The Moroccan Hamam Experience.

I enjoy a good massage from time to time, and I like going to a Sauna to sweat away the stresses of the day.  So I knew that I wanted to go to a typical Hamam during my visit to Morocco.  Hamam literally means Steam Bath, and a visit to one is as much a social event as a place to get clean for many Moroccans.  Historically, homes did not have running water and certainly not hot running water, so the Hamam was a place for men and women to go on a weekly basis to take a bath.  Even though most homes in Marrakech now have running water, the Hamam is still a place to go meet friends, socialize and take a bath.  After a brief internet search I learned that there are many “Hamams” in Marrakech that appeared to be geared more toward tourists and not locals.  Prices ranged from 200 to 400 Dirhams, about $25 to $50 USD.  I knew that the locals were not paying that much money to go to the Hamam.  During my 2-day excursion to the Atlas Mountains my driver, Rachid, described the “hamam” he goes to and recommended I go experience it. I knew I wanted to go to one the locals use and not one for tourists but my only fear was that I wouldn’t understand what to do and I didn’t want to offend anyone.  Rachid had invited me to visit his home and join him for a traditional “Tagine” dinner.  He thought that a visit to the Hamam near his home before our dinner would be a great way to start the evening.  Unfortunately, he had a call to pick-up clients at the Airport and couldn’t join me but before going to the Airport, he took me to the Hamam and made sure his friends knew I was a non-Arabic speaking visitor and asked them to look after me.  Rachid, left me with instructions to meet him at the coffee shop next door after my Hamam experience and we would then go to his house for dinner.  The Hamam of course had separate bathing areas for men and women. At the front door, there was a middle-aged gentleman, who took the money and sold soap and exfoliating gloves etc…  The price to enter the Hamam was only 12 Dirham, about $1.50 (that’s one dollar and fifty cents, not $50.00 like some of the Hamams advertised on the Internet).  I needed to buy the exfoliating glove and some of the thick black, paste-like soap that was necessary for a proper Hamam experience.  I think the glove and the soap were an extra 6 dirhams, about .70 cents.  I brought my own towel, shower shoes and shorts.  Yes, you stay covered-up in the Hamam, modesty is an important virtue in the Hamam.  Once inside there was an area to dress and undress.  That’s where you leave your cloths with an attendant for safe keeping.  I was given 2 large plastic pales and with my shorts and shower shoes on, my towel over my shoulder, I was led into a long room with an arched ceiling.  The room was very warm but not filled with steam like I had anticipated.  There were 3 similar rooms all next to one another, and each occupied by 3 or 4 patrons.  I watched what they were doing and followed as best I could.  First you fill the pails with hot water, then you soap up and splash the water on yourself to rinse off.  A few patrons, laying face down on the tiled floor were getting worked over by a guy with the dreaded black exfoliating glove.  They seemed to be under no distress, so I was not afraid to give it a try if the exfoliating guy came my way.  At this point I didn’t know what Rachid had pre-arranged for me? After about 3 iterations of the self-imposed wash and rinse cycle, a gentleman in his mid 50s, wearing shorts, showed up and gestured for me to lay on the floor face-down.  Wanting to be a good guest, I followed his instructions carefully.  He filled the pails with hot water, took the black glove I had purchased and began to work me over, exfoliating first my back side.  All is well at this point,  the exfoliating was firm but not overly painful….. that was until I was instructed to roll over onto my back.  While facing up, laying on my back, the kind gentleman proceeded to exfoliate my chest with such pressure that I thought he was trying to remove my nipples….. I’m thinking you little pansy, all these other guys are getting it done and they are not whimpering, the pain must be just because it’s my first time. Right… Not knowing how to say “uncle” or “please leave my nipples in place” in Arabic, I let the exfoliating session continue.  After about 30 mins total, he slapped me on the shoulder and gestured for me to sit-up.  I briefly looked down at my chest to make sure my nipples were still in place… yes they were! God is great!  He then mixed-up some soapy water in a pail and washed and rinsed me again.  I would have to say, that was the cleanest I have ever been in my entire life.   I’m sure he removed the top 7 layers of skin, but I was really squeaky clean.  After drying off, I headed back to the dressing area where a glass of mint tea and my bag of clothing awaited me.  I was instructed to take my time, I assume to cool off before I re-dressed and slowly drank my tea.  Rachid had instructed me to tip the exfoliating guy a few Dirhams, I gave him 50 and he seemed quite happy.  He even dressed and escorted me next door to the cafe, where I awaited for Rachid.  After about 30 mins, Rachid showed up and we went to his home for a wonderful evening.  I felt very fortunate that he had invited me into his home to meet his family and dine with them.  It’s one of those great travel experiences I will never forget.  His children, a 3 year old boy and an 18 month old girl were like kids anywhere in the world, very happy to see their Daddy and interested in the new guest he brought home!  Rachid was a wonderful host, we ate an incredible Tagine dinner and his family was very kind and gracious… Thanks Rachid for a wonderful time!   

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.