Never having visited a Hammam, the thought of visiting one on our holiday to Morocco seems daunting and full of worrying possibilities. Will it hurt? Will they pull me into impossible positions? Am I supposed to go naked? Will I look stupid if I don’t understand them? These are some of the questions swirling around in my head.
I am reassured to find that our friends at Surf n Stay in Taghazout have planned a visit to the Hammam in Agadir and that we can tag along; that’s me, my teenage daughter and two sons (my husband being laid low with an upset tummy). Like yoga, I’ve discovered that in Morocco, going to the Hammam is something that both men and women can enjoy, so I’m keen for my sons to try out this experience and not think that it’s too girly for them. It’s worth knowing, however, that in a Hammam, men and women get treated completely separately, so my daughter and I are ushered into one room, while the boys head upstairs to a completely different section and we don’t see each other until it’s all finished an hour or two later. Luckily my boys are accompanied by a couple of other beefy surfers so they aren’t all alone.
We girls are shown into a large treatment room with six treatment tables, powder blue walls and a decorative plasterwork ceiling with geometric Islamic motifs. We change into our bikinis and then put on the towelling robes and plastic slippers that have been laid out for us, climbing the stairs again to small hammam room with domed ceiling and green and white chequerboard tiles. On three sides of the room are tiled ledges, just wide enough for us to lie down, with hot and cold taps on the fourth wall.
Sitting on the plastic mats that cover the heated ledges, we first have plastic containers of hot water poured all over us by the two female attendants assigned to us, wearing white beautician’s overalls and black headscarves. They motion us to lie down on the ledge, but my plastic mat is rather thin and I can feel the heat burning through it, so I move to the other ledge where there is no heating.
Next we are soaped thoroughly from head to foot until we are slick as baby seals and are left lying down to sweat for a while. Soon the attendants return, put on a rubber massage mit and give us a head to toe scrubbing. It feels as if sand is being rubbed all over my body and even my face gets a gentle scrub. After being polished and exfoliated and I can feel the blobs of dead skin on my legs and arms, then we are washed down again with buckets of water, which are tipped over our heads. Any efforts to look my best, with make up and blow dried hair have been unceremoniously washed away.
After our wash down we are handed back our robes and descend to the massage room and I hold on tight to the hand-rail as my feet still feel slippery from the soap. As we lie down on the treatment tables the ladies check how we would like our full body massage; relaxing, hard or inbetween. I choose in between, thinking I may as well get a bit of massage benefit while my daughter chooses relaxing. Every so often I hear a slurp as if a pat of butter is being softened up but it’s actually a dispenser of oil that is being used for the massage.There’s just the right amount of pressure and kneading during my full body massage and it feels like little patterns are being traced on the soles of my feet.
After the massage is over, we are left for a while with damp cotton pads over our eyes until the attendants return to towel dry us. Even so, we’re still pretty slippery as if we’ve been soused in body lotion. Glasses of mint tea are brought for us to drink while we dress and then we go downstairs where there’s a showroom full of bottle of argan oil and face creams. My face is still soft and creamy hours later.
Tips for visiting the Hammam
If you are new to this experience, ask your hotel to recommend a reputable hammam that is used to dealing with tourists and to make an appointment for your massage.
It’s a waste of time putting on make-up and doing your hair before you go, as it will all be scrubbed or washed off by the end.
Wear a bikini but be prepared to remove your top during the scrub down and massage if you’re not too self-conscious about that sort of thing.
Men and women will be treated in separate Hammam and treatment rooms, so it’s worth going with a group of same sex friends. If you go as a couple, check whether you will be separated, as it could be a bit lonely.
Our visit to the Hammam lasted around 2 hours including the scrub-down in the hammam and full body massage and cost 350 Moroccan Dirhams (£27/€31/$40)
We visited the Hammam at N17, rue 373, Elkasbahe,Hay Elhassani, Agadir, Morocco. For more information about their Argan oil products, visit the website at www.elixir-argan.com
More tales from Taghazout
Where we stayed in Taghazout, Morocco
We stayed in Taghazout in an apartment rented through Surf n Stay, an Irish/Moroccan outfit run by Chris and his team who will help you with everything that you need to enjoy your stay in Taghazout; they’ll rent you an apartment, arrange airport transfer, car hire, surfboard rental and fix anything else you need.
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