EGYPT - MY JOURNEY BACK IN TIME.
MOVE OVER NEFERTITI, NEFARTARI AND CLEOPATRA.
YOUR BEAUTY SECRETS HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED AND REVIVED.
As a spa writer, who has experienced beauty treatments from ancient cultures around the world? No country has impressed me more than Egypt. The beauty and talent of her people are ageless, as they continue to intrigue and inspire the world; their legends live on. How the great pyramids were built and the riddle of the Sphinx remains a mystery, but it is clear the history of beauty dates back to the time when Pharaohs built the colossal temples of Luxor, Karnak, and Abu Simbel (as monuments to their lives), and opulent burial tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, in preparation for their after life.
Queens Nefertari, Nefertiti and Cleopatra, who reigned as “the most beautiful women of their time”, spent hours each day being pampered to preserve their beauty, youth and sensuality. They bathed in donkey milk, rose petals and honey… exfoliated their bodies with herbs, spices, barks, roots, seaweed and salts… and were massaged with essential oils extracted from the sacred blue lotus flower. They wore diaphanous white dresses, often exposing one bare breast. Egyptian royalty worked hard to enhance their sexuality and please Osiris and Horis, the gods of the after life they worshipped.
Many of the skin and hair care products, cosmetics, essential oils and grooming tools we use today were first used by Egyptian royalty more than three thousand years ago. Paintings and carvings on tomb and temple walls document daily and seasonal beauty and health rituals; excavated tweezers, combs, mirrors, cosmetics, hairpieces and even scalpels used in plastic surgery are on display in the Cairo Museum.
The Egyptians were the first to: rim their eyes with kohl made from the soot of candles… dust their eyelids with green and blue powders made from grinding malachite or boiling the indigo plant… color and condition their hair, wigs and skin by diluting the henna plant in hot water. They often shaved their head for hygienic reasons; then invented elaborate hair extensions and braids, which were woven or plaited into their own hair and wigs.
Times and methods may have changed, but now thousands of years later, spas around the world are offering guests ancient indigenous spa treatments.
In Egypt, I am exposed to 3.500 year old ancient beauty secrets and rituals the Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and Oberoi Spas have adapted to modern times. When I told Nadia, the Spa Director as the Four Seasons in Cairo, my body had been purified and beautified at more than 450 spas around the world, she felt challenged to test my tolerance for pampering; together we planned my five hour
journey back in time . . . to the days when Pharaohs ruled . . . and their queens spent their days preserving their beauty and sexual vigor to please the Gods of the afterlife. I was to be emerged and submerged in ancient Egyptian rituals Nadia had researched, and the Four Seasons has adapted to please their guests.
My Odyssey began as I sat in the window, on the edge of a brown marble sunken tub, watching rowers race on the Nile. Hammed places my feet in a copper basin filled with warm water rose petals and lemon wedges; he knelt before me and began to wash my feet with caressing hands. I was then lowered into a deep oversized tub for a Cleopatra Beauty Bath of warm water, spices, honey, lemon slices and rose petals. Legend has it, Cleopatra bathed in sour donkey milk to whiten and smooth her body; here pasteurized cow’s milk was a more civilized substitute.
After a twenty minute soak, it is time for my coffee grinds exfoliating scrub and Vichy shower jet rinse. In ancient times, Nubians who lived along the Nile in Aswan, rubbed coffee grinds on their foreheads and temples to relieve headaches and sinus infections. The coffee scrub is exhilarating; as the caffeine penetrates my pores, my energy level soars.
What follows is by far, the most sensual ritual I’ve ever experienced in all my travels. My naked body, partially covered in white cotton wrap that tied in the back like a hospital robe, is led to a high back wicker throne with a hole in the seat. An incense burner on the floor beneath the hole is emoting sweet and pungent smelling herbal vapors. When I sit on the throne, the vapors waft up between my legs, purifying my femininity, perhaps enhancing my fertility as well, an ancient ritual the queens of Egypt practiced to preserve their sexual vigor to please Osaris and Horis, the Gods of the afterlife.
3 a.m. The alley is narrow, dark and scary; it is the middle of the night; I am here with four others to rent camels for our ride into the desert to greet the sun as it rises over the pyramids. A camel driver drags a spitting nasty camel out of his stall; he helps me mount, whispering in my ear, “I like you, I will teach you to ride camel.” Little did I know what that meant until he jumped on behind me, and we took off into the pitch black night.