Monday, July 06, 2009

For mature audiences only: Hammam in Marrakesh

Sara and I took an overnight train to Marrakesh on Wednesday night, arriving in Marrakesh midday on Thursday. We spent the first day wandering the shuks, finding the central Place Jemaa el Fna and then heading to the mellah to see the shul and the cemetary. We discovered a lot about the Marrakech Jewish community, which I will blog later.

On Friday, our most exciting event was the visit to the Hammams. Hammams are gender-segregated bathhouses. Friday is the day off for many people, so the one we went to was quite crowded. The entire experience is like an immersion into Moroccan culture and sociology. It's only about 10 dh to enter, but through the hostel we paid 100 dh ($12.50ish) for the entire experience. One of the women who works at the hostel took us, bought the necessary supplies including an olive-oil based soap and exfoliating mitts, and brought us to the Hammam. After she paid the entrance fee, we went into the hammam. I am deeply squeamish, so it was a blessing in disguise that I was not wearing my glasses (one cannot usefully wear glasses in a sauna-like environment.) Given how many topless and entirely au naturel women were present, it was much easier not to be able to see. Thus, if you'd like a report as to how many women sported full bikini waxes, I am sorry that I don't have that information.

The hammam experience is centered around bathing: it comes from a time and a place where people didn't have running water in their homes. Even now, some people who live in the medina still don't. The full experience, though, includes a massage and what my people call "the shvitz". After a week and a half on the road, we finally felt clean, and after a tense couple of days in Fez, we also felt very relaxed. It was an awesome pre-Shabbat experience.



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