Queen for a day: My experience at a Hammam in Morocco!

When you travel, sometimes you face some weird situations, but the good thing is that you can turn them into a traveler anecdote. This is one of those times:

One of the things I love most about traveling is all the unique experiences that one can live and that one could never try unless being in a totally different place. I always try to experience the local traditions, so I can get a feeling of how the people there behave, of how they live. There are a few ways to do that, through food, by staying at a local`s house, attending local festivities… Or by going to a Hammam in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Marrakesh
Watching the sunset in the medina of Marrakesh. The colors are so intense there!!!

I won`t have many pictures to go with this post for obvious reasons… I couldn`t take photos inside the hammam nor was I allowed to have a camera/phone/any electronic device with me, which makes total sense because there was so much steam there that not only any electric device would be forever dead, but taking pictures would be useless since I could barely see my own feet inside…

Hammam Morocco Marrakesh That`s the only picture of the Hammam that I have, a beautiful fountain in the tea room…

People think that, as Brazilians, we are all super comfortable exposing our bodies. Well… Not true. First, I`m a “gaúcha”, from the south of Brazil, which is a lot more like Argentina or Europe than of what people usually think of Brazil (for example, I don`t know how to dance samba, or even like it for the matter). Another important fact is, even though during the carnival, some women -usually just the dancers, not the normal crowd- wear almost nothing, and besides the fact that our bikinis can be pretty small, topless is forbidden there and one could go to jail for doing that at the beach (plus, everyone, and I mean literally everyone would be staring).

Add to this cultural background the fact that I still haven`t managed to feel comfortable taking my top off even here, in Europe, where everybody does it, you can imagine the look on my face when I get to the hammam and I`m told in a very bad English mixed with French that I have to take my clothes off.

All of them.

And that I`ll have to be naked through the whole process.

We are talking about 1 hour of strange women who don`t even speak my language and that I have never seen before touching me, washing me, rubbing me, scrubbing me. A naked version of me.

Think of Cleopatra, think of Cleopatra, think of Cleopatra, with all her servants; I kept telling myself…

But I had come all the way there, and I wasn`t going to miss this amazing travel experience. Plus, nobody knew me there so… I took my clothes off, put them in a small locker, put on my bravest face (and some disposable sleepers and not very attractive disposable panties – the one thing I was allowed to wear, provided by them) and decided to let go of all my insecurities and just enjoy the moment. (Traveler alter-ego, I love you!)

For those who have no idea what a Hammam is, it`s like an Arabian/Turkish bath, a place where people go to clean the body and relax. In the Arabian cultures, going to a Hammam is a traditional thing. For the occidentals, it feels more like a spa, but it`s part of their rituals and that`s why I wanted to try one while I was in Marrakesh, and a traditional one inside the medina, not one of a hotel or something more touristic.  I wanted the whole local, authentic experience. And oh my, I surely got it…

Medina Marrakesh Souk
It was a good peaceful break from all the craziness of the Medina…

So back to my naked-self, the first step of the ritual is the washing. I enter a room with a sink, some buckets and two ladies suspiciously looking at me with a shower hose in hand (now I understand how my dog Chilli feels when I take him to the pet shop for a bath…). Reluctantly, I take a step forward and one of the ladies turns me on my back. She gives me a black thing that looked more like a piece of Play-Doh than a soap and starts washing me with warm water, using that weird soap to clean my body. I smelled it (I have this thing, I just have to smell everything, especially my food) but it didn`t smell of anything. I do have to say that the warm water didn`t feel bad, though.

Next step, they send me over to this steam room, where I have to lie down and wait for about 10 min. There was another lady there, a client, like me. She wasn`t wearing the disposable panties and I have to say, I don`t think that woman ever heard of a Brazilian wax – or any kind of wax by the way…




Did Cleopatra shave??

There was a lot of steam and the room was a little dark with just a small hole in the ceiling for some light. But it was also a bit cold and very humid so I just laid there, not very comfortable, dressed as I came into the world and getting colder by the minute, trying to relax (mostly because there was nothing else I could do there but stare at the hole in the ceiling and shiver). When another lady called me out, I was more than happy to go. That was my least favorite part of the process, but being a travel blogger, I feel it is my duty to tell you all the details about the Hammam.

So I`m back in the first room, with the shower hoses… But this time it wasn`t a bath. It was scrubbing time. Somehow I could understand (I have a very basic level of French) that the lady who worked there would scrub me so hard that I would see the little rolls of dead skin in my body when she was finished. I`m a fan of exfoliating, but I never had anyone doing that on me, so…

Cleopatra, Cleopatra, pretend I`m Cleopatra!!!

