This afternoon I went to the hammam, or Moroccan bathhouse, with several other girls. I was pretty nervous going in to it, since all I knew was that we wouldn’t be allowed to wear clothes and that they would scrub us with a rough washcloth. The trip started off kind of frighteningly, since we first had to drive down a steep, winding ramp into an underground parking garage. After holding on for dear life the whole way down, we pulled into a parking space and breathed a sigh of relief. The hammam was oddly placed on the third floor, which seems like a difficult planning scheme since there is water constantly flowing in the bathhouse. We went into the changing room and took off everything but our underpants, though we all kept our towels wrapped around us at that point to postpone our impending nudity a few moments longer.
Opening the door to the bathhouse was a bit of a shock; it was a small, dark, humid room filled with unclothed old ladies being washed by other old ladies who were wearing matching black underwear. Certainly a place to forget any shame or reservations you might have once had about your body. We were told to first rinse off at little sinks, and then to coat ourselves in black soap, which is a Moroccan soap of dubious constitution. We sat at these little sinks in our underwear and dutifully splashed ourselves for a little while. Next, we were told that we could enter the sauna and stay there a bit, perhaps to enjoy the process of sweating. In the sauna room, us teachers got to know each other a little – who is living with whom, what everyone teaches, what our degrees were in, etc. – all done topless. Fast friends, indeed.
After the sauna, we went out to the first room again and waited in line to be rubbed down while lying on a table by one of the hammam ladies using a very course washcloth called a kees. This was a moment of panic for me; my skin is very pale and burns easily in the sun, so I was terrified of having my already-slightly-pink shoulders rubbed raw. Our friend who went first was certainly scrubbed thoroughly; her skin was all red afterward. But thankfully when my turn came, I was able to immediately ask the hammam lady to please not touch my back, and surprisingly enough she listened to me. It was really only slightly uncomfortable for me to be scrubbed down lying on a marble table. Next, I went to get soaped up by another woman. That part was actually kind of nice; almost like a massage, minus the fact that I thought I was going to fall off the table. After that, I just went to a shower (by myself, in privacy) and finished washing off and shampooed my hair.
Don’t you wish you could see a picture of this mysterious place? Sorry, you can’t.
When I had gotten dressed and came out to the lobby, my friends were waiting and exclaiming about how smooth their skin felt. I’ll admit, my skin does feel smooth. But mostly, I’m just thankful to have survived.