What is a hammam?

What is a hammam? A hammam is a steam bath, a feature of north African societies since Roman times and later refined by the Ottomans into the Turkish bath that is so common today.

The aim, of course, is to wash away dust and grime but, as importantly, to achieve a state of pure relaxation, especially when followed by a soothing massage. A hammam session consists of several stages.

1)     The steam bath itself, often in several rooms, each warmer than the one before. After a while absorbing the full beneficial effect of the steam comes a hot water wash down, followed, eventually, by an envigorating dousing of cold water poured from a wooden bucket!

The Arganier Spa at Les Borjs de la Kasbah

2)     After the bathing comes the gommage when the body is subjected to a vigorous scrub down with black beldi soap made from olives and eucalyptus leaves which is left on the body for around 15 minutes.

3)     Although not usually part of the hammam experience itself, the bathing is ideally followed by a relaxing massage using fragrant argan oil derived from the nuts of the eponymous tree from the Essaouira region.

Public hammams, of which there are still a great many in Marrakech and other cities, are still used widely by the population, especially in ancient médinas where so many of the old houses lack modern indoor plumbing.

These ancient structures, many of which still rely on wood fired ovens to heat the water, are not only bath houses but places of relaxation and venues for men and women to socialize (in segregated sessions).

The Arganier Spa at Les Borjs de la Kasbah boasts a marble clad, domed hammam with separate sauna, two treatment rooms and a rest area. The experienced therapists provide a number of massage and beauty treatments for both men and women.

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