What do you think when you hear ‘Moroccan Hamman‘ or do you not know what it is? Before my trip to Morocco, I hadn’t heard of a Hamman but that never stops me from trying something new. In short, a traditional Moroccan Hamman is a hot steam bath, followed by a massage. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it! But there’s a little more to it, as I found out when I visited my first public Hamman in Essaouira.
After leaving the craziness of Marrakech behind I arrived at my hostel in Essaouira. One of the Moroccan guys who worked at the hostel recommended visiting a Hamman. I had heard about them since arriving in Morocco and I am always up for trying out new experiences.
I honestly had no idea what it really involved but after experiencing my first one it wouldn’t stop me from doing it again. Just next time it will be nice to know what is going to happen!
Arriving at the Moroccan Hamman Essaouira
After walking through the windy streets of Essaouira, we arrive at a door, a lady appears and the guy from the hostel says a few words then disappears. This is a ‘Women only‘ Hamman so the front door is as far as he is allowed. Now I really wish I had learnt a bit more French before arriving in Morocco. I don’t think, ‘Où est la boulangerie?’ (Where is the bakery?) is going to help me in this situation.
I have no idea what she is now saying to me. And unsure whether I am supposed to be getting undressed or not? Eventually, she gets someone from outside to translate what she is saying. ‘Do I want a scrub, massage and a bath?’ Well, of course, I opt for the everything.
‘Do I want a scrub, massage and a bath?’ Well, of course, I opt for the everything.
Moroccan Hamman – What to wear?
Firstly, to set the scene, I am in a small room with stone walls and a low curved ceiling. It could have been an old dungeon, with huge metal chains hanging from the wall. Now, this might be obvious if you have been to a Hamman before. I wasn’t too sure what to wear so I opt for my bikini. I sit nervously on the wooden bench wondering what is going to happen next.
A few minutes later she is back, wearing a pair of huge knickers and a bright purple scarf tying her hair up, that is all. I point at my bikini top, yep that’s coming off. Not a time to be shy!
Moroccan Hamman – here we go!
She smiles and takes my hand guiding me through the wooden door, the hinge turns out to be another huge chain. It’s a small room with a tiled floor and ledge to sit on. I can hear loads of banging going on next door but have no idea what is going on. The Hamman feels very medieval with all the rusty fixtures and fittings on the wall.
She starts by soaping me all over, chatting away in French. I do my best to reply but I can’t seem to remember anything except ‘C’est bon, c’est bon’. Then disappears into the room next door and comes back with a bucket of lovely hot water which she throws over me. Oh, I wasn’t expecting that. Well, I am clean now or so I think!
Scrubbing time at the Moroccan Hamman
Next, the scrubbing begins, it’s very ferocious and she puts all her body weight into it. She is very methodical, using the exfoliating glove first on my arms and legs. Then I’m instructed to lie face down on the tiled floor.
She is scrubbing so hard I can see her boobs swinging back and forwards. She’s definitely more than a double D, that’s all I’m going to say!
Now the one and only thing I was told, was not to have a shower beforehand. This particular day I had travelled via Supratours Bus from Marrakesh and been exploring Essaouira town, which meant plenty of sun cream had been applied along with some sweat, nice!!
It is now, whilst lying practically naked on a tiled floor I have that embarrassing moment. She is doing some serious scrubbing, it feels like layers of skin are coming off and all she keeps saying ‘whoa’, not just once but over and over again. I am not really sure what to say, so I smile and nervously laugh. That always works when you have a language barrier.
Then I am lying on my side, the scrubbing continues. She is scrubbing so hard I can see her boobs swinging back and forwards. She’s definitely more than a double D, that’s all I’m going to say! It’s a very surreal image, I am not really sure where I am supposed to look!
Are you visiting Marrakesh? Read my Marrakesh Guide including tips for solo female travellers
What’s in the Hamman room next door?
After the scrubbing has finished, it feels like an hour at least. I am lead into the room where all the banging has been coming from. I am pleasantly surprised to see about 6 other women and a little girl sat with buckets of water and scrubbing themselves. The banging had been coming from the buckets being thrown around.
The Hammam is an important part of Moroccan culture. In Essaouira and other cities, they visit their local Hammam at least once a week spending a good couple of hours there. Unlike when they are out in public, the Moroccan Hamman is the complete opposite and the women are far from shy with each other Catching up on gossip with their friends, and following the long rituals for cleansing their bodies until their skin glows. They will usually go with their friends or family, both to chat and socialise, but also to help each other with the ritual.
I’m given a few bowls of lovely hot water so I can wash my hair. Then back on the tiled floor whilst she gives me a massage and then does some stretching.
Finally, back into the room, I started in. I have my very small travel towel, it’s about the size of a tea towel. She finds that very funny. Well, I am glad I can provide some entertainment.
The Moroccan Hamman is something I could definitely get used to on a regular basis. I can honestly say I feel totally refreshed, my skin feels amazing so smooth, I can’t stop stroking my arm!! This 2-hour experience only cost me Dh120* ($12) and I got to keep the exfoliating glove. Make sure you add this to your list of things to do in Essaouira.
Becky’s Tips for your first Moroccan Hamman
- Remember to take with you bikini bottoms (of course, you can go without if you want to), a towel, shampoo and conditioner.
- Leave your valuables at the hostel/hotel. As you guessed this is not a place for cameras.
- Don’t worry about showering before you go.
- And lastly, try not to be too self-conscious, this is the Moroccan way so enjoy it 🙂
*Price correct at time of writing
Do you have any more questions about my Hammann in Essaouira? Ask me any questions in the comments or send me a message via my Facebook page.
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