“Honestly, the dead skin that left my body probably weighed a pound in total.”
This is a quote from my journal entry my first day with my host family in Marrakech. When my sister asked if I wanted to go to the Hamaam, I jumped at the opportunity to see more of the neighborhood and participate in this activity that our coordinator at the school had vaguely referred to as, “the cleanest you”ll ever be.” We packed up clothes, soap and shampoo, towels, and scarves and marched across the derb to the Hamaam. I entered into a room where women and children were in different stages of dressing and undressing. Ichrak told me to start undressing, which I did, stripping down to just underwear.
We moved deeper into the Hamaam, making our way to the furthest and hottest room. Inside, dozens of women were in different stages of cleaning themselves. Mama and Ichrak found a spot for us near the back corner of the room and, after rinsing the floor with water, laid down a mat and told me to sit there. I sat and watched, surprisingly comfortable in the warm (physically, very hot) and open environment, as Mama and Ichrak prepared the buckets of water and began telling me how to proceed.
I first drenched my whole body with water from the bucket, then continued by rubbing Moroccan black soap all over my body. I truly felt like I was buttering myself up as I lathered on the silky soap. I washed it off and was handed a thin wash cloth. The cloth was rough and fit over my hand, used to viciously scrub the dead skin from my body. You would truly be amazed at how filthy my skin looked, coming off in little grey balls as I scrubbed. Mama and Ichrak helped scrub my back, which felt equally soothing and embarrassing as I knew that they must be seeing the truly horrifying amount of skin leaving my body, though it also felt like a massage. We continued this, rinsing and repeating. Soon after, I washed my hair and cleaned and rinsed my body with soft, sweet smelling soap. During all this time I was incredibly hot, having to take a break and move to a cooler room for a bit. It truly felt like my body was being pushed to its limits of cleanliness in all facets.
Mama and I went out to the dressing room. There, I was amazed to find that all the women, who had just been in the same sweltering hot sauna that I experienced, were piling on layers of flannel pajamas. One woman asked incredulously if I was going to go outside with only one long sleeve and one sweater. After, I felt that was our coordinator had said about the Hamaam was indeed true, I had never felt cleaner in my life. I learned a lot of things from the Hamaam, some of which I will list here:
- In Morocco, there is no such thing as too hot, only too cold. At least in the Winter.
- There is no better way to feel immediately bonded with a person that to have them aggressively scrape the dead skin off your body.
- Sometimes cleaning yourself is a workout.