The Time I Got Naked in Moroccan Hammam

I took the chance to visit a local hammam while in Marrakech. No one else in my family wanted to go. For some reason my other family members did not want to strip down to their undies and let a half naked hammam worker scrub them until gray flakes of skin came peeling off. I’m not sure why. It was amazing and my skin was sooooo soft afterwards.

I asked my guesthouse host for a recommendation of where to go and I am glad I did. The local hammam are not well marked, so I was glad to have someone to show me where to go. We were staying at Lamia Riad, also called Kech Riad, which I highly recommend. Lamia is probably the nicest most friendly guesthouse host we stayed with on this trip. Lamia’s friend walked me to the hammam and got me settled in, which was helpful since there was a language barrier.

I paid and entrance fee of 10 dirham (1 USD).  Then I was guided into a room where a woman was laying on a bench resting . She put out her hand to me, so I assumed that I was to pay her for the scrub. I offered her 50 dirham (5 USD), which I read online was the going rate.  She instead took 20 dirham. I then realized that she was the woman who would be watching my bag and a 10 or 20 dirham tip would have been sufficient.

Then I was instructed to strip down. (I left my undies on, which I read was the custom) A second female attendant who looked to be in her 60’s led me into the bath, which consisted of room with blue and white tiled floors and walls. We passed a room with several underwater clad women sitting on the floor scrubbing themselves.

In the next room the attendant gestured for me to sit down on the floor next to what appeared to be a mother and her teenage daughter. The attendant filled a bucket with warm water from a spigot in the wall and proceeded to dump water on me with a scoop.

She then handed me a blob of black soap and left.

I understood that I was to rub the soap all over myself. And so I did that for about 10 minutes. I periodically glanced over at the mother and daughter who were soaping and scrubbing themselves and taking turns scrubbing each other’s backs. They also shampooed and brushed their hair.

Eventually old woman returned wearing only a boy shorts bathing suit bottom. She had me sit in front of her and began to scrub my back with a rough glove.

She continued moving me around until she had scrubbed every inch of my exposed body part. Every once in a while she would proudly point out the large amount of  gray sloughs she had sanded off of me.

The whole experience was much less awkward than you would imagine. The woman was professional and matter of fact as she shifted my body around. It felt a bit odd when she turned me so I was facing her bare chest. And I became concerned about the cleanness of the tile floor when I found myself laying face down across the attendants outstretched legs.

When she finished the scrubbing, the attendant repeatedly dumped buckets of warm water over me until the dead gray skin was washed away. Then she indicated that she was done. I dried off with the towel I borrowed from my guesthouse and followed the women back out to the entry room.

I offered the attendant 50 dirham for the scrub and she put her hand out for more, a tip perhaps. I gave her 10 more, but I had another 10 in my hand which she eyeballed, so I gave her that, too.

As odd as it was, I enjoyed my first hammam experience. Back out on the street, I bought a glove and black Moroccan soap so I can scrub myself at home (my skin was so seriously soft afterwards!). Unfortunately the soap was confiscated at the Budapest airport. I knew I was taking a risk since the soap is very viscous ad would probably  be considered a liquid, but I had gotten through 3 other flights. I was super bummed and wished I had repackaged it in airline sized containers.

Going to a Moroccan hammam is not for everyone. But the public bath is a normal part of Moroccan life, a throw back from the days when homes didn’t have bathrooms, and I was glad a got to experience it.


5 hours in London

Thanks to a super delayed flight from Delhi to London we got to spend the night in London and had time to go into the city the next morning before our flight to Madrid.

We wanted to go into the city the first evening as well, but the cost to get into the city from our airport hotel, even using public transportation, is insane. About £130 for our family of five! Also, by the time we sorted out getting our hotel voucher and got to the hotel it was around 9 pm and we hadn’t had dinner.

So we stayed at the hotel and enjoyed our free buffet dinner. Especially the beef and pork offerings that we had been missing so much during our 4 months in India.

The girls and I were super excited to get a unexpected visit to London.

We had originally planned to stop over in London on our way home to the US from India, but it turns out London (and England) are really, really expensive, especially when you are multiplying everything by 5.

