Marrakech, like most places in the Arab world, is renowned for its traditional hammams. No visit to Marrakech is complete until you have experienced the delights and benefits of these time-honoured steam baths.
What are Hammams?
The Arabic word ‘hammam’ means ‘hot water’ and the origin of traditional Moroccan hammams dates back to Roman times when they were popular both as bathhouses and meeting places. A traditional hammam consists typically of a series of two to four connected steam rooms, the temperature increasing to around 50°c as one proceeds from one to the next.
Housed usually in marble-clad rooms, a hammam bath involves dousings of alternating hot and cold water followed by a vigorous scrubdown with black ‘beldi’ soap. Other treatments include ‘ghasoul’ or henna coatings, ‘rassoul’ hair treatments and, after a short recovery period, relaxing massages using essential oils. In addition to being wonderfully relaxing and providing welcome relief from stress, hammam sessions provide a number of physical benefits, not least improved blood circulation:
Relief from Cold Symptoms – the combination of treatments and the ever present scent of eucalyptus clears nasal and sinus passages bringing effective relief from unpleasant cold symptoms.
Relief from Muscle Pain – rheumatic pain, as well as the aches and pains following strenuous workouts, are equally soothed, particularly when the session ends with a hot bath.
Skin Care – black beldi soap is applied onto wet skin after a steam bath session and left to moisturise and exfoliate the skin for 10 – 15 minutes before being rinsed off. This is followed by a vigorous scrubbing of the skin with wet kessa gloves, resulting in extremely soft skin free from dead cells and an altogether cleansed and purified body. The final treatment, a face and body massage with an essential oil (typically Argan) enhances the soothing qualities of the previous treatments and provides skin protection against the drying effects of sunshine.
Hair Care – hair is left gorgeously silky by Rassoul shampoos/ hair masks. Having absorbent, astringent, degreasing and softening properties, Rassoul restores facial sebum production and is perfect for treating oily hair. Its blotting action makes it suitable for all skin types, and even the driest hair is left with a silky effect.
During a hammam bath one wears whatever one is comfortable with, a swimsuit/ bathing trunks or underwear, accompanied by water-proof flip-flops. The marble-clad hammam at Les Borjs de la Kasbah is housed in a purpose-built domed building overlooking the swimming pool while massage treatments are provided in a relaxing environment in separate but adjacent rooms with menzeh (latticed) windows.