The next morning I sleep in and then do some minor wandering around the shopping stalls, not really buying anything, but looking around. Around 10 I go back to the carpet vendor and buy the last carpet (again, mucho fun).
After lunch I had my appointment at the Les Couleurs de l’Orient Hammam spa. As I consider myself somewhat of a spa connoiseur, I was really interested to see what a Moroccan spa was like. This was not an expensive spa, less than $45 for the hammam bath and the massage, but I was more interested in seeing the treatment than getting it at the poshest possible level. Hammam is just a general term for their baths, and most people use public hammams. I went to a private hammam which is geared for tourists, but I still felt it was a very interesting experience. For those not into getting the nitty gritty spa details, best move on to the next post.
One of the first things about the place is that the women are wearing sleeveless shirts. I never saw this in my entire time in either Morocco or Egypt. The spa was not just for women, but clearly it was OK here for the women not to be completely covered up.
The first thing that happens is the hammam woman walks you up to the third floor of an open-air courtyard building and you strip down to nekkidness, wearing just a paper thong (another friend who had a hammam elsewhere said she didn’t get no paper thong, she was buck naked the whole time), and put you in a well-worn concrete room where they sit you down upon a bed and start hurling warm water on you. Then they soap up your entire body and leave you to sit in the steam for about 10 minutes and scrub you down with a loofa. You can actually feel the skin being scraped off, but in a good way. Then they come back and toss more water on you.
I’d say a major difference between this experience and American spas are the concept of privacy. In America, you are almost always partially covered by a towel with certain body parts pretty much ‘off limits’ to the people who work on you (at least, always in the kind of treatments I’VE gotten, others may go do different spas, though!). Here, there ain’t none of that. You’re just yet another naked body like that bazillion others they’ve seen and they treat every body part the same as they would your shoulder or elbow. No discretely placed towellettes here!
So, after the soap they then cover you with (non-staining) henna to soften your skin and put conditioner in your hair, and then throw more buckets of water at you. After that they cover you with a thin layer of mud and leave you to bake for another 10 or so minutes and then again wash you off. At this point the the paper thong comes off because it’s really pretty gross and doesn’t serve a whole lotta purpose now anyway.
After you’re washed this time, they give you a robe and plastic shower shoes and I was taken to the massage room and handed off to another girl, where I was given a perfectly adequate, but nothing special, swedish massage.
Overall, while I don’t feel like it was the best treatment I’ve ever had, I was really glad to have had the experience of it. I should point out that a few days later the guys who had trekked Mount Toubkal were taken to the local group hammam in a tiny mountain village and… let’s just say they had a very different experience. I wish I could desribe it as well as RP, one of the guys who experienced it. He had us rolling on the floor telling us about the agony of his hammam experience, but I just can’t do the story justice. I’m emailing him to see if he’ll write it up for me and then I’ll add it in.
Later, a large group of us went out to dinner to the same place the smaller group had gone and while there was some confusion over the orders (we had to write them ourselves on a piece of paper and we ran out of room so mine had to go on the back and I was 100% not in the least surprised when they forgot the order) the food was very good. I also treated myself to some ice cream.
This is why I didn’t lose weight while traveling!
Tags: Africa, hammam, Marrakesh, Morocco, Travel