A guide to a local Moroccan Hammam
Have you ever laid naked on a tiled floor, in a foreign country and had your naked body rubbed by a stranger?
Ha, knew you’d say no (shout out to you brave people who have)! Well you haven’t LIVED.
Having heard a lot about the Moroccan Hammam during my time in Taghazout, I knew I had to give it a try. A hammam is a traditional and local way of bathing at a community bath house. Similar to a Turkish bath, heading to your local hammam is part of Moroccan culture and there are available across town and cities in Morocco. Typically there are a number of wet rooms, for steaming, washing and relaxing. Some hammams have enough space for separate areas for males and females, others operate a time based system whereby each gender has a time slot throughout the day when they can get clean.
Now there’s two types of Moroccan hammam you’re likely to come across as a tourist, traditional and local hammam, and of course the tourist version is waaaaay more expensive.
A little more pricey, good for a treat: Touristy Moroccan Hammams
Whilst investigating the delights of the Medina in Fez, myself and Fez travel buddy Filip were guided to a very lovely (and very touristy) hammam. Beautiful private rooms, tiled floor to ceiling, relaxation areas, a traditional Moroccan scrub with black soap, and of course massages were on offer too.
Black soap is the traditional soap used at a Hammam, my online research tells me “It is a high-alkaline Castile soap made from olive oil and macerated olives with a gel-like consistency”. Having bought some during my time in Morocco I can concur it is very gel like, but great to use with a scrubbing mitt for velvet soft skin.
At around 300MAD+ for the full spa experience. Which compared to prices at home (thinking Europe-wise), this is good value at just short of £30 (€30). I can’t speak from experience here, (although I did intend to visit for comparison, but never got around to it).
The real deal, buckets and all: local Moroccan hammam
Unimpressed with the tourist version of this hammam experience, Filip and I went on the hunt for a local spot. Having chatted to a couple of guys in a restaurant just near the blue gate at the top end of the Medina, we learned about a local hammam just down from where we were stood. He advised to pay no more than 170 MAD (£15/€17) for a scrub and massage. This guy’s uncle (who didn’t speak a word of English), guided us to the hammam and explained to Filip in French (honestly having Filip with me in Fez was a god send, so so helpful he spoke french), that we were to come at 7pm and 9.30pm respectively for the female and then male time slots. I was given a lady’s name on a slip of paper and we were on our way with a hammam experience ahead of us.
Given I did NOT speak Arabic (unsurprisingly), and my French is very limited I managed to navigate my way through my local hammam experience. Guided through to the changing room by a lady, she showed me where to store my clothes, and I trusted her with my phone and purse. Stripped down to just bikini bottoms, another women looped arms with me and took me through to the steamy, tiled bathhouse (although there was no baths as such).
There was an incredible community atmosphere within the steamy rooms, coloured buckets filled with varying temperatures of water were scattered across the floor. Women of all shapes, sizes and ages were scrubbing, bathing and relaxing in each room. I was covered head to toe in black soap and directed to sit in the steam room. There was a few other obvious tourists and one lady lent me some more soap, as a I sat cross legged, a little overwhelmed and anxious by the whole situation.
After a while I was guided back to the first room, and was instructed (this is all pointing remember, I still can’t speak to anyone haha), to lay down on my back. Buckets were pushed out the way and I lay, face to the ceiling whilst a total stranger scrubbed me down with a communal mitt. Some people may get really grossed out by this, but I figured, when in a Moroccan hammam right?
Next step, I switched onto my tummy and lay face first to the tiles whilst she scrubbed my back, bum and legs. I was finding it kind of hard to relax, and I would appreciate going back now I kind of know what to expect! After a little while, I had the same lying down on the floor scenario but this time with my massage. Some Dutch girls watched dubiously as I came back to life from being face first, but I assured them it was actually pretty fun.
The final part of the hammam, and my favourite moment was when the woman poured a bucket of water over my head. She had offered to wash my hair but I politely declined (I think having your body washed is enough for one day). I was advised (after trying to leave straight away), to sit and relax for a while in the steam room, so I spent another 20 mins or so just chilling and appreciating the whole situation of where I was, and what was going on. A true Moroccan cultural experience, which you would never ever have in the UK.
I dried off, retrieved by belongings and headed out to the bustling Medina. Price wise, it was 13 MAD for entrance, 100 MAD for my scrub and massage and then I tipped the woman who looked after my valuables about 10 MAD too (total 123 MAD) – very reasonable, and a much more authentic and Moroccan hammam experience that any of those tourist spots.
Would fully recommend.
Have you ever been to a hammam or bathhouse similar? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!
- Cost about 125 MAD.
- Bring towel, bikini bottoms and money.
- You can store your belongings with the women in the changing rooms, don’t bring too many valuables but I trusted them to look after it with a tip.
- Ask locals for the local traditional hammam, they’ll be more than happy to help you out!
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