If you’re visiting Morocco this year, a hammam should be on your to-do list. Forget showers and baths – this is one deep-clean you won’t have experienced before. They’re a traditional part of Moroccan life that you should definitely try – and here’s what you can expect.
First things first – avoid hotel hammams, and hit the public baths. Hotels tend to strip away (no pun intended) the best parts of hammams – and that’s the social side! They’re a really important part of Moroccan culture and plenty of locals will go at least once a week to relax, chat, and wash off the dust of the marketplace.
Secondly – this isn’t the time to be shy. Even though Moroccan woman cover up when they’re in public, they tend to take a more liberal view in the hammam. Put simply, if you want an authentic experience, you won’t need a bikini. Men and women are kept separate, so there’s no need for embarrassment, and nobody will stare or pass comment. However, if you’d feel more comfortable wearing a swimsuit, feel free to do so. It’s all about making the space your own, and making sure you’re feeling comfortable.
How much does it cost?
For the traditional experience, which involves being cleaned by a member of staff, you can expect to pay around 323 MAD (around £22). We’d recommend this option if you’re new to hammams. Of course, you can pay for the cheaper DIY option, but you might find it’s hard work! This will cost about 60 MAD (around £5).
What about getting changed, and getting a cleaning kit?
You’ll be shown to a changing room where you undress, and you can hang your clothes on nearby hooks. There are female staff on hand to take of any valuables which you might bring with you, but always err on the side of caution. Passports and important documents are best left in your hotel room.
Many local women bring their own buckets, bowls, soap and exfoliation gloves, but we recommend that you hire your own. There are ladies near the entrance to the hammam who can loan you a bucket and plastic bowl, and sell you the cleaning kit you’ll need. Don’t be alarmed by the black soap on offer – you’ll be amazed by its cleaning qualities. Many women enlist a friend or family member to help them clean themselves, but you can hire a lady who’ll do the honours for you. Especially handy if you’re trying the hammam alone.
What’s the hammam like?
Essentially, they’re huge, tiled steam rooms. Don’t be surprised if you see loads of people lying on the floor in a relaxed fashion – just step over them, and find your own mat. There should be plenty available, and if you can’t see one, just ask.
How do I get started?
Fill your bucket from one of the taps lining the walls – don’t worry, the water’s warm! Then head back to your mat, grab your soap and start your wash. Use your bowl to cover your body with warm water, then grab your soap. Liberally over your entire body, then sit down, breathe in the steam and relax. Of course, if you’ve hired someone to help, they’ll assist with the soap application.
When does the scrubbing start?
Patience, patience! Hammams definitely aren’t about rushing. Once you’ve allowed the soap to penetrate your skin and you’ve rinsed yourself off, the real wash begins. Unless you (and your hammam buddy) have strong arms, we’d recommend hiring a member of staff to help.
You’ll be told to lie on your back, and the scrubbing normally starts on your arms. Be warned – it might feel a little rough at first, but this is normal. You’ll be amazed at how much dead skin comes away, especially if you’ve never had a hammam before! After your front’s clean, you’ll be flipped over, and the wash continues. You may find that almost every inch of your body is cleaned – this is par for the course. If you begin to feel a bit sore, just say so. The lady washing you will be gentler.
Many people find that their feet are a little ticklish when they’re being scrubbed – don’t worry about the odd giggle. You won’t offend the lady working on you.
How will I feel afterwards?
In one word – great! It’s normal to feel a little tingly and you may initially be shocked by how ‘raw’ your skin looks. However, no harm has been done, and any redness will disappear after a few hours. It’s common to see your skin ‘glow’ for several days afterwards, and it’s usually very soft.
What are the staff like?
Hammam staff are used to seeing bodies of all shapes and sizes, and they’re always happy to put tourists at their ease. Don’t be shocked if the lady you hire isn’t wearing much – it’s strenuous work, and they don’t want to overheat.
How can I protect my skin afterwards?
It’s a good idea to moisturise your skin, and always wear a high factor sunscreen if you’re heading straight out.
Can I go twice in one trip?
It depends on how long you’re going for! Common sense dictates that twice in one week is enough for anyone. Many people go once more at the end of their break, just so they can arrive home feeling fresh.
Morocco’s a fantastic city break, and you’ll want to squeeze as much fun as possible into your holiday. After all, every hour counts! It’s a rare occurrence, but if your flight’s delayed, you can get FREE* lounge access with Columbus Direct’s travel insurance. You and four fellow passengers can relax in the lounge while you wait for your flight. You can dine on some complimentary snacks, enjoy a free glass of fizz and use the free WiFi on offer. It’s just our way of making sure we always put our customers first. Now, get out there and rule those souks!
*Please note – free lounge access is available if your flight is delayed for two hours or more.