Snugly nestled in a coded courtyard near to rue Reamur, the O-Kari Spa is a piece of the Maghreb with a Parisian zip code. Stepping through the sliding door I was warmly greeted at reception by a display of stacked soaps- Alep soap, black soap (made from olive oil and eucalyptus), all handmade by Karima and to be used in the treatments. Where do we start?
Led into the changing room, given a gently warmed robe and little paper g-string to wear, for the hammam and treatments, I made myself comfortable on the sofa in the refreshment room. Served with a little glass of mint tea and dates, I took a little look around. Very tastefully decorated in white, with black and white portrait photos from the Maghreb (North Africa), whilst the open plan changing room was done in warm earth colours. However, there didn’t seem to be a space for the grand hammam tradition of having somewhere to lie down and take a little snooze after. I defy anyone not to need one. Its hard work getting this gorgeous, I tell you.
There’s a French/Arab mentality here when it comes to nudity- when my beautician arrived my robe was taken and I was led through the spa in the paper g-string. The treatments also take place in full view of others. For those used to western spas that tend to be a little more private, and who have not used a hammam before, just take a little mental note. Leslie talked me through how it works, and I ventured into the steam. The room was tiled with a slight vaulted effect, with a small fountain and cold water taps, along with authentic silver metal bowl, to douse yourself with water when required.
After a while I was led out in order to be covered in thick black soap-this mixture works wonderfully to deep cleanse and prepare the skin for exfoliation-and sent back into the steam. Being really relaxed by now, I can’t remember more about the steam room, other than to tell you it was at a thoughtfully pitched temperature, very misty but not too hot, and lightly scented with eucalyptus.
A little later I was led to a slightly heated slab and lay down for a very thorough and professional exfoliation from Leslie, everything down to the soles of my feet with a pumice stone and attention paid to my cuticles. After that came a lathering with Alep soap, which is wonderfully rehydrating, my hair was washed and scalp and shoulders lightly massaged. The Alep soap did a really good job of deep cleansing my skin, along with the steam.
It was a beautifully relaxing experience, and the spa does succeed in taking many of the best aspects of the hammam and fusing them with a western spa. O-kari is exactly that, it is not the traditional hammam experience, nor is it a western spa. It is a wonderful melange.
22, rue Dussoubs, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 42 36 94 66. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All female, by appointment only.