By tradition a place for relaxation and socialising, the traditional Moroccan hammam is an essential part of the complete Marrakech experience. The range of steam room treatments is designed to give skin pores a deep clean via a thorough scrubbing down with Savon Noir (natural olive oil soap) performed with special exfoliating gloves. Before entering the steam room, however, it is as well to brush up on a little hammam etiquette.
Visiting a Traditional Spa in Marrakech
Wasting Water – not surprisingly in a country with so little of the stuff compared with more northerly countries, excessive use of water is generally frowned upon. Usually, an attendant will administer hot and cold dousings from a bucket but, if not, make sure to use only sufficient quantities of water to wash and then rinse yourself.
Stripping Naked – stripping naked in a traditional hammam is generally considered offensive in both women’s and men’s hammams. As a rule of thumb, we would advise retaining your underwear but, if so, remember to take a dry pair for changing into after your session).
Socialising – although essentially places in which to perform one’s ablutions, traditional hammams also have an important function as social gathering places. This is particularly the case for older married women in rural communities, most of whom leave their homes less frequently than their menfolk; for them the hammam is considered the ideal place in which to meet neighbours for a good chat. Similarly, men enjoy relaxation, banter and a good wash after a hard day’s work in the field or dusty town.
Tourists in public hammams are welcome and will invariably receive plenty of attention. Go with the flow, enjoy your ‘special status’. A session in a public hammam in Marrakech is a great experience – make the most of it.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
If you fear that the overly enthusiastic scrubdowns administered in a public hammam may not be for you then you can always opt for a visit to a private version of the traditional steam bath (like the one in our own spa, L’Arganier) where the atmosphere is a tad more exclusive and the overall spa experience less physical, being primarily concerned with gentle papering.