Peace be upon you eKa CIRCLE
I (M) am now writing from Marrakech in Morocco. A few days ago I have had the privilege of learning a little more about the bathing tradition called hammam. This is an ancient practise influenced no doubt by the Egyptian, Roman and Turkish baths that developed into its own Moorish culture for the Moroccans. The hammam to the western mind is often considered to be exotic and mystical; and that it is.
The public hammam is not only a place for health and wellbeing, but a social place where people of different classes mix to chat while in the steam room. In the old days a different coloured towel distinguished class and it is said mothers often looked for suitors for their sons in the bathhouse, which made me laugh. It is not unusual for the hammam to be close to a mosque as it is also considered a necessity to be washed clean and purified before praying; especially on Fridays for the muslim. For many local homes that do not have the privilege of a modern bathroom the hammam is a place where one would expect to go to be scrubbed clean all over at least once a week. The girls that attended to me thought it was rather funny that I hadn’t experienced this treatment before.
It was quite surprising to me in a country where women are often covered head to toe on the street for religious piety then sit together in a warm spa room naked except for underpants. Most hammam separate men and women if not in different rooms then on different days. Although some spas cater for couples to bathe together. Today there are different types of hammam to cater for the vast amount of tourists and visitors wanting to try this experience. The one pictured smoke billowing is a very traditional bathhouse more often used by locals. Then there are various scales of decadence that one pays for accordingly. The most luxurious is in a palace style environment which is breathtaking to see if you ever have the opportunity think Cleopatra or Queen Esther grandeur.
First you are ushered into a changing room where you are told to undress, given a bathrobe and slippers and then the attendant moves you into a rather warm steam room. The bathrobe is removed and you are told to shower, then you are lathered with a sticky substance made from 100 per cent extra virgin olive oil pureed with black olives and made into a sticky soap like consistency by adding potassium hydroxide. You are then instructed to lie on the warm marble slabs for 15 minutes or so to open up the pores of the skin. In traditional places even to this day the wood fires are stoked underneath the building to heat the marble slabs, this often doubles as an oven for the locals to cook in. I met a man doing this job and a hot dirty job it is, he greeted us telling me that it was the local bathhouse and allowed me to take the photograph. Of course it isn’t customary to take pictures inside any of the hammam. Next the bathhouse attendee literally scrubs you from top to bottom using a loofah type glove called a kessa glove. You feel invigorated and can see the dead skin cells fall off with the scrub. Next you shower and they apply a natural mineral clay found only from the middle of Atlas mountain chain called ghassoul. At the same time a henna treatment is added to your hair and massaged in. Once again you wait lying on the warm marble slabs so that your pores open and the detoxification takes place.
The whole process takes about an hour and then you move to a massage room. This is an added bonus but to try a massage with the popular argan oil is a treat. On a day trip to the seaside of Essaouira I was lucky enough to stop at an argan oil factory to see the women grinding the nuts on stone mills to make this special oil that is now used in many beauty products around the world.
Relaxing music, rose petals strewn (they are ever present in the gardens of Marrakech), a facial using rose-water on cotton wool over closed eyes and what seemed to be a jade roller, a relaxing foot rub and a glass of the ever popular Moroccan mint tea. I would say it rates as a beautiful tradition that feeds the soul in more ways than one. Health, wellbeing, social, spiritual.
Some traditions are just uniquely special, we have much to learn from each other.
love and light
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