So, How Exactly Does a Hammam Work?
If you're going to visit a local hammam in Marrakech, don’t expect anything luxurious – rose petals on the floor and fluffy bathrobes are not part of the real deal and a street-side hammam is quite different to a hotel one or a spa. There’s a small changing area near the entrance where you can hang your towel and clothes. Women and men are segregated and usually have different times to visit the hammam.
The baths consist of several rooms centered on large cisterns with gushing water. The further you venture into the hammam the closer you get to the wood fire and the hotter the water in the fountains gets. Everyone sits on the floor, against the walls, to bathe. Buckets are provided, but usually it’s up to you to collect the water from the hot and cold fountains and mixing them for the perfect temperature back in your area.
The Hammam Environment
The hammam ceiling is usually domed and pierced with small holes to allow natural light to stream in. This has the added advantage of putting your body in a very flattering light! The scrubbing is both pleasurable and painful – the glove is rough, but it does the job of removing dead skin fabulously – after your skin will glow and will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom! The steam aids the skin in absorbing the oils and medicinal properties and the dark, warm room makes it very easy to breathe.
It’s not always as tranquil as it sounds, however, as mothers attempt to lather up their screaming children while gossiping at high volume. Afterwards a cooling off session, it is traditional to relax for twenty minutes or so with some Moroccan mint tea.
We of course have our own relaxing hammam on-site (without the screaming children!) but also visit Hammam El Bacha (no phone, website. 20 Rue Fatima Zohra, Marrakech), which with its 20ft high cupola, is one of the most famous, and historic, hammams in town.