Although hammams have long been a mainstay of daily life in various parts of the world, it wasn’t until recently that they’ve become an increasingly common component in many North American spas. Now, Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie is taking the concept a step further by adding vinotherapy into the mix. Opened this past September in the luxe Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto (Canada), the spa is a result of the vision of owner Surinder Bains and Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalie Vinothérapie Spas.
Bains discovered a passion for hammams after becoming acquainted with them in Paris in 1987. The following year, she learned of thalassotherapy centers after discovering them on the Brittany coast. Such encounters led her on a journey to recreate the same experience but on a more intimate scale. “I knew that the hammam would need to be a much more private rather than public experience in a North American environ- ment,” says Bains. “This led to the creation of an individual experience in an exquisite Jerusalem gold marble steam room.” While the first Miraj Hammam Spa opened its doors in Vancouver in 2000, the partnership with Caudalie Vinothérapie came into play only in the more recent incarnation.
Fortunately, at about that time, Thomas was also struck with inspiration. “Several years ago, while strolling through the grounds of my family’s vineyard, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, near Bordeaux, France, I imagined a dreamlike place that utilized nature’s powerful resources, a place far from noise, amid the vines that offered unparalleled relaxation,” says Thomas. “From this vision, the first Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa was born in 1999.” After moving with her family to New York City two years ago, Thomas was struck by how valuable a spa could be for those in a busy urban environment. “When the opportunity arose to help create an oasis in Toronto, we couldn’t resist,” says Thomas. “This new project with Miraj Hammam is such a splendid evolution of the original vinotherapy vision and an authentic, yet entirely, new blended offering.”
According to Bains, the Shangri-La serves as the ideal location for the spa. “We were looking for a luxury hotel with a unique concept, design, and location,” she says. “Shangri-La encompasses these aspects and more.” She also couldn’t help but be taken with its name, which means paradise. When combined with miraj, which means ascent, the resulting message—ascent to paradise—seemed a perfect fit.
The partnership with Caudalie is also proving to be an inspired choice, as it introduces spa-goers to not one but two popular trends. Wanting to offer guests a complete sensory experience, the spa engages all five senses. Guests are first greeted with soothing scents to set the stage. Raw ingredients, such as brown sugar, crushed Cabernet seeds, and honey, along with the therapists’ expert hands, play to the sense of touch. Taste is satisfied with various experiences that include noshing on grapes and Middle Eastern cakes and sipping teas, such as Caudalie Organic Draining Herbal Teas. The spa itself is a sight to behold with a host of visual influences from Paris, Istanbul, and Marrakech. Carefully selected music completes the sensory journey. Says Bains, “The shared vision was to create a space where the senses would be indulged, bodies soothed, and souls regenerated."
To remain consistent with other Caudalie Vinothérapie Spas, Yves Collet (Paris, France), who designed all the other spas, helped capture the flavor for which Caudalie Spas are known. B+H Chil Desig
n (Vancouver, Canada) had the added challenge of incorporating the culture and aesthetic that is a signature of Miraj Hammam Spa. “The cultural experience has always been the primary focus, which is why we partnered with Caudalie,” says Bains. “The design of the space, the importance of the historical references of centuries-old hammams, and the antioxidant benefits of the grape and grapevine all played a significant role.”
In addition to nine treatment rooms, the spa features two hammams, five pedicure stations and three manicure stations, and the Alhambra Lounge where Arab mint tea and sweet cakes are served. Among the treatment rooms are two devoted to couples, one of which is a deluxe room with barrel bath, private steam shower, and changing room; one Vichy shower room; three massage rooms; one Caudalie room; and two facial rooms. “The focus of the layout was more about addressing the needs of our blend of therapies versus basing the decision specifically on a profitability structure,” says Bains. According to Caudalie global spa director and lead consultant Virginie Miécaze, the spa is the only one of its kind to combine the vinotherapy and hammam experience in one environment. “With rooms that feature exquisite Jerusalem gold marble alongside soothing Vichy showers, the spa houses a unique range of treatments focused on wellness and offers an oasis from the surrounding city,” says Miécaze. “You leave the location with the incomparable feeling of being reborn.”
In choosing the staff, the spa took a very targeted approach to hiring. “We wanted to ensure a team that is multilingual with great personalities and positive attitudes,” says Bains. “We wanted a group that was both service-oriented and team players.” According to her, it was necessary for each therapist to be qualified from a government- accredited beauty college. In addition, each therapist was expected to have a minimum of two years of practical experience at a luxury property and possess a passion for beauty. In the end, 20 employees, made up of spa concierges, spa attendants, massage therapists, and estheticians, were hired to staff the spa. A well-educated and traveled spa director with strong business sense and managerial skills was also sought. Bains found that and more in Daryll Naidu. “To envision the concept of hammam and vinotherapy requires an open-minded person seeking more than just a position in a mainstream spa, hence, finding the right person was not easy,” says Bains.
• Surinder Bains begins collaborating with B+H Chil Design.
• The partnership with Caudalie is established.
• Construction begins on spa.
• Equipment is ordered.
• Spa director Daryll Naidu is hired.
• Products are ordered.
• Spa staff is hired.
September 7, 2012
• Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie officially opens.