The Persepolis Hammam Experience

Peeping Toms need not apply. No we haven’t installed a jacuzzi in the basement*. This is, rather, about some of the traditional beauty stuff that we sell. Unguents and potions and sweet smelling things. Things that you can’t get at Superdrug. (Things that, coincidentally, make really cool stocking fillers.)

Iranians use three rather alien things in the shower (pictured right): the lief, the quisseh, and roushur or sefid-ab. A lief looks like something your granny might crochet. In fact they mostly are crocheted by Iranian grannies. And they are used as a light body-buffer. (It has to be said that some rather sweet art students did buy some thinking they were evening bags, and it seemed heartless to disabuse them of this notion, so please don’t snigger if you see them sporting what is basically a shower mit at the opera.)

The quisseh is a rather more abrasive form of shower mit, and is usually fashioned so that you can slide a hand inside it in order to exfoliate the body. These mostly look (and feel) like offcuts of sackcloth.

Roushur is the interesting one. Any of you geologists out there? We’d really like to get this stuff analysed. It is a soft mineral substance which dissolves gently in steam leaving the skin soft and supple. Its other name, sefid-ab, is more helpful: the words mean ‘white water’, and some Iranians believe that it actually helps make the skin paler. It’s almost certainly got kaolin in it, and maybe some gypsum. Any which way, they’ve been using it in Iran for millennia, so it must be good, right?
We’ve also got some really posh Moroccan hammam soaps in stock now. There are four on offer, made with rose oil, cactus oil, argan oil or black olive paste. The idea is that you rub it on all over, and allow the steam of your bath or shower to get to work. This is good stuff (yes, in the interests of product research we have tried them all). We are currently selling them at £5.99/pot or two for £10.00.

And then there’s argan oil. This unprepossessing liquid is actually farmed from goat poo (well, from argan nuts which have been digested and processed by goats). Yes – of course it’s safe: Berber ladies have known about it for centuries. Now you can use it too. What’s it good for? There are two grades: one for cosmetic purposes, and one for use in the kitchen. We’ve only got the former in stock at the mo. It’s full of vitamin E and is great for rejuvenating the skin. Yep – it apparently makes you look younger. The other good thing about it is the fact that the argan industry is pretty much entirely Fair Trade: all the proceeds go back to the Berber community.
So there you go. You’ve got to admit any of these things would be better than putting a bar of Yardley’s soap in their stocking…

Add these things to our regular range of rose and orange blossom waters, and essential oils, and smelly candles – it’s a wonder that Mrs. Shopkeeper ever gets out of the bath in time to open the shop…

*Mrs. Shopkeeper has actually mooted this. Mr. Shopkeeper didn’t look very convinced.