My First Arabic Spa Experience

When traveling, I’m all for finding great deals without sacrificing the experience. And while I’m more of a hostel than luxury hotel kind-of-girl, I’ll never pass up the opportunity to stay in one for free. Luckily, I was gifted a night in the Macia Real de la Alhambra; a modern 4-star hotel set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Granada. Not to mention, the best part of this particular gift included a few hours in the hotel’s Arabic Spa the following morning.

So what’s an Arabic Spa you say? Well, it features Arabic Baths, stemming from the Islamic tradition of public bath houses. Arabic baths feature traditional decor, and a variety of pools ranging from cold to warm to hot, in which they’re used in a strict circuit. As Spain’s history is deeply rooted in its Moorish past, ruins of Arabic Baths are rampant in southern Spain, and the area has seen a resurgence of these once highly popular, ritualistic pillars of social life as more and more hotels open Arabic-style spas. In the past, Arabic baths were a way to escape the hectic city life, congregate with members of the same sex and relax in quiet conversation. Today, their usage has moved from purposes of hygiene to make for a most luxurious experience:

Clutching my towel and stepping cautiously in my flip-flops, the massage therapist took me through the dimly lit corridors of the Arabic Baths. Candlelight flickering around me, with each squeaky step I took, the sound of water crashing against water grew more and more intense. We entered the main corridor which branched into different, secluded swimming areas. “You will follow a circuit of 15 minutes in each pool. First you’ll step into the warm pool, followed by the hot pool and then the cold pool. After that, you’ll…” Taking mental notes as she spoke rapidly in her native Spanish, I nodded in agreement and tried not to forget her instructions as I shed my towel and dipped into the first bath.

After staying out ‘til 8AM the night before partying in Granada’s newest club, Forum, (where the Spanish National Team was partying, and met my favorite player, Fernando Llorente!) I melted into the warm waters of the first bath—thankfully a great hangover cure. Then, on to the hot tub featuring massaging jets and a large waterfall intended for massaging the back, neck and shoulders. I was quickly reminded that the late night wasn’t quite out of my system, and moved on to the cold pool. Though it was probably no colder than a normal outdoor swimming pool, after the contrast of the hot pool, it felt AMAZING.

After the circuit of different baths, I headed to a Turkish Bath, which is less bathing and more steam—hot, almost-suffocating steam, that opens your pores and does wonders for your skin. When I grew tired of the laborious breathing the Turkish Baths induced, the next part was an ice bath, or more aptly named rub-handfuls-of-ice-all-over-yourself-bath. I couldn’t handle more than a minute of that icy ridiculousness (though admittedly refreshing) and made one last stop before my aromatherapy massage: the tearoom.

Sipping on Moroccan mint tea, lounging on intricately-patterned pillows, I realized I had been converted into an Arabic Spa fan—before my massage even happened! A few hours in an Arabic Spa make for a perfect morning of relaxation (or in my case, ease you out of your hangover!) and I love how it’s done in a circuit. Packages at the Macia Real de la Alhambra start at 18€, or go through a company like HammamSpain.com, which features Arabic Baths all over southern Spain and Madrid. I highly recommend this traditional spa experience for anyone coming to southern Spain looking for an affordable and fun way to relax.

Have you ever had a unique spa experience either in your own country or in a foreign land? Tell me about it in the comment section below!

No, I was not the creepy girl with the camera in the baths, photos are courtesy of the Macía Real de la Alhambra website.

Blog4Japan: How We Can Help

                        

This page is dedicated to helping the survivors of the Friday 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan by channeling international donations to local efforts.

The earthquake and tsunami have caused extensive and severe damage in Northeastern Japan, over 9,500 people have been confirmed dead and another 16,000 are missing, and millions more affected by lack of electricity, water and transportation.

Photo by Kordian on Flickr.

The images of the destruction and suffering have shocked the world. However, with the World Bank reporting over 300 billion USD in damages and families torn apart there is a need for everyone to help both financially and emotionally.

Photo by US Official Navy Imagery on Flickr.

How You Can Help

A lot of people around the world want to help and have been donating to various international organizations (mainly the American Red Cross). I think this is great and with the money being transferred to the Japanese Red Cross this money will be used well. However, we also believe there is a need to donate funds directly to local Japanese organizations and NGOs that don’t have access to this type of fund raising. There are also many scams out there trying to benefit from this horrible disaster. We know that language barriers and lack of knowledge can also prevent people from donating to the right place. As such we have put together a list of Japanese Organizations that we know, trust and recommend to channel your donations to.

Photo by Dominic’s Pics on Flickr.

If you are unable to donate we ask that you share this page with your friends, family and coworkers through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or any other outlet you can think of. The more people who see this page the greater the donations will be.

If you are blogger, or have your own website. Please see the Blog4Japan page to learn how you can utilize this appeal on your own site and help us reach even more people.

Japanese Organizations We Trust

Please consider donating to one or more of these organizations. All are local Japanese organizations and we have found the English Pages for you. Donate what you can, every penny helps!

