There are so many things to do in Malaga, but while sightseeing’s fun it can get tiring and even the biggest culture vultures need time out on holiday. One of the best places to do this is at a Malaga spa.
Hammam Al Andalus Malaga is located in the heart of the old quarter in the Plaza de los Mártires, opposite the Mártires church (well worth popping in if it’s open). I almost miss the narrow façade, hiding a world of relaxation and peace and quiet behind its 18th century walls, but then I spot the hallmark Moorish design and walk in. I’m here to enjoy one of my Christmas presents (it’s nearly the end of October but better late than never). The autumn afternoon shines warm and even though it’s low season there are plenty of people on holiday in Malaga. My fellow bathers come from all over the world and I’m impressed at the languages spoken by the staff.
Once we check in, we descend the candle-lit stairway into the changing rooms and a kind of hush comes over us all and everyone almost visibly relaxes. We’ve all stepped back in time to Nazari Malaga when bathing was always a ritual and a time to wind down.
First I’m invited to pick my essence. Choosing between the four isn’t easy – rose, jasmine (called biznaga in honour of the jasmine symbol of Malaga), lavender and red amber – but in the end I go for the amber. A good choice for relaxing says my masseuse as she begins the ritual. First warm water, then a gentle soaping before a deliciously delicate foam covers me completely. Then she gets to work with a scrub mitten and grape-seed soap, and the kessa begins.
I’ve had this scrub-down before in Fez in Morocco back in the 80’s when a friend and I paid a few dirhams to enter the women’s baths and a few more for the kessa. But at this spa in Malaga there are no women gossiping or children laughing at our white European bodies. Just a gentle soundtrack of an Arab song and the rhythmic scrubbing.
Ten minutes later, I’m squeaky clean and ready for the massage. I choose one for my back – super tense, my masseuse tells me as she gets to work on all the knots. As they unravel, daily life begins to slip away and I’m almost lulled to sleep.
It’s a surprise to come back, but the relaxation isn’t over because now it’s time to sample the baths themselves. First up is a welcome glass of Moorish tea before I go downstairs for a soak.
Soak it all away
Impressive is the first word that comes to mind, quickly followed by beautiful. The Hammam in Malaga imitates the traditional Arab bath houses found in palaces and I’m reminded of the baths in the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Everywhere is richly decorated in colourful tiles and marble, and the domed rooftop of the hot bath has star-shaped skylights, so typical of the authentic Arab baths found in other parts of Andalucia – Ronda, Jaén and again, Granada but this time at El Bañuelo.
There are 3 baths – scalding hot, pleasantly warm and freezing cold. As well as the baths, there’s a steam room and a hot-stone area. But forget a small line of black stones on your back – these are giant slabs of roasting-hot marble to lie on.
Everywhere is lit by candles and mostly silent. All I need to do is to make my way round the circuit and remember to empty my mind of Malaga guides, copywriting and daily chores. That turns out to be easy – slip into the water, lie back and contemplate the light and reflections playing on the water.
All too soon a Tibetan chime signals the end of the session and it’s back to real life. But the relaxation continues as I make my way home and I know this is definitely something to treat yourself to in Malaga. The Moors certainly knew how to do things properly!
- The hot stone room
- The massage
- The decoration
- Squeaky-clean changing rooms and showers.
Baths start at €35 and a bath and massage combo at €45. Special deals and online discounts are available. Reservation recommended. Open daily 10am to midnight. Sessions every 2 hours.
Plaza de los Mártires 5, Malaga
Tel: 952 215 018
(Photos courtesy of Hammam Al Andalus Malaga)