Why should you visit a traditional hammam
A visit to a traditional bathhouse is a refreshing experience. Not only will it leave you feeling silky smooth, but public hammams are one of the best ways to experience Moroccan culture.
Most towns have a public hammam and you should ask your hostel, waiter, taxi driver, or anyone local for the address of one. The two that I visited had certain hours for men and women, however there are some gender-exclusive hammams.
There are many tourist-driven, expensive and extravagant spas offering the experience of a local hammam, but nothing beats the real thing.
So, what are you waiting for?
WHAT TO BRING
Besides what you would usually bring to the shower, make sure you have a scrub glove (kiis), small jug (you can usually borrow one if not), and sabon beldi, a gooey olive oil soap. You can pick this up in most shops, stalls and at some hammams themselves.
WHERE TO GO
If you’re in Fez, Hammam Sidi Azouz which sits opposite Hôtel Lamrani on Talâa Seghira is a great option. We also tried a second public hammam in Marrakech which was located down Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, but the name escapes me.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Most hammams are unassuming buildings on the outside and you can usually spot them by a man or woman standing at the entrance. You can expect to pay 10Dirham for entry and then a further 20Dirham plus for a massage from a staff member, or in some cases, fellow bath-goer!
Women are predominantly topless or but some bare all and bring with them a mat to sit on in the baths for hygiene reasons.
You will find that the hammam is a hubbub of chatter as many Moroccans use this time to catch up with friends, family and generally have a gossip! It is common to see pairs or groups of people scrubbing each other too; if someone offers to scrub you they are likely to expect the same in return.
Once I got over the fact that I was standing in my pants in a room full of women who I had never met before, I embraced the experience.
The first room is warm, and allows your body to become accustomed to the heat. Two buckets, one of warm and one of cold water, can be used to wash the floor that you’ll sit on and also yourself.
Sitting in the second, hotter room allows your pores to open and all those nasties to escape your skin. It’s best to tolerate the heat instead of dowsing yourself with cold water.
In the warm room again, wash your hair and body thoroughly. This is where you will usually use your scrub, olive oil soap and receive a massage if you wish. If you do receive a massage, expect all nooks and crannies to be scrubbed clean by a half naked woman who will scrape all that dead skin off. It may be painful, but it really does feel amazing afterwards. Use your second bucket of water to rinse yourself before heading into the cold room.
This is a chance to get your body used to cooler temperatures and relax, and have a shower if the hammam has them.
It is customary to tip the lady in the changing room if she has looked after valuables for you, as most hammams do not have lockers and people do not bring expensive items.
The authenticity of the experience, especially at the hammam in Fez, was a highlight of my entire trip to Morocco. I’d advise everyone to give a local, public hammam a go (you can always visit a spa when you're home!)