Getting the Scrub-Down in
a Moroccan Hammam...
September 11, 2007
Ahhh…the Moroccan hammam.
Why do I always fool myself into thinking this is going to be some luxurious treatment? Maybe because I was going to a private
hammam that bordered as being a spa?
Now to re-live the experience…
When I walked in there was a woman in a soaking wet white tank top and underwear. She was my tayeba. She motioned for
me to take my clothes off.
Now I read up on the hammam etiquette before coming to Morocco. It said it was offensive to take off all of your clothes and
that you’re supposed to leave either your underwear or a bikini on. Apparently I had an outdated version of ‘Moroccan
Hammams 101’ because she had me strip down to absolutely nothing. Naked Jen was then led into the hammam.
I got doused with buckets of hot water. Felt quite nice. She pointed to the middle of the concrete-like floor. I was to sit smack
in the middle. She gave me a glob of putty-like soap (called saboon bildi). She left the room while I rubbed this stuff all over
me until it dissolved. I recall it being far from pleasant-smelling – sort of reminded me of dissecting frogs back in junior high
school with the slight formaldehyde odor. Mmmm. And then I just sat for a while completely naked in the middle of the floor.
Minutes went by very slowly while waiting for the tayeba to come back.
But she did. And she was armed with her scrubbing mitt (called a kees). She motioned for me to lie on my back. I was now in
the position of Jesus on the cross. She went to town on me. I had my eyes shut and kept telling myself that in the end it would
be worth it. At one point, I opened my eyes to find her body directly over mine as she was intent on scrubbing off every last
piece of skin from every nook and cranny on my body. I quickly shut my eyes and kept them closed for the duration of the
exfoliation. Finally it was time to flip to my stomach so she could repeat the process on my backside. The was no problem as
my backside seemed to have a much greater tolerance for the scrub-down. With the exception of the soles of my feet. I
squirmed and giggled as she scrubbed – why do I have to be so darn ticklish?
By the time it was over, I was happy to see that I still had a layer of skin left.
Now here’s where it gets a bit disgusting. She now had me sit facing her. Using the same kees that she just used on my entire
body, she started scrubbing my chest…and then my face! All I could do was not think about it.
Finally, the kees was retired.
Now came time for the shampoo (called rhasoul) that is basically lava clay. She applied it and then had me lay down while she
left the room. Minutes passed and she eventually came back. She motioned for me to come back to the area with the buckets.
Now it was time to rid my hair of the shampoo and my body of all of the dead skin that still clung to it. She poured buckets and
buckets of water over my head to get the mud-like stuff out. There were times that I breathed in water. It felt how it would
feel to drown. I did not like this. But it was this or muddy hair. I resorted to covering my face with my hands. I’m a hammam
rookie, what can I say?
After I was thoroughly washed off, I was given a cushy robe. A robe never felt so good. Everything seemed worth it now.
I was told to come to the sitting area. I didn’t know it was time for me to put my clothes on (and, truth be told, I was enjoying
just sitting in the robe for as long as possible). So I watched my tayeba as she got ready putting her make-up.
The same woman I just saw practically naked now put on her colorful burka, covered up and was on her way.
Such is life at a Moroccan hammam…
Inside the hammam.
A thoroughly scrubbed-down Jen.