The Hammam

You'll never know what 'clean' really is until you spend a couple hours in a Hammam, watching a woman with Herculean strength scrub all the scum and dead skin from your body. The shiny clean, slightly red, and very thirsty look you emerge with, leaves you glowing with happiness; a feeling which slowly dissipates as you witness the 'dirtying' effect of your daily activities. A few months in Morocco and the Hammam becomes an addiction- you just can't get over the 'new born' look and the associated lightness….

So much for the Hammam effect; but before you reap the rewards of your expedition into steaming rooms filled with buckets of scaling hot and screaming cold water- which mixed together provide a soothing lukewarm - you must face the Hammam rituals.

First, strip all clothes, keeping only underwear. No towels allowed, except at the end of the trial, when you retrieve goods and clean clothes in the dressing rooms.

Second, penetrate the succession of rooms and corridors which lead you to ultimate warmth. On a busy day, you'll be careful not to stumble over tens of naked bodies, scrubbing away at their skin, hair, or their neighbor's.

Third, set up camp- laying out stool, buckets, mat and supplies . Sit and watch, waiting for the heat to make way to your shivering body and slowly wrap you in droplets of humidity and sweat.

Fourth, once your skin has imbibed the welcome steam, start scrubbing- madly, strongly, with passion. The skin won't leave unless you give it your best shot. Around you, eyes are watching, making sure you perform the rituals appropriately. If you don't , a 'Hammam woman' will soon be called to the rescue, feeding you through the blades of her painfully strong strokes. Even the most expert of Moroccan women need her help once in while- mostly when it comes to cleaning their backs.

Fifth, listen…. Now this may be tough when you don't speak Moroccan, but the sounds and the laughs around you should give you a good idea of the general topics of conversation. Imagine a nation of women, usually veiled and bundled in endless layers of clothes, happily liberated from the obligations of their public life- free to roam about naked, hair loose, and uncensored. Never ending conversations, songs , lewd jokes- voices bubbling around you, mixing beautifully with the sounds of running water. Traditionally, both men and women are supposed to go to the Hammam to purge themselves from any sexual contact- and sex is definitely a topic of conversation on these premises; though it's rarely mentioned with allusion to impurity!