So we made plans to stopover in Madrid instead. But as fate would have it, the Delhi to London leg of our flight to Madrid was delayed giving us an overnight at a London airport hotel and time in the morning to pop into the city for a few hours.

It would still cost $200 to get into the city and back to the airport, but because of the delay, the airlines fed us and gave us lodging for two days, so we still ended up ahead.

At 6 am on a rainy Monday morning, we climbed into a black town car (it cost the same as the 5 of us taking the airport shuttle from the hotel to the airport and the tube from the airport into the city and back) and made our way into the heart of London.

Our driver stopped to let us take pictures of Buckingham Palace and then dropped us off at Westminster Bridge.

Borrowed hotel umbrellas in hand, we made our way out on the bridge to take photos of Parliament and Big Ben.

Splashing through the puddles, we found a view of Westminster Abbey.

With grins on our faces and soaking wet feet, we made our way to Trafalgar Square, snapping pictures of all the iconic British sights, The Eye, double decker buses, red phone booths, signs for the tube.

From Trafalgar Square, we wandered over to the West End and wished we had time to see a show. We were giddy and sad when we came across the Theater played Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

We had planned to take the tube up to the British Library, but at peak time it costs £5 per person! And we only planned to go 2 stops. We couldn’t justify outrageous cost. We thought about walking, but we were running out of time. I was bummed not to get to take the girls to see the old manuscripts, especially the original copy of Alice in Wonderland, a book Sierra loves.

Our last stop was the British Museum. We had about an hour to admire the Elgin Marbles, see the Rosetta Stone and dry off a bit before our driver was scheduled to pick us up.

Despite the dreary weather, we enjoyed our few hours in London. In fact, Sierra said the gray sky and cool, wet weather made the city feel just how she expected it to. Even though we weren’t expecting to get to see London at all this trip.

How to Get a Free 20 Hour Trip to London

I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but this is how my family got to spend 20 hours in London for free in the summer of 2016.

  1. Spend 5 months on the Indian sub continent and be REALLY ready to leave India
  2. Arrive at the airport to find that your flight has been delayed
  3. Wait patiently at the airport until it is time to board the plane. After all, you have been traveling full time for a year, you know there is no reason to get worked up over travel delays
  4. Settle into your seat and wait at the gate for a half hour, at which point the captain announces that the plane has a small technical problem that will take about a half hour to fix.
  5. Attempt not to get claustrophobic on the warm, crowded plane while the captain announces every half hour that the repair didn’t work and another repair is being tried.
  6. Become fairly certain that you are going to miss your connecting flight to Madrid
  7. After 2 hours, be informed that the airport has permitted you and your fellow passengers to wait in the terminal. No mention is made of the impending riot that may have occurred if the sweaty, hungry passenger had been kept on the plane much longer
  8. Oh, by the way, the flight has been canceled.
  9. Try to hide your disappointment, as the shuttle bus takes you back to Delhi
  10. Look on the bright side and enjoy spending the night in a fancy hotel after a year of being a budget backpacker.
  11. Gorge yourself on the buffet dinner, but stick to the continental offerings because after five months of eating Indian food almost everyday, you don’t think you could eat another bite.
  12. Spend the evening being seriously confused about when you will get to fly to London and what is happening with your connecting flight to Madrid
  13. Finally sort out that the original flight has been rescheduled for the following afternoon.
  14. Realize you might not get to London in time to make the last connecting flight to Madrid and therefore be stuck in London overnight
  15. Get excited about being stuck in London overnight!
  16. Try not to get too excited because you might make it to London in time
  17. Enjoy a buffet breakfast at the hotel and take the shuttle back to the airport
  18. Find out the flight has been pushed back another hour and you will definitely not make a connecting flight to Madrid until the following day.
  19. At check-in request an afternoon flight to Madrid, so you have to time to spend the morning in the city.
  20. Enjoy your free 20 hours in London*
  • It will cost an outrageous £130 for 5 people to get into the city, but since you have had free food and lodging for the past two days, you will still come out ahead