Say Yes to Soaked and Slathered! Morocco Hammam.

During a recent spa afternoon with my dearest friend and her visiting daughter, we chatted about about Hammams in Turkey and Morocco. I laughingly explained that there are no similarities in a U.S. Spa procedure compared to a Hammam in Morocco or Turkey.

My first Hammam Istanbul

When visiting Morocco, there are several Must Do’s: try tajine, haggle with a souk vendor, visit a hammam! Scrubbing by a stranger is an enlightening experience.

My first scrub was in the oldest public Hammam in Istanbul, where the female attendants in black underwear spoke no English – nor do I speak Turkish. Led by hand, like a child, the guest is often required to wear totally useless paper undies. A massive round heated marble slab covered with other paper panty clothed women is the first step, washed with buckets of warm bubbly water, we then gingerly sloshed across the marble floor to small private room, watery light emanated from sapphire glass in the domed ceiling. Deep steaming before the vigorous body scrub. A question in Turkish, I nodded yes, the response: a brass bucket of water hurled at my head! Waterboarding was my first thought, no, merely hair wash.

Marble is the key building component in these glorious ancient bathing palaces, I am always in awe, no matter the city.

The Hammam is one of the most ancient wellness rituals in the world.  For centuries in Arabia, the ritual was propagated by the Turks. When the Ottomans discovered Roman bath habits and combined these with their own, a whole new divinely purifying ritual emerged.

The process is similar in Morocco, I am a dedicated hammam junkie – every six days, I willingly let a stranger scrub me spotless, polish my skin and wash my hair by tossing a bucket of water at me. A practiced Hammam expert, I now know when the water bombardment treatment begins. The language complications are still widespread, Madame Like? Is Good?

In the old cities of Morocco, every public square has five things: a Koran school for children, a Mosque, a communal oven, a public fountain and a hammam. Public baths or hammams are an important ritual. Old Hammams in Morocco consists of a similar 3 room structure and offer a similar bathing procedure as the Turkish Hammam. Located near a mosque, they facilitate the purification of body and soul before prayers.

A five-star hotel, of course, offers an utterly luxurious experience! Marble palaces oozing opulence, dreamlike brass lanterns splash light patterns across marble or intricate tiled walls, scented steam, and a reverential hush create an intimate sanctuary devoted to your senses. Hammam is a fully immersive traditional treatment at most hotels. Just nod Yes!

In Marrakech, our exceptional guide took me to the oldest Hammam in Marrakech, Hammam Mouassine, built in 1562. Walking underground, he introduced me to the men who feed a hot fire all day and night to heat the huge water cauldrons which produce the steam in the hammam! I love that technology has not replaced these men; if you know where to look, ancient culture is still in place in many locales.  In the medina, a heap of wood and fragrant smoke usually leads to a community oven or here, to the underground caldron in the oldest hammam. Astonishing – a modern city which treasures its culture and history.

La Sultana Hammam

Customarily, the heat for the Moroccan hammam is provided by the farnatchi, the man in charge of tending the fire beneath the bathhouse that heats its floors and walls.  Women would bring a ceramic urn known as a tanjia of a beef stew to cook outside the fire all day – one of these pots was resting at the edge of the stove. Tanjia is the name of both the stew and the ceramic urn it’s cooked in.

You don’t need to drag the tubs of black scrubbing soap home, it’s available online! Elbahya Moroccan Black Soap for Hammam. With Eucalyptus and Olive Moroccan black soap also known as hammam beldi soap have been used for centuries to clean and nourish skin with vitamins and minerals. Made with olive oil and olive paste, this soap is extremely rich in vitamin-e it is a great moisturizer and emollient.

An ancient ritual as integral to Moroccan life as mint tea and tajine. Every Saturday is scrub day in my shower!