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.