Spas — the New Harems?

Hey, remember last week, when I was talking about the weird prostitute vibe that comes up when a female esthetician works on a male client? A new women-only spa is opening in Marrakesh, calling itself Harem. Here, a few tidbits from their press release:

The Harem is a sanctuary for women who yearn for – and appreciate – escapism at its most glorious and unapologetically indulgent and utterly free of self-consciousness.

This is a week of not having to make any wardrobe decisions – each guest is given a djellaba and babouches for the duration of their stay.

Clients are women of all ages who rarely have the time to really take care of themselves, and relish the experience, rather than feeling guilty for putting themselves first.  They are women, who come from various walks and stages of life, whether they have pursued a career, have finished their studies, have raised a family, with a household to run, and often all of these combined.  Some are recuperating from medical treatment.  One thing they all have in common, is that they appreciate luxury, understand how vital it is in this life of ours to be pampered, want to be reminded what it feels like to be feminine, are looking to rediscover their sensuality and are striving to define who they are and what it is they need in order to live a more balanced, fruitful and healthier life.

Another thing these women all have in common is at least 2,500 Euros (starting price for seven days of “pure luxury and utter indulgence,” plus a shared room) and a planet ticket to Morocco.

More to the point: Being mostly familiar with the colloquial understanding of “harem” as “pretty darn close to a brothel,” I did a little Googling for our edification. At its most basic, a harem is a Turkish/Arabic word meaning “forbidden space,” and refers to the women’s quarters in a Muslim household. The term dates from the Ottoman Empire, when the wives, concubines, and children of royal and noblemen lived together in harems. I’m sure there’s a feminist defense to be made of these “sacred female spaces,” but I’m having a hard time getting there since life in a harem seems to also involve following a lot of rules about when and how you’re allowed to go into public, sharing your husband with a bunch of other women, and having your daughters married off into other harems at oh, age 13.

At this shiny new Harem, Dutch founder Sandra Zwollo has committed to donating 80 percent of her net profits (after paying staff and expenses) to Dar Tifl, a local orphanage for girls. She’s even started a special fund “to help these girls furnish a small apartment with their basic needs thus providing them with a better chance of success in their careers.” You know, so they too can grow up to work in a harem.

Filing this one under “good intentions, sloppy on the dismount.”

(Thanks to Notes to Self for this gem.)

[Photo: “Egyptian women of the harem at the dressmaker,” 1900-1919, via George Eastman House on Flickr.]

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1 Comment

Filed under Beauty Schooled, For Extra Credit, week 9

One response to “Spas — the New Harems?

  1. “Filing this one under ‘good intentions, sloppy on the dismount.'”

    Perfect. Oh, how do people not see?

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