A quick guide to the hammam experience in Morocco and what to expect. Particularly handy for first-timers…
Morocco, one of my favourite travel destinations, is fast becoming a popular trip for weekends and longer.
A country with a hugely varied topography and a fascinating culture, there are so many unmissable experiences in Morocco. But one thing that I would highly recommend is a traditional hammam experience.
Finding a hammam in the maze-like city streets, and negotiating your way around a confusing experience in the dark and steamy hammam interior, can be less than simple!
But it’s a brilliant addition to any Morocco itinerary and I urge you to give it a try! So, since I’ve now tried out several different hammams in Marrakech, I thought I’d post a little guide to the experience.
How to Choose your Hammam in Morocco
The best place to find a decent hammam is probably by word of mouth. Ask at your hotel or riad, or check travel advice sites like Trip Advisor, for recommendations in the area you’re staying in.
Before you do, though, it’s worth getting an idea of the kind of experience you want. There are two main options. First are the traditional, more “authentic” hammams which are usually found in a city’s old town (like the souqs in Marrakech), which are often more like public bathhouses. Alternatively, many hotels offer a more modern hammam experience more in line with what Europeans might expect from a spa.
The more traditional hammams tend to be a bit cheaper than hotel spas, but the latter are definitely more luxurious.
The traditional hammam is a more public experience: there will be other nude women in the steam room with you. So if you’re a private person and don’t want to bare all your blobby bits in public, it may be best to opt for the more modern experience where you’ll be on your own with the attendant.
What to Expect at a Hammam in Morocco
Traditionally, a hammam is a bathhouse in Morocco where locals would go to clean themselves.
Most hammams these days follow the same pattern, but many have some really lovely add-ons such as masks and massages.
Step One: Steam and Wash
The general pattern involves a steam room or series of steam rooms. These are much hotter and steamier than a sauna. I was in one with a group of friends and could see nothing but eight pairs of feet dangling out of the mist!
Once you’re sufficiently steam-cleansed and drowsy from the heat, one of the attendants will soak you with warm water from a bucket and wash you.
Warning: personal space invasion! You’ll be wearing nothing but lower-half undies, and the attendant will wash you from head to toe. I’m very shy and awkward, but I promise this is in no way as embarrassing as it sounds.
The attendants are friendly and efficient: they do this all day, and have seen all kinds of bodies, so they barely glance at you! In fact, it felt more like I was a dirty plate being scrubbed by a bored pot girl – in no way intimate or awkward.
Step Two: Second Steam and Ghassoul
Once you’ve been washed and rinsed down, you’ll return to the steam room. After another steam comes the ghassoul. This is a very rough exfoliating scrub using a black mineral clay which is fantastic for the skin.
We’re talking next-level exfoliation. The clumps of dead skin sliding off me looked like couscous! You’ll feel SO soft afterwards – and maybe a little lighter!
Step Three: Final Steam and a Massage
Finally, after another hose down and one last steam, there usually comes a full body massage with argan oil. Next, you’ll sit down with a glass of mint tea while you dry off.
It’s all quite intimate, which can be a little scary, but it’s such a gorgeous experience – and so rewarding to leave with skin that has never felt so light, clean or soft – that it’s completely worth a little discomfort!
What to Take to a Moroccan Hammam
Take bikini bottoms or a pair of pants you don’t care about, because otherwise you will be expected to wear what is essentially a large paper thong.
Most hammams will provide clean robes and a pair of plastic slippers, but you might want to wear a pair of flip-flops, just in case. I’d also recommend taking a towel to dry your hair afterwards.
Leave valuables behind at your hotel if you can, because some hammams don’t have lockers.
Recreate Your Own Moroccan Hammam
Not heading to Morocco anytime soon? You can re-create the experience from the comfort of your own home with a few essential items:
- Ghassoul clay (sometimes called rhassoul clay)
- A hot, steamy shower – or an electronic facial steamer if you have one.
- Black soap – like this tup of African Black Soap traditionally made using Unrefined Shea Butter, Cocoa Pod Ash, & Virgin Coconut Oil.
- A kessa glove or hammam spa mitt, like the Hydrea London Linen Hamam Spa Mitt. Use this with the black soap to vigorously exfoliate that unwanted dead skin!
- Finish off with some Argan Oil to moisturise and nourish you newly scrubbed skin. Preferably have a handsome partner massage you with it!
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