Peace Winds Japan Tsunami ResponsePeace Winds Japan is one of the largest Japanese organizations providing humanitarian relief such as food, clothing, fuel and medical supplies to the affected areas. You can Donate Here.

JEN Tsunami ResponseJEN is a well known NGO dedicated to restoring a self-supporting livelihood both economically and mentally to those who have been stricken with hardship due to conflicts and disasters. They are currently supporting emergency relief items such as food, woman’s hygienic items, clothes and other essentials to the survivors of the Japan Tsunami. You can Donate Here.

ADRA Japan Tsunami ResponseAdventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is donating food and essential items to the survivors of the tsunami. They also keep a well maintained English blog of their activities in Japan for the tsunami which you can Follow Here. You can Donate Here.

JOICFP Response to the Japanese TsunamiThe Japan Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning is taking donations for their response to the tsunami that will focus on the reproductive health needs of women and mothers in affected areas. You can Donate Here.

AMDA Tsunami Response The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA Japan) team is delivering essential medical services through mobile clinics and delivering relief goods to the nursing homes and schools (evacuation shelters) in Aoba and Miyagino Wards. You can Donate Here.

Oxfam Japan's Tsunami ResponseOXFAM Japan is working with two partners in Japan on providing support to those on the margins of society who might otherwise have difficulty accessing emergency relief. One group is assisting mothers and babies and the other is providing information to non-Japanese speakers living in Japan. You can Donate Here.

Habitat for Humanity Japan Tsunami ResponseHabitat For Humanity Japan is still assessing the situation but will be involved in the reconstruction of housing once the emergency period ends. This is one of the most vital aspects of recovery and the homeless will need a lot of help to put their lives back together. You can Donate Here.

Institute for Cultural Affairs Tsunami ResponseThe Institute for Cultural Affairs Japan (ICA) is still assessing the situation but is accepting donations. You can Donate Here.

Thanks to Todd’s Wanderings for putting the Japanese organizations list together and organizing this #Blog4Japan effort.

Tenerife: Something For Everyone

I’m so happy to introduce my first guest post on Christine|in|Spain today from Katherina of 100 Miles Highway. Katherina is a native of the Canary Islands, hailing from Tenerife. Though Tenerife is famous for its decadent Carnavale celebrations, Katherina explains that there is much more to her home than sun and fun. Read on to learn more! Be sure to follow Katherina on Twitter @100mileshighway and on her Facebook fanpage. If you’re interested in guest posting, e-mail me through the contact page located on the sidebar.

Los Gigantes

Whenever I proudly tell someone about mi tierra, they look at me with excitement and curiosity. After all, growing up in the Canary Islands is not something you get to hear a lot; at least not outside of the archipelago itself. This may be because in all 7 of the islands, there are only around 2 million inhabitants. Tenerife is the biggest, housing 43% of the total population—and this is where I come from!

As a kid, I remember sitting for two hours in the car, driving to the south of Tenerife for a weekend, staring outside the window and thinking who would ever want to live in this deserted place with only a few small touristy clusters next to the sea. Things have changed since then. In little more than 15 years, the south of the island, with its smooth weather conditions and numerous beaches, has turned into the main tourist attraction, drawing in more than 12 million tourists every year. However, I have the impression that the island is often put into the category of “sun and party holidays” which turns off many travelers seeking something different. 

There’s so much more to the island besides sun, beaches and parties.

Tenerife is the third largest volcanic island worldwide. As such, its dramatic landscape is one of its most valuable assets, and it’s best appreciated in remote areas that are only reached by foot. 

Walk down one of its many ravines or outline the northern coastline to appreciate its unique flora and intriguing rock formations.

Hike Afur to Taganana

Make your way through the Teide National Park, surrounding the island’s sleeping volcano, to view the lunar-like landscape used in the movie Clash of the Titans (2010) and One Million Years BC (1966). 

Teide National Park

Hide away on your almost private black sand beach; enjoy the peacefulness of not being disturbed by hat and jewelry sellers. Get hypnotized by the waves crashing against the rocks. 

Playa Negra

Tenerife also offers something for every foodie. Every town along the coast offers fresh fish for affordable prices. As a side dish, ask for black potatoes, called papas arrugadas, with mojo (a local sauce). Roasted goat cheese is a common starter. For an authentic taste of Tenerife’s culinary wonders, you should drive to one of the many Guachinches throughout the island. These are no-frills restaurants held in garages, back gardens or sheds, offering home-cooked food and wine from the owner’s harvest. Menus vary across each Guachinche, but a very common dish is ropa vieja, a plate combining chickpeas, beef and chicken, together with herbs and some vegetables.

Queso Asado

I grew up visiting these places and eating this food, and I must admit, I didn’t learn to appreciate it until I left it. I used to complain that there was nothing to do. Now, every time I’m back for a few days, I can’t get enough of it! For being such a small island, Tenerife has a big advantage – it offers something for every kind of traveler and all of it is a short drive or bus ride away.

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