Everybody now knows I love Morocco. It is one of those countries where I did not struggle to fit in; I had the ultimate the experience. The highlight of my trip? Snail soup. The people. Okay, it was the hammam. I cannot decide. Here’s how my hammam experience went down.
What is a hammam?
It is a bathhouse/steam bath that is integral and ancient part of Moroccan culture.
First, a brief history of this bathing tradition:
It originated from the Arabs and Romans, without who, guys would still be using cold water to shower and bath. The Hammam is said to be one of the most ancient surviving bathing tradition in the world. Instead of fading, its popularity has grown over time, with most cultures setting up what most would love to call steam baths. Spas, see?
In line with the Islamic religion, cleanliness cannot be overemphasized. That was the main motivation to the Romans who firmly believed in centralized bathing. Explains why most hammams are found near mosques. It was a great way for them to break routine, and also catch up on the latest developments.
For women, going to the hammam was a great way to escape the isolation they otherwise had to deal with at home.
Fun fact: “Not allowing me to visit the Hammam” was, at some point, considered to be a valid enough reason for women to file for divorce.
Black girl in the hammam
I was raised differently. The way I was brought up, you get into the bathroom (with a door), do your business, then leave. That’s typical, I think.
I had read that the hammam experience was not to be missed when in Morocco. There are both private and public hammams. The public ones are very cheap (around 10 dirhams), and are the best way – in my opinion – to experience this art.
I was with a friend coming back from chasing waterfalls in Sefrou, when we saw the Hammam sign. Since we had time and were thirsty for adventure, we got in. For perspective, men and women take up separate rooms, you have to disrobe, you have the option to purchase stuff like the Moroccan black soap from the hammams (some people carry theirs)…
I was the only black woman. Small town. My hair was different, I was shy, and I almost ran off cuz I thought I wasn’t ready. The woman in charge told me stuff in Arabic, I responded in Greek. Minutes later I’m seated on a traditional stool, and the woman has applied soap all over my body. I’m trying to settle in. Weirdly, the gazes are not as many as one would expect, or at least as the ones one receives in the street. That makes it easier for me. The soap was supposed to sit for a few minutes, for exfoliation and stuff. By now she’s scrubbing my feet; I could get used to this 😉
She wants to wash my hair, I don’t think twice about it even though it is evening and it will obviously take ages to dry. Best head massage I’ve had in a long time.
Once I’m rinsed off, I was taken to an even hotter room. I forgot to mention that all this time we were in a room filled with steam from all the hot water – the walls have also been designed to allow this. I also forgot to say that you’re in a room together with other women (young and old alike). Everyone’s doing their business. It is where they shave – everywhere-, wash their hair, gossip, and generally bath 😆
I have to actively breathe, otherwise one can easily suffocate from the heat. Amazing experience, nevertheless.
I’m done for the day after waiting to dry and all that. I am addicted, I have a new hobby. After that day, I made it a habit to visit the hammam at least once every three days.
So, what are some of the benefits of a Moroccan Hammam?
- It heightens skin clarity and elasticity.
- Reduces anxiety and stress.
- Aids in rejuvenation and relaxation
- Improved skin tone
- Controls acne by controlling oil levels in your skin
- Gossiping 😆 😆
A few pointers for your first visit to the Hammam:
- You can easily make this your bathroom – they are open as early as 6 a.m and remain open to around midnight
- You’ll need to wash your private parts yourself.
- Bring dry underwear (normally your underwear is all you have on; men do it completely naked, I hear)
- There’s a hammam “glove” – this will make more sense if you see it. It’s available in shops and may also be purchased from the hammam.
- The dark soap is called savon noir and is honestly the best soap I’ve come across in my lifetime. You can bring tons of it back into the country. Okay, not tons.
- No taking pictures – naked people on location.
Part of a series
Btw this post comes months later after my visit, and has been triggered by a number of requests from guys. This will be part of the Moroccan series which you should look forward to. Images will be limited and credited to my friends since I lost all of mine – this is part of the reason you haven’t seen any Moroccan posts here yet 😐. Time heals everything.
Would you do it? Who would you like to take the bath with? Share the post with your travel mates. We are on all social media platforms; drop a comment, message, like… anything 💕
Cheers to steam!
Light and Love.