Morocco – Heated Hilarity in the Hamman

A follow up to our experience in Essaouira….

camel-trek-3I have had the good fortune of travelling with this fabulous group of friends, visiting numerous destinations – Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal & of course, Morocco.

Although we enjoy seeing the various landmarks & important sites when visiting a far away land, we also like to step off of the grid a little bit & experience the local culture. This often leads to some awkward or ridiculously funny & memorable experience.

Our trip to Morocco was no exception.

We had read somewhere that when visiting Morocco, one should experience a hamman. The definition of a hamman is a steam room or a Turkish Bath.  From what we had read, we understood it to be a spa-like treatment.

Something that went like this.

Unbeknownst to us, there are varying levels of a hamman.  You can read more about them here.


Women entering a public hamman

None of us were prepared to venture into a public hamman, but decided that we were up for trying one that offered a more private experience.

Making our way down to the front desk of our riad, we inquired about where they would recommend we go, only to find out there was actually one in the riad itself.  Making it very clear that we would like to have treatments separately & privately, an appointment was made for later that day.

Although initially we were all feeling a little uncomfortable about getting naked & being scrubbed down by a complete stranger, thinking this would be a wonderful & relaxing treatment, we adopted our “When in Rome” attitude & decided what the hell?

This attitude is notorious for being followed up with the convincing argument of, “Come on, when are we ever going to have this opportunity again?”

At the appropriate time, we made our way downstairs & were instructed to step inside a small room, containing robes & towels.  This was the extent of our instructions.

Did I mention this room had a temperature of about 5000 degrees?

We stepped inside, feeling a little awkward, but concluded that we were to get into our robes & wait for someone to fetch us for our individual treatments.

After about 5 minutes of sitting in this oven room, we thought we were going to pass out. Confusion, followed by questions of “what are we supposed to do?” began & that is when the inevitable laughter started.

Imagine if you will, four 50+-year-old women sitting inside a 5000 degree marble room, laughter echoing off the walls, all the while trying to compose themselves to a zen like state.

I think you get the picture.

The ridiculousness of our situation led the bravest of our lot to stick her head out of our heat chamber, in an attempt to flag down an employee.  Managing to catch the attention of someone, she was firmly told to get back inside & lock the door.

Standing in the hallway of a riad, as a women, in a robe, is not considered good manners in Morocco.

Being the well mannered, rule following Canadian women we are, we did as were told. Locking the door behind her, laughter erupted once again & visions of a front page story back at home formed in our heads.

“Four Canadian women perish in a Moroccan hamman.  Too scared to open the door, they were found dead in their robes, presumably waiting for a spa treatment”

Hearing water running beyond another door in our heat chamber, we decided this was our next option.  What was behind door #2?  We had previously assumed this was the treatment room.  Cautiously opening the door, we discovered it was an even hotter marble room with the tiniest sink we have ever seen.

At his point I believe we surmised this was a self-serve hamman.

If you read about the various levels of hammans from the above source, you will know that in a public one, women sit naked together, taking turns to wash & scrub each other.  This is common practice for Moroccan women.

NOT HAPPENING” was announced rather loudly, from somewhere in our steam filled room.

After sitting for what we deemed to be an appropriate amount of time to get our money’s worth, we dribbled water over ourselves from the worlds smallest sink.  Someone may have scrubbed my back.

Mustering up some form of composure, with soaked towels & robes, we made a run for it up the flights of stairs back to our room, in the hopes of not being arrested for inappropriate behaviour.

I think we may have each taken a shower.  Separately.  I can’t remember, it was all a fog!

Another one for the books…




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13 Responses to Morocco – Heated Hilarity in the Hamman

  1. Sue Slaght says:

    Hilarious Lynn. Do you remember our Turkish bath experience. Full on treatment in a co-ed environment. Yes different levels are definitely available. 🙂

    • Lynn says:

      I do remember reading that post Sue! I think what was so comical for us was that we were not aware there were varying levels & our expectation was that we were in for a lovely spa treatment. Instead, we were just sitting in this room having no clue what we were supposed to do!

  2. Moritz says:

    Haha, that’s really funny. Hammams are a little tough to use if you don’t know “how to use” them. Some introduction sometimes helps 😀

    • Lynn says:

      Moritz, lovely to meet you! You are absolutely right, an introduction would have been most helpful! Thank you so much for the visit & for the follow:)

  3. Jane Passant says:

    It was nice to hear the whole story….I’ve heard bits and pieces amidst giggles and guffaws as you’ve all tried to get this story out in the past! That will be a memory that won’t fade anytime soon!!

    • Lynn says:

      Jane, even as I wrote this, I kept breaking into fits of laughter just thinking about the 4 of us stuck in this room! So many wonderful adventures with our girlfriends, we are so blessed!

  4. joannesisco says:

    Awkward!! 😀
    … it’s inevitable in unfamiliar cultures 😉

    • Lynn says:

      Joanne, we were literally in hysterics! Not the first time it has happened to us, pretty sure it won’t be the last!

      • joannesisco says:

        With the right company and frame of mind, any awkward moment can be an opportunity for a good laugh!! 😀
        … you are so right, it will certainly not be the last as long as you stay adventurous!

  5. LB says:

    I laughed through out this post, Lynn!! I can almost visualize it, but mostly I can hear you all laughing.
    By the way … you’ve written this with excellent comedic timing.
    Great post!

    • Lynn says:

      Thank you so much Laurie! Every time we attempt to tell this story, we break into fits of laughter & can barely explain it! I am so happy that the hilarity of this moment came out in my explanation!

  6. restlessjo says:

    I’m pretty sure I’d avoid this experience, Lynn 🙂 Difficult to back down when there are four of you though. ‘Immersing yourself’ in the culture?

    • Lynn says:

      These do end up being those moments of our trips that are never forgotten! Immerse would be overkill, more like a trickling drop in the bucket in this case! We laughed ourselves to tears! Still laughing about it each time we recall the experience together!

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