Magazine article The New Yorker

Rubdown

Magazine article The New Yorker

Rubdown

Article excerpt

RUBDOWN

Five times a day, devout Muslims perform wudu , a purification ritual. (From the Koran, Sura 5:6: "When you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles.") In Moroccan cities, the ritual is often performed at bathhouses called hammams. People with more upmarket tastes might visit "the first authentic luxury hammam in New York City," on the seventh floor of the Trump SoHo Hotel, on Spring Street. The hotel's spa offers facials, pedicures, and massages, but "the hammam is sort of what we're known for," an attendant said last week. "We've had several Middle Eastern guests tell us that ours is as good as the ones in Morocco."

The Spa at Trump SoHo announced recently that it would offer, for two hundred and thirty dollars, a special treat: the Moroccan Ritual, "a sixty-minute experience designed to leave guests drenched in head-to-toe hydration." A press release said that the hammams were "inspired by Ivanka Trump's travels in Istanbul," which is not in Morocco. Four days later, Ivanka's father, Donald, unleashed an Islamophobic tirade that inspired J. K. Rowling to compare him unfavorably to Voldemort.

Rowling wasn't alone. Ibrahim Hooper, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, "That's Donald Trump for you: he attacks something and profits from it at the same time. It's a good shtick if you can pull it off, I guess." Asked about the roots of the hammam tradition, a Trump Spa employee said, "It's an exfoliation treatment. A traditional Moroccan thing. It's not necessarily Muslim. I wouldn't know anything about that."

In search of clarification, one had to look elsewhere in the Trump universe. About seventy blocks uptown, wedged between West End Avenue and the West Side Highway, is a strip of landfill that might as well be called Trumplandia: it's home to seven mirrored high-rise apartment buildings facing the Hudson, each emblazoned with the words "Trump Place" in big gold or silver letters. Although the Trump Organization sold most of the properties years ago, the buildings still bear the Presidential candidate's name. A doorman named James, wearing an overcoat monogrammed with "T.P.," for Trump Place, stood in front of one of them, at 120 Riverside Boulevard. "We used to say the name with pride, but now he's way out of line," he said. "Two hundred and seventy people live in this building--all kinds of backgrounds, and everyone gets along. For him to say awful things about Muslims, about Mexican people? Guys work here who are from Mexico, from Colombia. …

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