Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Authentic Moroccan Bath (Hammam) Experience

Am back in Morocco for work again this week. This time I am only staying in Casablanca, which is not the most exciting city based on my Jan experience. To make the most out of this work trip, and to keep myself awake to combat jet lag, I booked a 'spa' I read about in a travel forum - based on one review (big mistake!?).  Turned out it was a very local bathhouse - NOT a spa.  So I had a very authentic Hammam experience...  I had previously tried Hammam when I last visited Marrakech, but it was in a hotel so I was treated quite well and felt pampered. Today's experience was a totally different one!

There was nothing fancy about the bathhouse, basically it was like the fishmonger, with water all over the floor.  There were a few bath sections, all had many sinks and stools and buckets, some had shower stalls, some had a few marble tables for customers to lay down on.  The whole time there were a lot of other local women around me, completely naked, and 3 times my size.  I was surrounded by extremely fat women and I felt strangely embarrassed by being lean and toned!  The whole place was very similar to a fishmonger/ slaughter house indeed.  All the staff dressed the same, and had a cloth wrapped around their head.  Those middle aged fat ladies looked like big fat mamas working in a production line in a cafeteria kitchen or something.

The session started in a steamy room where I could only see a few sinks, some stools, plastic basins...and to my surprise there was actually a fat Moroccan lady lying naked on a bench behind the steam.  I was told to splash myself with hot water using the plastic basin, then smother on my body a thick layer of Moroccan black soap - a brown paste made with olive oil supposedly great for cleansing and moisturizing.  I did so, sat in that dark steamy room for 10 mins, rinsed off by splashing more hot water, and was then asked to go to the next room, to lay down on one of the 4 or 5 marble tables. Stark naked.  Like the other Moroccan women in that room, all were 3 times my size, very fat...

Then one of the big fat Moroccan mammas, (none of which spoke any English) ordered me to turn over face up.  She then started using the sandpaper-like glove to scrub me down to the bone!  There was nothing gentle about the scrubbing - I felt like a little piggy on the butcher's chopping board about to be slaughtered.  She scrubbed me hard on every inch of my body including my face...  Then ordered me to sit up, when she, without warning, splashed buckets of hot water down my head, onto my face, and all over me.  I said to myself, Moroccan kids probably first learned to hold their breath under water like this...

After this, another fat lady ordered me to lay down on the table again.  I was then smothered with very hot seaweed mud all over, including my private part (!!), and was wrapped up like a mummy with a huge plastic wrap.

After God knows how long - I fell sleep and woke up with tailbone hurting from the stone hard table - I was told to sit on a stool to be splashed with more hot water!  Finally, after another 2 rounds of splashing and shower, I had my Moroccan massage - on another marble table.  The lady put some orange flower oil on my body then used very fast massage strokes to massage me like marinating a chicken before roasting!  The whole Hammam experience finished with... guess what... a final hot water shower.

My Moroccan Hammam torture lasted for 2.5 hours.  I still don't know what I was thinking, paying someone around HKD 300 to torture me and order me around.  Yet, it was a strangely exciting experience :)

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