The hammam

By October 19, 2008 Insights

There are many wonderful things to love about Morocco and this morning I discovered another… the hammam (which from now on I will pronounce hammaaahhhhhmmmm). The hamman is the traditional public bath where you shed your clothes and most of your skin because cleanliness is truly next to godliness afterall.

To be completely honest, the idea of going someplace around the corner from my house and the open air market selling fish and vegetables, and spending a dollar fifty to shower with a bunch of naked female neighbors was a little off-putting, so for my first experience a friend and I opted to go the lux route.

A three dollar cab ride took us to Institut Moving – a spa/health club in a nice area of Rabat. After checking in for our Mille et une nuit (thousand and one nights) session we were escorted to a beautiful relaxation room decorted like a haram. We shed clothes (a strange experience having done nothing but ensure almost complete body coverage for the last 6 weeks) and were escorted to the hot room – a kind of sauna with a barrel ceiling and very warm stone benches all around where we were rinsed and slathered with some kind of mixture of henna and herbs and oil. Looking like a couple of mud wrestlers, we marinated for 15 minutes before being led to rinse off and then to the warm room.

For the next hour we were laid out on heated soap stone slabs and scrubbed with a sandpaper mitt (kese), soaped, shampooed, massaged, rinsed, oiled with something smelling of jasmine and soothed with a facial mask of mint and sugar (it’s a rare experience in Morocco that doesn’t involve sugar). Then back to the haram room wrapped in a warm robe with a glass of fresh orange juice to listen to soothing tinkling bells (some spa effects are universal) and relax. And all this for 200 dh (about 30 dollars)!! OMG, we both agreed we’d be back.

Now I’m ready to try the neighborhood joint around the corner. I’m sure it will be an amazing expereince of another sort… hopefully I won’t come out smelling like fish.