A Moroccan Hammam is a spa experience that is truly unlike any other. It was my one requirement when I decided to visit Morocco. Everything I read about Morocco highlighted the Hammams, so how could I miss it?
What is a Hammam?
A Hammam is a traditional bathing experience in Morocco. It is similar to the baths in Turkey. Hammams are ancient and sacred to Moroccans. They are a communal experience for gossip and socializing. Most people go weekly, but some attend multiple times per week. The bathing areas are divided by gender. People enter naked and enjoy steam rooms, hot marble seats, scrubbing off dead skin and bathing.
La Mamounia is a hotel that embodies the words regal and opulent. It felt truly terrifying to walk through the doors in travel-worn joggers and a T-shirt (my uniform for the last year).
My mom met me in Morocco and is the only reason I was able to go to such an upscale place for my Hammam experience.
My Hammam Experience
We arrived an hour early so we could enjoy the pool area. Instead, we spent the whole time in the large whirlpool tub, warming up for what was to come.
Finally, it was time.
I was nervous to disrobe in front of a stranger and have them scrub me from head to toe. My mom has sensitive skin and feared breakouts. I feared a stranger scrubbing my boobs.
We were given disposable thongs that fit like granny panties, riding up to my waist and covering exactly nothing. The gauzy material sagged away from my skin, leaving me feeling more naked than if I’d had nothing on.
A Moroccan bath typically starts with 15 minutes in a steam room. My aversion to heat and bad lungs allowed us to shorten that to 5 minutes. Afterwards, we lay on hot marble slabs in a comfortably muggy room, sipping water and opening our pores. Honestly, I would have paid the insane cost to have just laid there in my plush towel. Who would have thought a marble slab could be so comfortable?
The allure of La Mamounia’s spa was the privacy: you are taken to an individual room to be scrubbed. We were taken down individual corridors to be thoroughly sloughed alone.
I was put in a shower and had my towel tugged off. There was barely time to process it before the shower was turned on and the woman was rubbing the famous Moroccan black soap on my body.
She did not respect the boundaries of the underwear.
It didn’t last long. Once I got over my body issues, it was quite pleasant. The black soap didn’t sting my skin or dry me out.
Soon, I was lead to a private marble slab where the real scrubbing took place.
When I read reviews online, many people talked about feeling like they had a sunburn the next day from how raw they’d been rubbed. Others claimed the mitt used to scrub them was so rough it hurt.
My experience was nothing like that.
The scrubbing was rough. The exfoliating mitt was definitely present. But it didn’t hurt. It felt like having a light massage and a good scratch all at once. My attendant would present the mitt to me every few minutes to reveal the curls of dead skin she’d managed to remove. Then she would make me feel how buttery smooth my newly revealed skin was.
I was in awe.
I don’t think I came into the world that smooth! Every bump or ashy patch had been banished by this mitt-wearing knight. Even my face, which she’d only done lightly, felt like puberty had never hit.
She dumped buckets of warm water over me to wash away the dead skin as she went. It felt almost like a rebirth each time; washing away the old to reveal the new. Or something less philosophical.
When she’d finished scrubbing, she began slathering me in a cool clay mask. She coated me from back to front, head to toe. My attendant told me, in French that I could barely grasp, to lie in the mask while she fetched me juice for after the final shower.
It could have been five minutes or forty-five before she returned. I felt like I had become one with the warm marble. I didn’t even notice I was still naked.
But she came back. I was pulled to stand and returned to the shower.
I helped her rinse the clay from my skin. She reapplied the black soap and tore off the crude underwear with surprising force. She let me wash my own hair, but I wished she had done it – I love having other people wash my hair. My mom said her attendant was quite rough at that part, so maybe it was for the best.
Warm from the shower and scrubbed into a new being, I was escorted to a traditional spa waiting room. Lying on a plush chaise with fresh squeezed orange juice in my hand was the perfect way to end the experience.
We broke from tradition and followed the Hammam with massages and pedicures. The massage oil probably helped prevent my skin from drying out as it usually does. Unlike some reviewers, I was never pink or sunburnt at any point during the experience. I never even broke out.
If there’s one thing you must do while in Morocco, it is going to a Moroccan Hammam.