While I was in Marrakech I took up the offer of a Hammam at the spa attached to the hotel. Now I had heard about this bathing ritual before, but to be honest, I wasn't sure what it involved. Ladies, if you're at all shy or prudish about nakedness it might be best to stop reading now. As I soon found out, there's no point in being shy if you're going to experience a hammam.
I entered the warm bathing room (not sure if it has a name) in my swimsuit and sat down on a stone bench. The swimsuit had to come off as far as my waist, then Imane, the hammam attendant, began the ritual.
First of all she poured comfortably hot water over me, from a stone dish, which she dipped repeatedly into a bucket of water. This was kept constantly overflowing by a shower attachment that was always on. After the initial rinsing, Imane then washed me with black soap, made from olives. This is very gel like. I then spent five or so minutes sitting in a steam room (bliss), after which I was back in the first room, almost as hot as the second, ready to be rinsed.
Following the rinse Imane covered me in a fragrant, I suppose you could call it shower gel, though I'm sure that's not the name. It smelled lovely; she called it mountain blossom.
Then the exfoliation began. I should point out at this point I had opted for the exfoliation rather than the clay cleansing option, but I didn't realise quite how skin scrubbing it would be. Imane donned an exfoliating glove and got to work on me as I lay down. Boy, she really put her back into it and by the time she'd finished I felt like I must have shed at least a couple of layers of skin.
After another rinse and a hair wash, I was ushered into a plunge pool - fearing the worst, ie freezing cold, I was a little nervous about getting in, but it was soooo hot! Not unbearably so, but just hot enough to feel luxurious. And the pool was big enough to move around in, like a mini swimming pool.
A few minutes later I was back in front of Imane for my final rinse (I sound like a washing machine), then it was time to dry off, get dressed and head back to the hotel.
So why did I say if you're shy about nakedness stop reading? Well that has to do with the complete abandon with which she picked up my breasts and moved them out the way when she was washing, the way she washed them as if they were just any part of my body, and the way she included them in the exfoliation treatment. I wanted to laugh, it was so comical. I'm not taking the mickey, what I mean is it was comical in that they were treated as any other part of the body, a hand, a foot, without the connotations they carry in the West.
It was an enlightening moment. I had been worried about what to expect beforehand, yet when it came to it, I adopted her attitude, which came across as no big deal.
What is it with the image of breasts in western society and the obsession some people have with them? They are just a part of the body after all, they're there to feed our babies (and in my case they did an excellent job there), so why the hang-ups? Why my nervousness at the beginning? I don't know. What I do know is that I believe I came back from Morocco a more enlightened person. And I enjoyed my hammam ritual.