Morocco Debrief: The Black Girl’s Guide to a Hammam

All week I’ll be posting about Morocco – here’s the 2nd post of the series! The other posts cover the city of Marrakech, the Sahara experience, 10 things to do in Morocco and how to travel to Morocco for cheap. Stay tuned!

After my sister and I got back from our Sahara Desert experience (which I’ll be posting about tomorrow), we decided that we needed a good spa experience. Everyone recommended we try a Moroccan hammam, which is basically the same as a Turkish bath – there’s just Turkish and Moroccan versions.

The concept of a Moroccan hammam is to exfoliate and cleanse your body. There are local hammams and tourist (spa) hammams. In either type, you’re fully naked (save for a paper panty in some circumstances) in a hot room, sometimes alone, sometimes with other women. The room has a good amount of heat, but it’s not as hot as a sauna or say, Bikram yoga. You are then doused with water from small bowls and bathed. Once squeaky clean, you are then exfoliated within an INCH of your life and that’s your hammam experience.

Sounds simple and pretty straight forward, right?

So my sister and I decided to go to Les Bains d’ Azhara for our Moroccan hammam, as it was right down the street from our riad, Riad Mur Akush. The prices seemed right – higher than a local hammam, but lower than a lot of the other pricier hammams. We paid 200 dh (about $24 USD) for a 45 minute hammam with black soap, a Ghassoul mask, a foot bath with rose petals and short foot massage. Not bad, right?

moroccan hammam

Like most places in Morocco, the interior beauty of a store/hotel/spa is not visible from the outside (there are no windows facing the outside in Morocco, to protect against envy – all windows face internal courtyards). This place was beautiful once we stepped inside. We were given instructions to remove our garments and place them in a locker – we were given the locker key to slip inside our robe pocket. I had done lots of research on hammams prior to our arrival, so I told my sister to put some change in her pocket – a few dirhams, since we may have to tip before reaching our purses again.

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moroccan hammam

moroccan hammam: drink mint tea while getting a foot massage
drink mint tea while relaxing

We’re taken into the room above and given mint tea (gotta love Morocco!) – by the way, this was the BEST mint tea I had in all my days in Morocco. I’m a big fan of whomever made the tea that day. After relaxing with our tea, my sister and I are led into our “hot room”. We opted to do our hammam together since, as sisters, there’s not much of each other we haven’t seen (she used to change my diapers!).

moroccan hammam: our hot room
our hot room

The bath felt wonderful – we had a lovely Moroccan woman who only spoke French get us squeaky clean and give us the scrub down of a lifetime! You think you exfoliate pretty well? I guarantee whatever you do has NOTHING on what that lady did! After scrubbing us, she covered us in ghassoul clay, which felt amazing – the rich, muddy clay made our skin feel incredibly soft.

So why is this captioned “The Black Girl’s Guide to a Hammam”? I’ll get to that.

Due to one woman doing the hammam for both me and my sister, my sister ended up slightly ahead of me in the routine. Here’s a little background on myself and my sister – we both have natural hair, have been natural for 3 years (me) and almost 10 years (her). Recently, we’d both been wearing our hair flat ironed straight. The steam of the hot room had done a small number on our hair – our hair had become slightly curly due to the heat. But imagine our surprise when the woman takes a bowl of cold water and DUMPS it over my sister’s freshly flat ironed hair.

Wait.

So you mean to tell me that after I read HUNDREDS of reviews and tips online – some about things as menial as putting coins in your robe – NO ONE mentioned that part of the bath includes dousing your hair with water? Being as this was our first hammam/turkish/Moroccan bath experience, we had NO idea to expect that.

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The look of utter shock on my sister’s face as the water ran down and thru her hair was worth the price of admission. Sitting there completely drenched, what could she really do? The woman proceeds to vigorously give her a scalp massage with various oils and conditioners. My sister turns to face me and gives me a “Kanye shrug” – what more could she really do?

Once my sister’s hair was sufficiently soaped up, the woman turns to me. Boy did I wish I knew more French! I pointed to the bowl and to my hair and shook my finger no, several times. I was not going to go out like that! My sister said the scalp massage felt amazing, but let’s be honest. If I had prepared for that type of experience, I would have been okay with it. But once my sister’s hair was rinsed, we had no detangling tools, no deep conditioners, no flat irons, nothing! We hadn’t packed anything to be able to do our hair beyond ponytails. And although her hair felt extremely soft post-wash, the next day it felt hard and brittle to the touch.

When we were done with our foot bath (so relaxing), we were led out into the room where we had mint tea for our foot massages. The foot massages were just okay, we could have benefited from a bit more pressure.

Overall the Moroccan hammam experience was relaxing, luxurious and just what we needed after our night in the Sahara. I definitely recommend Les Bains d’Azhara for your Moroccan hammam experience. I just wish someone had told me ahead of time what I’m now telling the rest of you – don’t go to a hammam with your hair done! Hah!

another hot room at the moroccan hammam
another hot room at the hammam

moroccan hammam

moroccan hammam

All pictures courtesy of Les Bains d’Azhara website.

One thought on “Morocco Debrief: The Black Girl’s Guide to a Hammam

  1. Sister chiming in: While the hair washing bit was extremely unexpected, it was very relaxing, along with everything else. I was surprised at how much dead skin (ew!) rolled off. And the washer lady did make a point to show it to us. I guess she wanted us to see that we were getting our money’s worth!

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