After my prude showing in Budapest, I knew I HAD to visit a Hamam while visiting the intoxicatingly colorful and wild Morocco.
Besides, “Losing inhibitions” is on my Bucket List.
On the ferry to Morocco, once I arrived in Chefchaouen, and on my walkabout in Fes the following day, I was dead set on visiting one of the fabled tiled enclaves.
With my faithful and free guide (“I like you, you have a nice smile. I will walk you for free, no money … I will keep you company,” right …) by my side, I navigated a Berber pharmacy and stocked up on of the goodies I would need for my bath later in the day: ghasoul; black soap (a shampoo/body wash you let heat up in a little water until it looks like ice cream, then wash wash wash your hair); and a scrub which fits over your hand like a glove.
Then, back I went to Hotel Cascade to gather my towel.
And I was off.
We walked into the hamam near Fes’ main square, and the bargaining began. Each time a price was offered by Sayid (he was handling the negotiations in Arabic), an older woman, black scarf wrapped tight around her head, mouth with missing teeth slightly agape, peeked through a large wooden door from the bath. I could only imagine what lay beyond her face … a large body sitting on a creaky old wooden chair, guarding the door to the hamam.
She’s sizing me up.
When I was told 50 dh was the best offer, I obliged.
When I walked through the door, it was nothing like I had imagined.
First, the older Muslim woman was what my friend, Ginny, would call a “mama.” You know, one of those women on the street who looks out for you if you’re a female traveling alone.
And, aside from the scarf, she was completely naked minus the pair of wet nude color underpants she was wearing.
Wasn’t expecting that.
She began speaking French to me, guiding me through the sopping wet white and blue tiled floors lined with dark wood benches, the heat already making my skin bead with sweat. We stopped up a slightly raised area where there were ancient, hand-carved wooden lockers lining the ceiling, more benches below, and an even older Muslim woman sitting, again topless, in front of a tiny change box.
My guide held up her hand, palm open.
Ah, five durhams to have the lady watch my clothing. The last thing I wanted was someone stealing the American girl’s clothing, leaving me to run nearly nude through the square.
I handed over the money and stood there.
Take it off, D. Take it off.
The woman who would bathe me stood, waiting for me.
Take it offffffff.
I breathed in, lifting my dress above my head and stood their, clad only in my sports bra and pair of undies.
Good first step.
I hesitated. And then, I went for it, discarding my sports bra and walked towards the woman and the bath area. Arm wrapped somewhat around my chest … I wasn’t quite ready yet.
We entered into the main bath room where woman of all shapes and sizes sat on little plastic stools, dumping buckets of water with varying temperatures on each other, scrubbing each other, merrily chatting in languages I didn’t understand.
The woman gestured for me to sit down on the tiles and I did.
Wearing undies and sitting on a wet, wet floor is not comfortable.
And, then the bath began.
First, it was a bucket of semi-warm water, then soap all over me, then scrubbing my skin nearly raw.
Her boobs hung in my face, her hands cleaned nearly every part of my body.
At one point, when she had my lay down on the floor, I couldn’t help but smile.
I was nearly naked, being scrubbed down by another nearly naked woman in Morocco.
I left the bath cleaner than ever and with another item checked off of my Bucket List.