Even if you’re not usually a spa person, visiting a Moroccan hammam is an essential part of any Moroccan holiday. To help you avoid a confusing and stressful experience, this post will prepare you for your first hammam visit.
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I remember the first time I visited a Moroccan hammam, back before the internet contained all the world’s knowledge. It was a local hammam in a small town well outside the tourist district. As I walked through the door, I suddenly realized I had no idea what to expect.
What should I wear inside the hammam? What did a hammam treatment entail? Did I need a towel? A scrubbie? Soap? Was I even welcome there?
After being dragged through the process by a local woman with whom I shared not one word of common language, I realized it would have been much more fun if I’d come prepared. It was a real “experience” but it was far from relaxing or refreshing!
To help you avoid the same stressful and confusing experience, watch this video we shot at la Roseraie Spa, a fabulous spa at a resort about an hour from Marrakech.
If you’re not a video person, scroll down for the blog post.
What to Expect on Your First Visit to a Moroccan Hammam
There are two distinct kinds of hammams in Morocco: the locals hammam and the tourist hammam.
On your first visit, I recommend going to a tourist hammam or the hammam at your riad. You’ll feel more comfortable and there will be someone to help you through the process.
Once you’ve visited your first hammam, don’t miss a trip to a locals’ hammam, where you’ll get to experience a vital part of Moroccan culture.
Don’t miss our top tips for visiting a local Moroccan hammam near the end of this post.
The Six Steps for a Tourist Hammam Treatment
Step 1: Get undressed
After you arrive at the hammam, an attendant will show you to a changing room, where they will give you a robe and a locker and tell you to get undressed.
Women can either go naked or wear bikini bottoms or underwear into the hammam. I always wear my bikini bottoms because, hey, I just feel more comfortable that way!
Men must wear bottoms. You can wear underwear or a bathing suit, or sometimes you will be given a disposable pair of underwear to put on.
Once you are suitably dressed, put on your robe and go meet your hammam attendant.
Step 2: Relax for five minutes
The attendant will take your robe and usher you into a hot, steamy room where you’ll hardly be able to see a thing. Your first job here is to sit back and relax. The steam will start to open your pores and a few deep breaths will help you let go of the stress of wandering through Moroccan souks.
Step 3: Soap up
After five minutes or so, the attendant will return with a bowl of thick black Moroccan soap. It looks a little like molasses or crude oil, but don’t worry, it will feel great on your skin.
You’ll have to stand up, sit down, and turn around as the attendant soaps up your legs, feet, back, and face. She might even reaching down the back of your underwear to get at your butt cheeks!
Once the soap is on, you can rub it gently into your skin as you sit back and relax for another five minutes. I know, so stressful, right?
Step 4: Hot rinse
Depending on the hammam, the attendant will come back with a full wooden bucket or plastic pail of water. She’ll scoop the water out, using it to rinse off your soap.
This water can be shockingly hot — but I’ve never been burned yet!
Step 5: Rough scrub
Once the soap is all off, the torture starts. No, I don’t want to freak you out but this step can be extremely… uncomfortable.
The attendant will use a rough sandpapery hammam glove to scrape away your outer layer of dead skin. We Westerners tend to have a shocking amount of old skin — unlike Moroccans who regularly exfoliate their entire bodies.
Don’t be surprised if the attendant is pretty rough with you. But if it’s too rough, don’t be too shy to tell her to take it easy!
Step 6: Hair wash
If you’re at a one of the fancier Moroccan hammams, your treatment will include a hair wash. Lie back and luxuriate in the rare experience of someone else washing your hair for you. Such a treat!
And finally… Relax with tea
Once you’ve been buffed and scrubbed there’s one final step which cannot be skipped. You’ll put your robe back on and go to a relaxation area where you’ll be given a steaming cup of sweet Moroccan tea.
If you’re anything like me, at this point your body will feel like jelly and your mind will be free of any cares. That cup of tea will give you the chance to wake up a little before facing the outside world, a shinier, sparklier version of yourself.
Grab these Moroccan essentials before your trip:
Tips for Visiting a Local’s Hammam in Morocco
How to find a local’s hammam
As you’re wandering around the streets of the medina near your riad, keep your eyes open for any of these signs that there’s a hammam nearby:
- Piles of firewood on the side of the road
- A doorway leading down a set of steep stairs to a roaring fire
- Two small doorways on either end of a building marked Homme and Femme
If you see any of these things, you’ve found a hammam!
What to bring to the local hammam
Unlike a tourist hammam, nothing will be supplied for you at the local hammam. You’ll need to come prepared with:
- A little money — the hammam will cost around 10 dirhams
- A towel
- Underwear or bathing suit bottoms
- A hammam glove
- Soap — you can use black soap, but locals often just use a bar of soap
You can easily buy soap and a hammam glove for a few dollars in the souk before you go.
What to expect at a local hammam
Depending on the hammam, you may be able to hire an attendant to scrub you down. To arrange this, it will help if you speak a little French. If not, I hope you’re good at sign language because it’s highly unlikely that anyone in the hammam will speak English.
But if you want to do as most locals do, take a DIY approach.
- Once you pay, you will be shown to a room with benches (it may be right in the entry) where you get undressed and leave your belongings. There won’t be a locker, so don’t bring your valuables.
Go through to the next room, where you can pick up a few buckets. These buckets will be for your hot water for the first few rinses, followed by cool water for the final rinse.
Find somewhere to sit, fill your bucket and follow the steps above in the tourist hammam section.
If you’re really comfortable, ask someone else to scrub your back and you can scrub theirs in return!
And that’s it! Now you’ve experienced a hammam in Morocco!
That’s everything you need to know before you go to a Moroccan hammam. If you still have questions, though, please add them to the comments below! We’ll answer asap and you’ll get an email with our response.
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Jane & Stephen
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