The Hammam Experience

It was first in Europe that we thought about going to a hammam, Granada in fact. Juan has been before and talked about the different water pools filled with different temperatures and aromas. It’s a place to go with friends to relax and have fun. A hammam visit can also include a massage. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?

baños arabes 1     baños arabes 2

The visit never ended up working for Cam, Angie and I in Granada (something about forgetting our swimming suits when we left the apartment that day). When we saw the small hammam in our Marrakesh Riad it was impossible to resist after our 10 hour, second-class night train from Tangier and grueling morning hotel search. Finally a chance to get clean and forget the childish teenagers and curious cockroaches we endured the night before. The cost of the hammam was 25 euros, which to be honest was steep, but we all decided we deserved it!

After our appointments were arranged and before the water was ready Ang and I scrambled to shave and be slightly presentable for our baths. We would be going in one at a time and we elected Angie to go first. And so she walked down the stairs with a towel wrapped modestly around her bathing suit.

I should point out at this moment that we were all together in the same hotel room. If there is any couple that I could choose to spend the night with, it would be these two! Even the fact that we only had a sheet separating our beds to the toilet area was overcome without a flinch. Our relationship is now forever bonded strongly, never to be broken.

Angie went down first and Cam and I awaited our turns. Cam was reading the guidebook so I suggested that he look up the section on traditional Moroccan hammams. Having previously lived in Morocco I had already visited a hammam with some female classmates. While we were waiting we heard a girl calling Mohamed, a guy that worked at our hotel. He wasn’t close enough to hear her call so he never came. Since Angie was in the hammam with the girl Cam suggested that I go check to make sure everything was ok. As I was getting my shoes on I heard Angie scream my name. I ran down the stairs.

As the door creeped open I saw Angie seated on the tile floor strategically placing her arms around herself, obviously naked. The girl asked me in french if we had shampoo, so I ran back upstairs to get some. In that moment I was glad that it was I who came to translate rather than Mohammed.

About eight minutes later Angie came bursting into the room, towel drapped across her front. She wasn’t smiling, and told me curtly that it was my turn and that I wouldn’t be needing my swimsuit. As it turned out there was about a minutes wait and Angie calmed down significantly, but still was silent about her bath.

As I walked down the stairs naked underneath my towel I couldn’t help but laugh about what Cameron was going to think of hammam, because it was only then that I realised exactly what he was in for. When I got there the girl took away my towel and promptly told me to lie on my back on the tiled floor. Then she spread an olive soap all over me, front and back. That’s when the buckets of water started. It is extremely relaxing to have someone else wash you and not have to worry about missing a spot. What is not relaxing is the scrub down that came next. She used two types of cloths that ripped away any dead skin (and maybe some that wasn’t quite dead). Rolls of black skin comes off your body and it’s actually quite gross. Next she put a clay mask on my hair and to finish she used shampoo. She is so thorough she even cleans in your ears with her finger (to be completely honest, strangely, this is the part that made me the most uncomfortable – strangers shouldn’t  ever touch your ears, eww!).

After my hammam I smothered rose scented lotion all over myself. I felt so good. My skin was soft, I was clean and relaxed and knew we were gonna get a drink in the courtyard. I couldn’t wait to hear what Angie thought. As it turned out though Cam had to wait a while so he joined us girls. To not scare him we didn’t talk about what actually happened in the hammam room – we didn’t want him backing out of an amzing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Right before Cam’s turn a male English guest exited the hammam, his exact quote was, “Bloody hell, that was the best experience of my life.”

When his name was called though everything gushed out. Angie and I laughed but stayed silent enough, just in case Cam screamed or something.

When he finally was finished and dressed he told us all about his experience. It turns out the men’s hammam also includes a stretch (naked, of course) and a soak in the pool (something the girls could only wish for).

One final note is that it is an Islamic custom for females to shave their bodies completley every 21 days, and males every 40 days. It is a little scandalous to enter with any more than slight body hair.

2 thoughts on “The Hammam Experience

  1. Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get to a hammam on our trip. Don’t know if I’m ready for all that yet! Guess it would have been best to go into it blind. Mom

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