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Before I even walk through the door, I can smell the exotic aromas wafting through the hallways.  The steam emanates from the warm sanctuary I am about to enter. The warmth – from floor to ceiling – welcomes me in along with the flicker of candlelight that fills the room.  After settling in on the warm marble slab, my skin enjoys the revitalization of locally made argan oils mixed with a variety of other essential oils as I am exfoliated head to toe.  Afterwards, I head to a private massage room where I am pampered with an hour-long massage that relaxes away any stress that I might have been holding on to…

   Picture of Avanti Beach Hotel and Spa in Mohammedia, Morocco 
There’s nothing quite like the experience of a Moroccan hammam (bath house). It feels like stepping into a beautiful piece of history and enjoying a luxurious spa at the same time.  Moroccan hammams are often tiled with beautiful patterns, filled with luxurious scents, and calm lighting. Many riads and hotels have taken this wonderful experience and upgraded it to a new level of luxury that other spas cannot match. 

Traditional

Traditionally, there is a hammam in every neighborhood or town. Depending on the size of the area, there are either 2 separate hammams, one for men and one for women, or there may be separate hours in smaller communities. The hammams used by locals are made up of 3-4 rooms with temperature increasing as you get closer to the center. Hammams are generally heated by wood fire underneath the building or, in certain areas, even from natural hot springs. Moroccan women often go with their friends or family to spend hours relaxing in comfort, and catching up on each others’ lives. Men also enjoy their time relaxing, though often stay for shorter periods of time.

I have been to a local, neighborhood hammam with a trusted Moroccan friend as my guide. I needed her as a guide as I had no idea what I was doing!  Moroccan women have a common routine and method of how they go about the experience.  My experience has been that local friends are invaluable to making the traditional hammam a cultural experience to be remembered.  My daughter’s friends taught her to tell the lady “bshwiya” (slow down or slowly) if the scrubbing was too hard or fast. Don’t be shy. There’s no reason to be uncomfortable. Those working in the hammam will want to give you their best work, so they might want to scrub a bit harder than you are accostomed to. Luckily, this is less of an issue at a hotel or riad spa, where they are used to “first-timers.”

Hotels and Riads

Hotels and riads have taken the hammam experience to a whole different level.  A. Really. Great. Level.  Certain hotels and riads even allow couples to enter the hammam together, privately. The person working inside, in this case, will be female.  Hammams in riads hotels are often beautiful and full of culture. Many guests find that they feel they are experiencing true Morocco as they enter.  My first hammam experience was in a hotel spa and I loved every minute.

In the private hotel hammam, we were walked through the whole process seamlessly. We arrived and undressed to swimsuit bottoms (or dark underwear works too) and flip-flops and put on the provided robe to walk into the hammam across the hall. Though Moroccan culture is modest, there is a time and place for modesty and the hammam isn’t it!

The lady working in the spa was so unfazed by my nudity that I was instantly set at ease. On a side note, I took my tween daughter to the local, public hammam, expecting her to feel a bit uncomfortable. She didn’t even seem to notice the nudity after a couple of minutes. She loved the experience, pouring the hot water over herself and getting scrubbed down right beside me.

Once inside, we removed the robes and laid on stone benches (surprisingly comfortable) that were warm, but not hot. Hot water was poured over us and then we were left for 5 minutes to sit in the steam before the scrubbing began. You will be scrubbed down by a Moroccan woman (or male if in a men’s only hammam), either with a special exfoliating glove called a “keese” or a specially mixed scrub of sand or sea salt and scented oils. This will remove more dead skin than you could have imagined was on your body!  There are a few stages of scrubbing, rinsing, soaping, rinsing, oiling, etc. Your attendant will walk you through each of these stages.

One of the luxurious parts of a Moroccan hammam experience is the ample use of argan oil.  The argan tree is native to Morocco and one of the only places that it naturally grows.  Moroccans have taken advantage of this tree and perfected the creation of this luxurious oil.  Argan oil is often produced by several women’s co-operatives in the Southern regions of Morocco.  An oil that coveted by many European cosmetic companies is native and widely available in the spas of Morocco.

Spa Services

Traditional hammams will often offer someone to help scrub you down and perhaps do some light stretching and massage in the warmth of the room.  Most hotels, however, offer a robust menu of experiences for your visit to the hammam.  You will, often, have the option of a massage following your hammam experience in most riads and hotels. Other services often available include manicures, pedicures, and facials, to name a few.  

 

What to Bring

An important part of the hammam experience is being prepared.  Here is a list of things that will be helpful for your first visit to the hammam:

Hotel Hammam

Swimsuit Bottoms or dark-colored underwear (You can opt for a bikini swimsuit if it will help you feel more comfortable!)

Flipflops

Everything else will be provided by the hotel


Traditional Hammam

Swimsuit Bottoms or dark-colored underwear (You can opt for a bikini swimsuit if it will help you feel more comfortable!)

Flipflops

Stool

Small bucket (to pour over yourself)

Large bucket (to fill with your water from the taps)

Keese (exfoliating glove)

Hair clip (if you have long hair)

Towel

Traditional Soap

Body wash, shampoo and conditioner

After your experience, ensure that you drink plenty of water to rehydrate and cool down. Also, if you are leaving the building after, it is best to dry your hair or wrap it in a towel to make sure that you are culturally appropriate.

 

Are Hammams Wheelchair Accessible?

In general, the open layout of the hammam lends itself to accessibility. Local women of all ability levels obviously need to get clean. As is the case in Morocco, however, narrow entrances and stairs are common in architecture, therefore Morocco Accessible Travel Consultants personally verifies the measurements and accessibility of the hammams in our partner hotels and riads to ensure accessibility. If you are interested, please request this service with our accessible travel experts and they will include this as a part of your tour experience. All of our Luxury Tour Packages include a hammam and spa experience as a part of their package.   

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