Moroccan hammams are part of many Moroccans’ daily life. Similar to a Turkish bath, a public hammam is a steam room where people go to clean themselves. This is usually a weekly ritual and is considered a social activity in villages and towns, with men, women, and children all participating. Baths are separated by gender and many people will spend hours here chatting with friends. While in Islamic culture women are typically covered from head to toe in public, they’re fully naked at hammams. These were the steps to my very first Hammam in morocco:
Step 1: Get undressed
After you arrive at the hammam, an attendant will show you to a changing room, where they will give you a robe, a locker and tell you to get undressed.
Women can either go naked or wear disposable bottoms or underwear into the hammam. I opted to wear the disposable bottom because, hey, I just wanted the real deal experience!
Once you are suitably dressed, put on your robe and go meet your hammam attendant.
Step 2: Relax for five minutes
The attendant will take your robe and usher you into a hot, steamy room where you’ll hardly be able to see a thing. Your first job here is to lay back and relax. The steam will start to open your pores and a few deep breaths will help you let go of the stress of wandering through Moroccan souks.
Step 3: Soap up
After five minutes or so, the attendant will return with a bowl of thick black Moroccan soap. It looks a little like molasses or crude oil, but don’t worry, it will feel great on your skin. You’ll have to stand up, sit down, and turn around as the attendant soaps up your legs, feet, back, and face. She even reached down the back of my underwear and got my butt cheeks!
Once the soap is on, you can rub it gently into your skin as you sit back and relax for another five minutes. I know, so stressful, right?
Step 4: Hot rinse
Depending on the hammam, the attendant will come back with a full wooden bucket or plastic pail of water. She’ll scoop the water out, using it to rinse off your soap. My attendant used a whose. The water is extremely hot but feels so so good!
Step 5: Rough scrub
Once the soap is all off, the torture starts. No, I don’t want to freak you out but this step can be extremely… uncomfortable.
The attendant will use a rough sandpapery hammam glove to scrape away your outer layer of dead skin. We Westerners tend to have a shocking amount of old skin — unlike Moroccans who regularly exfoliate their entire bodies.
Don’t be surprised if the attendant is pretty rough with you. But if it’s too rough, don’t be too shy to tell her to take it easy!
Step 6: Hair wash
If you’re at a one of the fancier Moroccan hammams, your treatment will include a hair wash. Lie back and luxuriate in the rare experience of someone else washing your hair for you. Such a treat!
And finally… Relax with tea
Once you’ve been buffed and scrubbed there’s one final step which cannot be skipped. You’ll put your robe back on and go to a relaxation area where you’ll be given a steaming cup of sweet Moroccan tea.
If you’re anything like me, at this point your body will feel like jelly and your mind will be free of any cares. That cup of tea will give you the chance to wake up a little before facing the outside world, a shinier, sparklier version of yourself.
I had to grab a pair og gloves and black soap to take back hoe with me – uhhhhh yes!