Hammams

 

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that Kelsey, Guy and I all enjoyed a Moroccan Hammam experience.

Hammam (pronounced ha – mom) is often referred to as the Moroccan equivalent of a Turkish bath. This is not technically correct since Morocco is one Arab country that was never under Ottoman rule. Moroccan Hammams are their own breed, and are an Islamic experience.  The public Hammams in Morocco are often located near mosques. The Hammam process is viewed as part of the cleansing ritual in the Islamic religion.

It takes about 20-25 minutes, and our Hammam took place in a private hotel/Kasbah. However, public Hammams dot the countryside and the big cities.  Separate facilities exist for men and for women.

Ours took place in a very warm room with no windows, very similar to a steam room in the States. Having said that there is no steam coming out in the room. The focus is on water, but the room is hot.  So, it felt to me like a steam room.  The room that we were in was relatively small, say 12’ by 12’.

The idea is to have the warm room open up your pores, so that the dirt can be released.

Let me add that you are not totally nude. You are expected to keep your bathing suit on, at least for the men.  And panties on for the women, I am told.  In fact, stripping to be totally nude is considered highly offensive and very poor etiquette.

The process that the three of us went through involved three steps. The first being a quick rinsing of the body by the attendant, followed by applying soap and again followed by a rinsing with warm/hot water.

The second step, and this is the one that got my attention is the use of a scrub glove on my body. My attendant proceeded to scrub almost every inch of my body (not including the area where I had my bathing suit).  And I mean scrub.

What this felt like was as if someone had taken very rough sandpaper and decided to scrape my body with it. It was not fun.  It was painful enough that I emitted some sounds according to Guy, who joined me in the experience.  Apparently, I emitted sounds like Ooooohhhh, argh, ummmmmmm and eeeeeyow, to name a few.  I have since learned from my son in law, Brian, that there is a name for this.  It is called onomatopoeia, when a word sounds like what it represents.

Imagine having someone scrub your body with sandpaper. That is what it feels like.  OMG.  This is followed once again by a thorough rinsing with warm/hot water.

The third step in the process is the application of something like mud to everyplace on my body with the same exception noted above. I have since learned that this “mud” is really a kind of lava clay.  After this “mud” has set for 5 or so minutes, it in turn is washed away by warm/hot water.

When you leave the room, you feel drained. Imagine staying in a steam room for 25 minutes.  You are sweating big time.  You have shortness of breath.  Add on to that the fact that you have been scraped and scrubbed, lathered with mud.  So, even though the 25 minutes is action packed, at the end I felt drained and relaxed.

I will tell you this, our attendant, Nadia worked very hard. She was active the entire time going back and forth between myself and Guy, following each of the steps sequentially with both of us.  There was never a time where she took a break or stopped working.  It was very impressive.

Bottom line, Hammams are recommended for all. The scrubbing, the scraping, the sandpaper was worth it.  And in the process, I was able to participate in a cleansing ritual.   And, I learned a new word – onomatopoeia.

Can it get much better than that?

4 thoughts on “Hammams”

  1. When Captain Renault said: “So Rick, what brought you to Casablanca?” Rick responded, “I came here for the waters.”

    Maybe he was not misinformed. He was referring to the hammams.

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