Posted on May 24, 2017
Visiting a Moroccan Hammam- Myspoclife’s Favorite Moroccan Things cont.
Have you ever heard of a Hammam? Neither had I. When visiting Morocco a few years ago, the number one thing on my list was getting to the desert. The first host we stayed with in Morocco was the first person who told me about a hammam. It is, to put it simply, a public bath. She said that she went to one every couple of days because her drain system in her house was not that good. I looked it up and got excited to try it out. There was supposed to be a lot of interaction among the women. You can be scrubbed head to toe. Most people said they never felt so clean. However, at the last-minute, our host changed her mind and said that she couldn’t take us. She recommended a salon hammam instead of the traditional hammam. That was fine with me because I was now determined to go and see what it was all about.
Bean and I booked an appointment for the hammam and spa. We waited impatiently for the day to come and showed up on time. It was our first experience at a spa. The lady walked us to the hammam/spa style room. There was a changing area and we stripped down to our birthday suites. After that we entered the hot sauna like room with the woman who would be scrubbing us. There were two tables were there just for us. I am not sure of the material, but it could be of granite or marble. We each stretched out on our tables.
Bean sat in her little corner giggling and giggling as the lady prepared to give her a bath. We were fortunate to have someone who loved children. She treated Bean with kindness and gave her a gentle scrubbing along with a hundred little kisses on her forehead. Bean didn’t even complain when the lady washed her hair. I have to struggle to get that done. If only there were a hammam everywhere we went.
My turn was not so gentle. The lady turned me on my back and got started by covering me in black soap. Then, I was scrubbed within an inch of my life. It was perfect. I feel like the lady was trying to scrub all the brown off of my body she scrubbed so hard. This went on for a delicious eternity. Lather, scrub, rinse. It was relaxing, in a way,but not so much that you would fall asleep. Bean thought the funniest thing was when the lady gave me a coffee/henna “massage” and hit me all over the back of my bottom. She wanted to try that out herself. We left smiling and feeling as light as air. We felt brand new.
The next hammam we went to was the traditional hammam…or the neighborhood hammam. This is the one that all the local ladies go to and spend time beautifying their body and sharing gossip. We stuck out like sore thumbs here because we didn’t have anyone make our appointment and we were probably the only Americans they had ever seen. This one costs much less than the salon hammam, even though whole salon experience was around $10. We walked in and I did my best to let them know what I wanted. They spoke more Arabic than French, but somehow we managed to communicate.
The traditional hammam is different from the salon hammam in that there is more space and more people. It is truly a public bath house. The changing area is very large and you can leave your things with the ladies hanging out around the counter. We did as we stripped down to our birthday suits again. I am not in the habit of taking a public bath. I have never used shared or open showers at a gym or anywhere before. Travel changes you. I walked around like I have done this all my life. I also didn’t want Bean to feel self-conscious and thereby not enjoy the experience as much as she should.
We walked into the bathing area and someone pointed to an area that we could use. Bean was curious about everything she saw. The scrubbing lady soon came and began her work. We paid her to scrub us, but she was not as accommodating as the salon lady. She did her job without enthusiasm, humor or gentleness. This time Bean got a proper scrubbing. It was good for her. The lady showed her the dead skin on the scrubbing glove. Bean was able to see that she should do more than sing when she is in the shower.
This particular hammam did not have the good vibes of other traditional hammams I have read about. The ladies all seemed to focus only on what they were doing and walled themselves off from everyone else with huge buckets of hot water. When they needed refills of water, they would walk to the faucets of hot and cold water and fill them up without looking at anyone. We did get a few looks. Mostly the bathers ignored us. One lady shared her soap. She and her baby were bathing and scrubbing across from us. When we were ready to go, she came and kissed Bean on the forehead and wished us “Good Health”. It was a good experience. I was determined to go to a traditional hammam and now that I have been, I will stick with the salon/spa experiences in the future. The people working there make you feel special and I certainly like to be pampered.
One last thing about Morocco. It is child friendly. Well, in the sense that children have the freedom to run and play. However, they did not have libraries,bookstores and playgrounds like we are used to. In order to find a play ground or play area, it is necessary to go to the mall. I am not sure why that was, but maybe it is due to the heat of the summer time and much of the year. During our entire stay, I only saw one outdoor playground…and we walked everywhere! Bean had her birthday in Morocco, so I did take her to one of the Chuck E. Cheese style play areas. She had a good time, until she went to cash in her tickets and discovered that she need to have lots more to win a cheap plastic prize!
Since we have made new friends and acquaintances, I look forward to our next visit to Morocco where we can make new discoveries and find more favorite things to do in Morocco.