The lady scrubbed and rubbed and scrubbed some more. It was like being caressed with sandpaper. I do have to say, it didn`t hurt though. When she finished, she proudly pointed to my arm where there were little residuals of the exfoliating product. She made me pick one and look closer. It wasn`t the product, it was the little rolls of dead skin. My surprised face was all she needed. She smiled at me,  really proud of her exfoliating superpowers, so I smiled back.

Now I`m Cleopatra with a renewed skin… 

Next step was the best one: The massage!!! I just loooove massages so I was looking forward to this part. Another room, with three massage beds. I lay down on one. The masseuse arrives, starts covering me with rose oil. The smell was great. Humm, I`m going to enjoy this, I thought. She starts massaging me. And putting more oil on my body. But the place was damp, the beds were covered in plastic sheets. I start to slip. She keeps on doing the massage, more intense now. Now I`m covered in oil and I have to embrace the bed so I won`t slip to the ground. For a moment I fear for my life, then I  find a way to hold tight to the bed and enjoy the oily touch on my body.

Humm… Cleopatra is happy now…

When the massage is over (whyyyyy????), they send me back to the bathroom. Shower hose lady is waiting for me. I have so much rose oil on me that even my hair is oily. She starts washing and rubbing me again, deeper now – I`m fucking Cleopatra!!! –  to try to get a little of the oil out so I can get dressed. The warm water, plus the massage is making me kind of sleepy and very relaxed and I don`t even notice anymore that I`m naked in a room full of strange women who are also touching me.

All my prejudices are gone. My body awareness is gone. I`m comfortable in my nudity, my tensions are gone. I`m relaxed and clean and smelling like a rose garden. And I`m happy. I`m not Cleopatra anymore. I`m myself.

I’m Vick, and I just survived –  and enjoyed – a Moroccan Hamman experience…

Marrakesh Morocco
Wherever you go in Morocco, someone is going to offer you a tea. Needless to say, the Hammam experience ended with a glass of tea!

Have you ever been to a Hammam? What did you think of it? Tell me your experience in the comments!!!

For more about Morocco – check this beautiful post about the Blue Moroccan Jewel of Chefchaouen!

 




Showing 8 comments
  • Fabian
    Reply

    Wow That’s really brave! So much will power needed to push away the shyness. Imagining myself in that situation I am not sure if I would have ever felt comfortable during the whole process. But I am wondering how you got to that ritual – are all tourists allowed to take part of it?

    • admin
      Reply

      Yes, the booking process is just like going to a spa: You call the place and make an appointment.
      The one that I went was called Hammam Ziani. I had my moroccan friend recommend it to me, because I wanted a small, local one. Even with this, yes, they are opened to everybody.
      An important thing, that made all the difference, otherwise I would not have done it: Different from a spa, in a Hammam men and women stay at different areas, only meeting at the entrance and after the process, for a tea in the waiting room. I would not have been brave enough to do that with men around…!

  • Reply

    Awesome blog! Is yiur theme custom made or did you download
    it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you goot your design. Kudos

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Hi!

      I`m so glad you liked it! I actually still have a lot of work to do here, some things that I want to change, and the links to my social networks @guiri_insider on Instagram and @GuiriInsider on Facebook have to be more accessible, but, one thing at a time…!

      I`m using a theme called Jupiter. I downloaded it and made some adjustments, like I said I`m still working on it! But good to hear that it`s going well so far!

      Let me know if I can be of any help! And good luck on your blog!!!

  • Paroma Chakravarty
    Reply

    First of all, that comment on Chili the dog was so funny that I snorted and laughed at the same time. I loved this post of yours, gives me hope that some day I will be able to channelize my inner cleopatra and go full “nudaaaa” and embrace the hammam experience.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      Hi Paroma!

      I can only imagine that moment hahaha!
      I think we all have an inner cleopatra that we just have to channel, I felt soooo weird and uncomfortable in the beginning but by the end I was like “yeah I`m naked, who cares, we all started like this”.

      If you ever try it, let me know how it went!!! Or write a post about it, the way you write I`m sure it will be a great post!!!

  • Reply

    Good on you for pushing yourself and doing it! The first time I got publicly naked was in Japan at the hot spring Onsen. There was no way I was leaving Japan without trying ever Onsen I came across (I really like hot baths). The first one I was with my sister and her friend and all of the Japanese ladies (it was separated by sex) were staring at us so hard. I got used to it. Though I don’t think my sisters friend did – she has REALLY big boobs that I think the local ladies probably hadn’t seen before.

    • Vick Fichtner
      Reply

      You are brave! The Hammam I went was a small one so no more than 5 people at time in each room, workers included, and the whole atmosphere was a little dark, with dimmed lights. I can´t imagine a bunch of japanese ladies staring at my naked body! And the boobs things was funny for sure! Poor friend, though!

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