Medina and the Hammam

Today Brennon and I meet up with a Moroccan friend and we went to the Medina on a mission for good prices.  Brennon and I had already scouted out the shops we wanted to go to. We have a favorite stop for all of our souvenir needs and it has became our default place to visit. The shopkeepers recognize us and we make small talk in darija, even though they know a tad of English. Shopkeepers always sell things at higher prices tot eh tourists, so it really helped to have a Moroccan with us to help with the bargaining and finding good quality things. 

Brennon ended up getting a shiny silver teapot with an intricate serving tray and a set of glasses, a set good for up to 6 people. We talked the price down to what seemed like a reasonable cost. Brennon paid, we said our goodbyes and then off we went.

After our shopping we grabbed a bite at a little café and had a nice talk with our Moroccan friend who will be going to the U.S on a scholarship in a few months. He’s so nice and I’m really happy that he will get to be an exchange student in the U.S in a few months.

We took a taxi back to our host family and Brennon got out the tea set to show Hamid. He asked him how much he would have paid for it. Hamid carefully weighed the items in his hands, thought it over, and said in French “For the teapot, 40dh… for the serving tray 30dh, for the tea glasses 30dh, 100dh total” Then when Brennon and I stopped laughing at how bad we got ripped off, we told Hamid that we paid 300DH!!! Hamid laughed at our barging blunder and gave a lengthy talk on how he should always come shop with us to get the best prices.  Regardless, the tea set is beautifully and 300DH does seem like a reasonable price when converted to U.S dollars, but apparently nowhere close to the ‘Moroccan’ price.

Our adventures for the day were not over: we finally got to visit the hammam! It’s a traditional public washhouse.  You can bring your own soap, or buy the traditional gooey green/brown soap and you get a washcloth that fits over your hand. You grab a bucket for yourself, strip down to your underwear and enter the washroom.


It’s super hot like a sauna. We waited in the first room while we filled our buckets from the taps. Around the room men being scrubbed down with the hand washcloths by other men, or relaxing against the wall. The first room was super steamy and we started sweating profusely. I guess it was not hot enough so we entered a room further into the hammam where it felt 10 degrees hotter. After taking in the heat for a bit we lathered up with the gooey soap and then rested some while longer before moving back into the first room. (Which felt so much cooler by comparison.) We got a corner in the room where the guy splashed a bucket of water around to ‘clean’ the spot for us, at this point I had already gotten over any qualms about germs. We were showed to lay face first on the tile and then a guy lathered us up with the soap and vigorously scrubbed all other. You kinda had to get over the awkwardness of being scrubbed all over by a complete stranger. After scrubbing all over my back, legs, and arms he smacked my leg lightly and said something in Arabic indicating I should flip over onto my back. There was no gentle thing about it was some serious scrubbing where he put all his effort into it. Every last skin cell that could be scrubbed off was indeed scrubbed off, then some more. After that he scrubbed my neck and face down… I almost think that should have been first considering everywhere else he had just scrubbed. Even though full nudity was too taboo at the hamman (thank goodness!) there was no problem reaching in to scrub almost everywhere. Then, he took the bucket and held it over my head as he doused me in the water while he washed off all the soap.

I thought it was done then, but he came back after filling up the bucket. (If you couldn’t tell already, this was one of those things where you had no clue what order things were to happen or what to do… you just roll with it.) So, he grabbed a bottle of what looked like shampoo and started the process again of lathering soap all over, first pose was on my stomach, second on my back, then sitting up.. of course there were regularly splashes of water from the bucket. Then, he washed out my hair and finished off by dumping the whole bucket over my head.

I had never felt cleaner before ever! My skin is so soft! It did get better after the initial awkwardness of laying on a tile floor in my boxers being scrubbed down all over by a stranger (also in his underwear) passed. The oven temp and the massage like scrubbing were rather relaxing. I want to do it again! It’s really popular here for Moroccans, but I really can’t imagine it catching on in the states…  too bad!


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