everything necessary for complete relaxation and achieving total peace of the senses.

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