November 2, 2008
Today I visited a hammam. A hammam is a public bathhouse. Traditional houses in Morocco are not well-equipped for modern plumbing, and many do not have hot water. So, people bathe at public bathhouses.
Khadija escorted me to my introductory hammam session. This was at times interesting because neither of us is fluent in the same language, but she was perfectly gracious. She told me, "Do what I do." So I did.
I am providing this step-by-step guide for any readers that may find themselves at a Hammam in the near future:
Step 1: undress. It may seem weird to be undressed with a million people around you, but it's perfectly normal.
Step 2: carry your bucket of bathing supplies into the steaming rooms. There are three rooms. They each get progressively hotter. Choose the room that suits your comfort level. We chose the hottest room.
Step 3: Spread your bath mat on the floor.
Step 4: Fill your bucket(s) with warm water from the communal faucets.
Step 5: Bring your bucket to your bath mat and sit down. The floors of the steaming rooms are slightly sloped. It's a good idea not to sit directly downstream from someone.
Fun Fact: It is perfectly acceptable to clean the hair out of your hairbrush and send it downstream, even if it heads directly toward an unsuspecting person.
Step 5: Use a bowl to scoop water from your bucket onto your body. The water will be warm. You will like it.
Step 6: Use a dark soap made from olive resin and scrub it all over your body. Use the bowl to rinse it off.
Step 7: Call over one of the ladies who works in the hammam. Give her your exfoliating glove.
Step 8: The woman will tell you (or gesture to you) to lay on the marble floor on your back. Then she will use the exfoliating glove to remove the skin from your body everywhere. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Fun fact: If you’ve never been to a Hammam, your skin will peel off in strings resembling spaghetti. It is not as disturbing to see your skin come off in tendrils as it is to notice the grayish hue of the tendrils that is due to all of the dirt on your body.
Step 9: Flip over onto your tummy for the rest of the skin to be removed. At times you may think you are bleeding from all parts of your body. You aren't. Even if you were, there is no way you would be able to know because you are covered in water, steam, and tendrils of skin, so don't worry about it.
Step 10: Sit up. The woman will remove the skin on your face. See Step 9 in reference to bleeding.
Step 11: The woman will shampoo your hair and use a brush to comb through your hair with a ferocity normally reserve for amputation. Your hair will undoubtedly be clean and about an inch longer.
Step 12: Lay down on the marble floor again. The woman will massage your back and legs. You will no longer have a desire to move.
Step 13: After the lady leaves, use the water in your bucket to rinse yourself off and wash your hair again. If you're smart, you will use the razor you brought to shave your legs.
Step 14: Use a bucket of sudsy water to rinse yourself off in the hot room.
Step 15: Move to the middle room. Use another bucket of sudsy water to rinse yourself.
Fun Fact: Little children are put in buckets of water while their mothers bathe. This isn’t because the little kids look so cute all sudsed up in little buckets, it’s to keep the children from running/walking around and slipping. It was outrageously adorable.
Step 16: Move to the least warm room (it will feel especially un-warm at this point). Use a bucket of clean water to do a final rinse.
Step 17: Move to a cold room. Apply lotion, brush your hair, etc. Oh yeah, put your clothes back on.
Step 18: Go home. Feel like going to sleep.
I wish you many successful Hammam adventures.