A taste of Morocco will soon be on UK shores, as Urban Retreat in Harrods launches its female-only day spa, discovers Suzanne Braithwaite
Urban Retreat’s Moroccan hammam, in partnership with marocMaroc, will be the final piece of the puzzle in Harrods’ nine-phase expansion of its fifth floor. Liz Hotchin, Urban Retreat’s marketing manager, calls it a female haven. “It is now a floor that directly caters for women, with Harrods’ new shoe sanctuary [opened August 2014], a new dining area, and finally Urban Retreat’s marocMaroc female-only spa,” she says.
The work to transform the space into a Moroccan-inspired hammam has quietly been underway throughout 2014. The salon continued to operate while the much-anticipated £3m women-only spa was built behind closed doors. Due to open in late October, the 3,000sq ft space will transport female spa-goers into a luxurious steam room, where they can experience the ancient traditions of Morocco.
Reena Hammer, creative and brand director at Urban Retreat and daughter of its owner George Hammer, formed a bond with marocMaroc’s marketing manager Jihane El Bacha following the 2011 Harrods “Inspiring Morocco” exhibition and wanted to cultivate the brand within Urban Retreat.
After a visit to Marrakech’s The Royal Mansour Spa, where she experienced a hammam treatment, Hammer decided that retailing the products was not enough and wanted UR guests to enjoy the magic of being bathed in the way an Arabian princess would.
“The spa will offer a very social aspect. It is an open environment where women can get together and talk,” Hammer told Professional Beauty in February.
While building works were then put back, Urban Retreat is now ready to reveal the finer details of the design. Guests will enter the spa through the boutique area, which will retail marocMaroc products. Hotchin reveals that there will also be a concept store in this area that will change on a seasonal basis. “We will work with Moroccan designers and source interesting products from the country, depending on the time of year. We hope to create limited-edition lines of marocMaroc with designers in the future,” she says.
A check-in desk will be situated in the ornate boutique area, with guests then shown through to the lavish changing rooms. The hammam journey starts in the relaxation area, which is a warm room to help clients acclimatise. “Guests will stay in this room for five to 10 minutes before entering the hot room,” says Hotchin. The hot room is one large chamber that hosts seven marble slabs, separated by handcrafted marble lattice. “We still want this to be a social experience so did not want to close each treatment area off. It is a case of ‘when in Rome…’, though you don’t have to go in fully naked,” she adds. The intention is that clients will disrobe before entering the hot room.
Guests can choose from three different types of hammam; the Traditional, which involves a black soap scrub, massage and the Indulgent, which has the addition of a hair treatment; and the Indulgent Hammam with Ceremonial Massage, where a client will relax for 20 minutes after the hammam, before being taken to one of the two treatment rooms for a full-body massage. “One thing that is not clear from the menu at the moment is that for a 50-minute traditional hammam, a client would need up to two hours to experience the journey properly,” explains Hotchin. The three treatments are priced at £120, £160 and £230 respectively, “in terms of what we are charging, it makes it a good deal”, she says.
With the two treatment rooms and seven marble slabs, up to nine women could have treatments at the same time. However, to start with, Urban Retreat will only be hiring two or three Kesala’s (traditional hammam treatment therapists). The spa can be hired out by groups of 15-20 women, who would also get use of the VIP suite, which connects the hammam to the Urban Retreat salon.
While the spa is a women-only space, it can be used by men or mixed groups in the event that they hire out the whole area privately.
There will be five other treatments available as part of the marocMaroc offer in the two treatment rooms, including massages, facials and body wraps, priced from £55 to £120. “It is an ancient tradition but we have modernised it, so its not just a wet-room environment, it has to offer results-driven treatments too,” says Hotchin. “As far as we know we are the only spa doing this Moroccan and social element on this scale in the UK.”
The success of the hammam remains to be seen, but Urban Retreat has the intention over the next two or three years to dominate this type of market. PB
Size: 3,000sq ft
Opens: October 2014
Staff: 13, including a spa manager and supervisor
Treatment rooms: two
Hammam slabs: seven
Other facilities: relaxation area, boutique, changing area, VIP suite