Too hot to handle :: Atlas Riad Medina and Spa

Our first few footsteps out of the airport and we were already haggling away, trying to find a taxi that wouldn’t cost us the earth. Luckily my French allowed me to bargain quickly and fiercely and reserved us a taxi; we jumped in with a local young Moroccan and quickly struck up a conversation. Taxis swerved racing to get out of the airport and onto the main street and it was a battle driving to avoid the bicycles, donkeys and mopeds that dominated the road. After the madness of the airport and journey ‘The Atlas Riad Medina and Spa’ on the outskirts of the city was an oasis of calm.

Walking in through the lobby it echoed the traditional Moroccan style whilst taking inspirations from the 1930s. The hotel boasts 5 acres of gardens with 200 palm trees and two swimming pools, however this wasn’t why we were here. We had come in the hope of relaxing in the spa after a hard days haggling in the busy souks. The spa reception was as you would expect, all gentle music and candle light and we decided to book in for some treatments.

The next day after watching snake charmers in the Jemaa El Fna, having a henna tattoo on my hand and having spent half an hour bargaining in French for a yellow leather bag I was certainly ready for the bliss the spa promised me. As we were lead through the walkways of the dimly lit spa I began to relax in my lush surroundings. We hung up our robes as the therapist opened the heavy wooden door to our private hammam. Suddenly the steam gushed out and I couldn’t see a thing, “allez, allez? I heard the therapist say. I tiptoed in with my partner behind me groping around for anything to make out where I was. After a few minutes our eyes accustomed to the fog and we saw that our room had two sections, one part with a sink and marble beds and the second a bench with a bowl of herbs and spices. It was then that the heat started to hit me and I quickly discovered that laying down made it easier to breath. I managed about 15 minutes before dashing to the door for cool air, I discovered a shower and breathed a sigh of relief as the freezing cold water hit my body. I was now looking forward to a relaxing massage and perhaps a little sleep. I followed the therapist and entered another room and was instructed to strip naked and lie down, I was then massaged in oil and wrapped up in the Clingfilm followed by a towel and then an electric blanket and left to relax for 30 minutes. As I started to drift off I noticed I was beginning to get very, very warm. I felt like I was being cooked and by the end of my 30 minutes my therapist came back to find me struggling to get out of my little cocoon. As I emerged, a few pounds lighter probably from loss of fluids I staggered out to find my partner laid on a bed with a mint tea, apparently he had only lasted 15 minutes! Evidently Morocco is too hot for the English!

Next time I’ll think I’ll opt for a relaxing massage and leave the hammams for the Moroccans.

Posted by Natalie Dale on May 10, 2007 in Travel

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