One thing to do in Morocco once you come here? Visit hammam and have a gommage (scrub) done! It is a culturally rich experience that will probably get an European out of their comfort zone. I went there alone for the first time, at first I felt a bit awkward because I had no idea where to go and what to start with. I hate the feeling of being helpless and not knowing things so I decided to write this article to make it smooth and easy for the newbees! My first visit wasn’t complete as I spent too much time wondering what to do. If you follow my tips you’ll squeeze the best out of hammam!
How to spot a popular hammam?
Those are usually quite wide places in buildings. With two separate entrances one with a picture of a woman (femmes) another one with a picture of a man (hommes). The traditional hammams are usually covered with tiles outside as well as inside.
How to get ready and what to do before going to a hammam?
I asked myself this question numerous times. I asked my Moroccan friends too. Everybody told me a different thing. According to some I need to take my own mat, bucket, soap, glove, towels etc. Some others said that soap, towel and a glove is enough. I was confused so I went to the nearest hammam to ask what’s the perfect hammam kit.
The things you need to take with you:
-Savon beldi (kind of a sticky jelly, sold per grams or in plastic pots)
-kess (a glove for scrubbing)
-towels (to sit on and to dry your body and hair)
If you doubt hygiene of the place, get your own bucket and a little jug or a bowl to shower yourself. Now you have all equipment! It’s time to choose which hammam to go to. There are two types of hammam: popular ones and fancy ones. In the popular one the entrance should be around 8-20 dhs. The fancy ones are usually in fitness clubs and spa places. They are way more expensive. To have a real Moroccan experience and save money I recommend you to go to the popular one (and my tips concern the popular one). If you don’t want to be stressed that you’re not doing things right- go to a fancy one and let them take care of you!
NOW LET’S GET READY AND ENJOY THE BATH. STEP BY STEP
Buy and pack your stuff: towels, clothes for change, slippers, shampoo, shower gel, savon beldi and the glove. Savon beldi and gloves are available in big markets, small shops called “parfumerie”, in medina and on the street- sold by elderly ladies. If you can’t find it them- don’t worry! You can buy them in the hammam. Big pot of savon beldi is around 10-25 dhs. You can also buy the one per kilo and it will be way cheaper (1-2 dhs per portion for 1 bath). The glove costs on average 10-70 dhs depending on the brand and material. You may also buy ghassoul mask for your body and hair.
Get ready mentally. Forget your shame and complexes. Nobody will look at you and judge you by your body. You will see all generations having a bath together: daughters, mothers, grandmas and great grandmas!
You pay the entrance and (here is the hardest part for Europeans) undress. Yes, undress. Get rid of your clothes and leave only panties on. At first I stayed in my bra but after 5 minutes I went Moroccan and took it off as well. You leave your bag with a lady at the entrance and give her 1 or 2 dhs. She will give you few buckets, a mat to sit on and a bowl. If you want someone to do the scrub for you- say it at the entrance.
You’re now in the showering room. Fill your bucket (at first I filled my bucket in the toilet because I didn’t know there was another room for that :D) sit down on the floor and wrap yourself in savon beldi (this activity in French is called savonnage). Once your body is properly covered in it, move to the hot room (don’t worry if you don’t know where it is- the temperature will lead you). Don’t stay there too long if you have asthma. After some time come back to the showering room and call the lady (or she will come without being called). Note: the scrubbing lady will be with her panties only:D
This, to my surprise, was probably the nicest part of the entire ritual! The lady sits on the floor and starts scrubbing you. She scrubs your whole body, underarms, face, lower belly, legs… She will ask you to change positions. When I was on my back, my face was being constantly poked by the lady’s toe- this is not included in my “nicest” part of the ritual;)
When she finishes doing the gommage for you she will probably help you to finish your shower, pouring water on you, washing your back etc. Now you can have a proper shower, put hair conditioners, body masks and clays. Take your time. When you’re done you can also ask for a massage. I recommend you to use ghassoul (clay) for your hair and body. It’s another, just after black soap and argan oil, natural Moroccan beauty treat.
Get your stuff packed, come back to the changing room and get dressed. Now tip the lady for the gommage. Some say 20 dhs is pretty enough, other that one should not go below 50 dhs. I listened to my friends and paid 50 dhs for the scrubbing but I feel it was too much. The whole gommage took 15 minutes. 20 dhs would have been enough. Listen to your common sense when paying for the scrubbing.