Moroccan spa: the Hammam

Hammam Marrakech

On  one of our new features are riads with Hammams. The Hammam is important in Moroccan culture and life.
They are descended from Roman baths and modelled after Turkish baths.  I once read that there are over 700 Hammams in Marrakech, most of which are just used by locals.  They are heated by a huge furnace (see photo) in which a solitary man heaps cedar or wood turnings onto a massive stove.  Health and Safety UK would have a field day in these human ovens! The photo below was taken at the end of Rue Dar El Bacha, near to the Riad Darhani and Riad Papillon. Men and women visit at least once a week, spending 2-3 hours there catching up on gossip with friends, with long rituals for cleansing their bodies.

The public Hammam experience is a bit of an eye opener for the generally reserved Westerner. In the Hammam men and women bathe separately, but the women, generally shy by day in public, are far from shy with each other when it comes to the public Hammam. Women often go with friends or family, both to chat and socialise, but also to help each other with the ritual. Men are just men as everywhere!

On entering the public Hammam, you get changed as you would in a public swimming pool with wooden benches. You can hire buckets, leave your belongings once you have stripped off, and you can usually buy black soap and exfoliation gloves. You can also hire a lady or man to scrub you.

On passing into the Hammam itself, there will be bodies everywhere, lying on mats.¬† On the walls are hot water taps to fill your bucket. A bowl is used to slosh water all over you before covering oneself in black soap. The cleansing technique requires both hot and cold water, olive oil black soap and a mud-like paste. You need to know when to douse and when to drench, when to scrub and when to soak. The scrubbing part is a bit like being rubbed down with sandpaper, initially disconcerting and then becoming pleasurable.¬† Dead skin peels off to leave the skin somewhat red and raw. If you do it right, you’ll walk out of the sweat chamber relaxed and glowing.

Cleansing yourself at a Moroccan Hammam is a truly fantastic experience that is completely unique to this corner of the world. Trying a public Hammam is ideal for¬†adventurous travelers whilst booking this treatment in a private session through one of our Riad’s offers its own set of advantages. As well as being conveniently on your doorstep a private Hammam can be booked for mixed sex groups, at any time of the day and in complete privacy (options of which are not available in a public Hammam). After this treatment you will feel fresh, rejuvenated and ready to take on the red city!


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