How To Use the Moroccan Hammam
You’ve probably heard of it, and maybe you’re wondering what a bathroom is? The Moroccan Hammam is one of the most widely loved but bewildering experiences for people who have never visited Morocco and have not had the opportunity to try a hammam. Many of the “must do in Morocco” lists include taking a bath, but what exactly does that mean and why is it a revered tradition?
It’s hard to imagine, but not long ago, it was uncommon for people to bathe or bathe indoors. I can remember my grandparents telling stories of bathing in a metal tub once a week. Before the introduction of water heaters, water, especially hot water, was a precious commodity. A workable solution was found in Morocco to overcome this difficulty.
Today you will find a large selection of hammams in Moroccan cities. The more traditional diversity is found in neighborhoods everywhere. You will also find luxurious baths in the larger cities. The third class is a step up from the traditional bathrooms but is cheaper than the luxury style. Depending on where you head, your experience will vary.
Visiting a Luxury Hammam
If you choose a more sophisticated hammam, your experience will be similar to that of a spa. While they differ slightly, you will be asked to undress (leave it on your underwear) and give a robe. You will be taken to a warm/hot room and asked to sit back and relax. After that, use Savon Beldi and scrub well, then rinse.
Now comes the interesting part.
Using a kess, an exfoliated hand it, the woman will rub your entire body. Yes, it may feel rough but this is what removes the dead skin. If it’s too hard, let her know! Bishwa means to slow down or relax. You may be asked to roll, move, or lie down. Once you feel better, you will continue to shower by washing it with soap and shampoo and also rinsing, or it will let you do it yourself. The whole process takes 30-45 minutes.
Visiting a Neighborhood Hammam
What you’ll need to bring!
-a full change of clothing
-Savon beldi (a blackish looking soap made with olive oil)
-your own regular soap and shampoo
-water bucket and small cup or bucket for scooping water
-plastic flip flops or other shoes that can get wet
-razor, face wash, and any other toiletries you use when bathing
-brush and any other products you use after a bath
-a small foldable mat for the floor
-a towel and/or robe
Going to a neighborhood bath is a completely different experience. One of the biggest differences is the removal of the privacy screen. The local bath reminds me of a three-part shower room. Upon entering, you’ll pay someone, usually a woman, at the entrance. If you want to take a bath yourself, it is 10-20 dirhams (depending on the bathroom), and if you want a professional to bathe you, it is about 50 dirhams.
The next room you enter has long benches. This is where you change your clothes. What do you wear in the bathroom? Nothing, or at least very little. Take off everything, except for your underwear, wrap it in a towel, and put on slippers. You will give your clothes bag to another woman watching the belongings cubicles. Take the things you need for bathing (soap/shampoo, etc.) with you.
You will then be greeted by the woman doing the cleaning. For someone who has never been to the bathroom before, it might come as a surprise to discover that not only is your host likely to be naked aside from underwear, the bathroom is filled with other women of all ages in a similar state. Most people are surprised because they assume that women who wear conservative clothes outside will be more careful.
Your host will take you to the shower area and set the towel aside. Once inside, you will notice three different rooms. They start with a warmer room, from a warmer room and finally a hotter room. Let it lead the way! Find a place and prepare yourself. You will use your own water bucket and may be used by others.
You have to remember to only use buckets of water. The faucets are full in every room and this may mean waiting at times if the bathroom is busy. Don’t steal someone else’s bucket!
After rinsing, start Savon Beldy and scrub completely. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes and relax. Moroccan women go to the bathroom as often as they go to the bathroom to watch gossip! When the time is right, your lady will come back and rinse you out.
She’ll ask for your kess and she’ll start cleaning. This is not an accurate procedure! Remember bshwiya means going softer. It may feel like a small child is being turned over and handled again while being guaranteed to clean you from top to bottom. When you are satisfied, you will start to rinse all of the removed skin.
Then, you are alone in the soap and rinsing, washing your hair, and shaving your legs whatever you usually do in the shower. You will still bring water for you to use as needed.
When you’re done, collect everything and work your way back to the changing room to get dressed. there he is! Expect to spend at least 45 minutes in the bathroom but take your time. Many Moroccan women spend many hours!
Hammamet in Morocco is unique and can be a great way to experience local culture. Leave your humility at the door and let the experience speak for itself. Trust me, you’ve never felt the cleanliness you’ll feel after a bath!