Experience: The hammam

The local hammam  Copyright Mandy Sinclair
The local hammam Copyright Mandy Sinclair

The hammam.  It’s a ritual here in Morocco.  And since arriving, one that I can hardly go two weeks without.

With a range of luxury, mid-range and local hammams available, there is no shortage of choice.  While I’ve not been to many luxury hammams, I credit them for the providing just that, a luxury experience.  Most mid-range hammams seem to be targeted at tourists and I’ve yet to find one I LOVE.  However, the community hammam is a guaranteed good scrub, if slightly intimidating.

Each medina neighbourhood has a local hammam and they are still popular with the locals.  After all, not all medina homes have running water or at least hot water for bathing.  It’s also a place for socializing, where the women will be chatting loudly and children will be playing about.  But a scrub-down here will ensure a truly authentic experience.  While cleanliness may not be top priority, leaving with a few less layers of skin is guaranteed.  Despite all of the mid-range hammams throughout Morocco, the best scrub is always at my local hammam.

What to expect:
Upon arrival, you’ll need to pay 10 Dhs entrance fee before entering the changing room.  Once inside, a man/woman will guard your belongings after you’ve changed in to your knickers (or bikini bottoms/swimming trunks for men).  While no one will speak English, and very little French, expect to be the star of the hammam for the next hour or so.

Once the staff have understood that you would like to have a grommage (scrub) you will be lead in to the hot room where the lady/man doing the scrub will throw some water about to wash away the dirt left behind from others.  Once you’re laying on the ground (bring a mat for hygienic and comfort purposes), your attendant will cover you in savon noir (black soap made from olive oil and often scented with eucalyptus) and let you relax for a few minutes.

Once the attendant returns and starts splashing water over you to rinse away the black soap, you’re about to be scrubbed like never before. The attendant will stop to show you all the skin he/she is scrubbing off before resuming until the entire body has been exfoliated.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get a massage that will be anything but relaxing, but just seems fitting.  For this, expect to pay about 50 dhs for the treatment.

What to take:

– A pair of bottoms (I usually wear bikini bottoms)
– Towel
– Flipflops
– Mat for sitting on the floor
– black soap and lkhisse (glove) for the full-body scrub, available at the local hanout
– scarf for wrapping your hair after the hammam
– 65 dhs (10 dhs entrance, 50 dhs for the scrub, and 5 dhs for the bag attendant)

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