How to Find a Hammam in Marrakech
You can normally spot the hammam in the medina of Marrakech if you see a donkey cart piled high with sawdust waiting patiently, see a communal bakery nearby (they share the heating facilities) or people walking by with buckets full of toiletries. You may even smell it as burning the sawdust and wood gives off a romantic, smoky smell.
Another sign is a domed roof so it's worthwhile now and again to look up as you wander the medina.
How to Dress in a hammam
One of the most common questions, is the matter of dress. To save you the embarrassment of not knowing whether to take all your clothes off or how else you are expected to behave, read on.
Keep your underpants on (and bring a spare pair as these will stay on throughout and become wringing wet), but remove everything else. Small children may be nude, but it is not the norm for adults. Foreign women who insist on wearing their bras while bathing will look and feel ridiculous, so feel free and go with the flow.
One thing you might not think about: Bring something to cover your wet hair when you leave. Moroccans are convinced that the quickest way to catch a cold is a bare, wet head (even if it is 30°C outside), and if you don’t cover yourself on the way out, someone will do it for you and who knows what with!
What to Bring to the hammam
Part of the fun is the pre-hammam shopping, of course!
For an authentic experience, hit the souks and buy some traditional black soap or ghasoul and the exfoliating mitt, a black scratchy glove called a “kiis”. Both cost next to nothing. Look for plastic buckets filled with sticky black goo – this is the savon noir - “black soap”.
Also take what you normally use in the shower – shampoo, conditioner, razor, towels. If you plan to get scrubbed down by the hammam attendant (the highlight of any visit), be sure to take your black soap and “kiis”. Buy a small plastic bowl for dousing yourself with water inside the hammam. This is not a spa, so don’t expect to turn up and for everything to be there ready and waiting for you – you have to come prepared!
If you’re a clean freak, bring a small plastic stool or mat to sit on to avoid placing your derriere directly on the hammam’s stone floor.
Resources for further reading on hammams:
Hammams by Pascal Meunier and Maud Tyckaert (14 Oct 2005)