A hammam was a public steam bath. The original hammams were found in Arabia, and bathing became a central part of Roman life. But Turkey popularized the tradition by making hammams available to people of all statuses and introduced them to Europeans. Bath houses were especially popular in the Ottoman Empire.

These early spas were also found in ancient Greece and remain an important cultural ritual in Japan. It is possible that cultural exchange throughout the Mediterranean helped spread the concept of the hammam across several societies.

The hammam today, however, is not merely housing a giant public bath tub. It is a place for ritual bathing as well as for socializing. In some regions of the Middle East, important events are still celebrated at the local hammam. For example, brides often visit the hammam before their weddings. Private palaces and large homes also historically had hammams for their exclusive use.

The elegant spas we enjoy now are the grand descendants of those public bath houses. In the harried rush of modern life, they are probably even more sought out as refuges to relax, reenergize and temporarily escape outside pressures.

In addition to a menu of massage options, Morocco’s spas offer experiences focused on authentic hammam rituals and treatments in special, uniquely designed relaxation rooms. As part of the hammam, specialized herbal remedies have been created with traditionally cultivated organic plants used by Ouirgane villagers of the region. These organic plants are used in recipes for natural beauty products or for herbal teas that extend the benefits of the treatments. The goal is to promote local natural resources such as olives, argan oil and volcanic clay, while also preserving the environment, culture and traditions of the region.

Some spas present workshops where guests can learn about the therapeutic properties of aromatherapy; or explore the secrets of preparing ghassoul, a mineral only found in the rock strata beneath Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. You can attend a Henna Tattoo workshop and learn how to prepare a henna paste and make your own traditional tattoos.

We can help you add an old-world experience in an intriguing setting to your Morocco vacation.

Tokyo is one of the most iconic global cities. As the most populous metropolitan area on the earth, it sees to reveal almost endless variations of old meets new, ancient bumps up against ultra-modern. For those keen on all things futuristic, Tokyo may be your next adventure. Want to dine at a robot restaurant? Tokyo has it. How about a 60-foot unicorn? Yup, you can find it. Remote-control toilets? Of course.

You might want to add a ‘future day’ to your Japan itinerary.

When Tokyo ran out of space, they turned to the sea and created Odaiba, a man-made island created by massive landfills, featuring many hypermodern and strange buildings memorably described as the result of a preschooler’s architecture class. Among the exhibition pavilions, indoor shopping malls, game centers, cafes, restaurants, and surrealistic constructions of Odaiba, you never fail to be intrigued by the structures on this landfill that look to come from the distant future.

The Miraikan National Museum of Engineering Science and Innovation was developed on the island in Tokyo’s bay. Here, you experience interactive exhibits peopled with robots as well as exhibits that encompass apocalyptic scenarios, information technologies, biology and space exploration.

It shares the island with a remodeled 60-foot Unicorn Gundam statue that can be robotically switched between Unicorn Mode and Destroy Mode. Impressive and a bit intimidating.

Mega Web is a giant Toyota showroom that shows off all of Toyota’s latest models, car accessories and technologies. The Panasonic Center is a showroom for the latest products and technologies by the Panasonic Corporation. On display are the newest and most ultra-cool cameras, TVs, computers, videogames, home appliances and more.

On the mainland, Akihabara, Tokyo’s Electric Town, is famous for its hundreds of electronic shops selling an astonishing array of gadgets and gizmos and the electronic devices. Recently, Akihabara has become even more famous for its “Otaku” culture. Otaku is derived from the Japanese word for another house or another family; however, in modern Japanese slang it refers to young Japanese who are infatuated with all things anime, manga (comics), cosplay, gaming, or other aspects of Japanese culture.

If you are looking for a reason to explore futuristic Tokyo, the perfect excuse could be the globe’s most prestigious international athletic competition, the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. By all accounts, Tokyo is preparing to showcase its world-renowned technology!

Exploring the past or future, Japan has a wealth of both.

Well, 2018 was a busy year for us. We delved deeper in to family travel with our development of our exciting Kids Kouncil™ as we held our first three round-tables with our junior board members. With their help we are working on our first Kids Kouncil Approved™ adventure, which will debut soon.

Through the year, we launched three sustainable travel websites – Galapagos.com, Safaritours.com and Visibleasia.com to serve as an information resource for both you and your clients. This is an easy way to begin to explore the hot topic of sustainability in the destinations to which Big Five travels. The country listings tell you a bit about what’s going on, and each country is ranked.

The Spirit of Big Five added two new nonprofit projects in 2018. Awamaki is a project that helps women who are artisan textiles makers and weavers to learn how to run small businesses. In the Andean Mountains of Peru, women who had few opportunities to earn income and help support their families are now being empowered. The second project is the nonprofit Jetwing Youth Development Program (JYDP), which helps fund training for children of war in northern Sri Lanka. The Spirit of Big Five Foundation was attracted to this project because it offered hands-on help to young people in the area to encourage them to consider careers in the hospitality industry. For more about these projects, you can visit the Spirit of Big Five Foundation.

We also added Ethiopia to our list of destinations. This endlessly fascinating country offers ancient cultures, history, natural beauty and a variety of adventures. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Its medieval rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and Gheralta, palaces and temples date back 3,000 years. It is home to the world’s fourth-holiest Islamic city as well as the oldest continuously occupied town south of the Sahara. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. As the country begins to return to the international stage, we at Big Five are thrilled to share our enthusiasm for this dynamic re-emerging destination.

And as we launch into 2019, our newest edition of our ever-popular Navigator Series® Edition IV books will be here shortly. Very soon now, you will be able to get your own copy. You can order your copy on our website under the Contact Us section or follow this link to fill out an order form.

We look forward to a year of fabulous adventures. And we wish you the very best as we head into 2019.

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