Traveling to Marrakech soon and already looking forward to visiting the hammam? Make sure you read this article! (Scroll down to skip the introduction and dive right into the best hammams in Marrakech.)
We wrote about it earlier, the Moroccan hammam. And that one hammam is definitely not the other. That it pays off to read a little into the traditional Moroccan bathing experience as a hammam debutant. As then, for example, you might already discover how they scrub in a hammam so that you don’t get scared on the spot, but instead you know: this is the idea, it’s the way it should be. That, for example, you don’t have to raise an eyebrow when you see Moroccan hammam visitors washing each other thoroughly, because you know: this is an age-old ritual and a token of love between friends and family, which is a beautiful age-old tradition; we can still learn from that.
All right, the hammam. A sometimes spiritual, but always social ritual that has survived a lot of centuries. Logical, because when you surrender to this bathing experience, it’s a wonderful way to get yourself spotless. It’s hard to find a place where you will more clean than in a hammam, according to my Moroccan partner – who here in the Netherlands sometimes complains that he doesn’t feel clean enough after a shower due to a lack of public and therefore easily accessible hammams. In Morocco, it’s a good habit to go to a hammam once a week.
Visiting the hammam in Marrakech
Are you about to fly to Marrakech and are you impatient to immerse yourself in this Moroccan bathing tradition? At your service. We have picked out the best hammams and will explain the differences between public baths, private baths and very posh baths so that you know what to expect when entering one of these.
Basic lesson hammam
Generally, you’ll find three steam rooms in a hammam. Each room has a different temperature. You often start in the hottest steam room, where you can relax and open your pores. You then pour warm water over yourself and wash yourself with Moroccan black soap. Let it soak in for a while before you start removing your dead skin cells and start scrubbing it. Exfoliating is done with a kessa (a rough glove). Afterwards, you can go to a slightly less hot room (you of course don’t have to), rinse yourself and wash your hair. Finally, you rub yourself with oil. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you should either visit a private hammam where you will be completely taken care of, or in a public version, you can approach another hammam visitor (yes, really) or employee. In hammams, men and women are separated.
What’s the difference between a public hammam and private hammam?
What to look out for when visiting a public hammam – or the public bathhouses where locals go weekly and where you shouldn’t have luxury expectations? First of all, they don’t have big signs or fancy websites, you can find them simply by asking about them on the street. Bring your own tools. Meaning: a couple of large buckets to fill with hot water (when one is finished, use the other, while letting one fill up again); a shovel bucket with handle to easily scoop the water out of the large bucket to pour over you; a stool for those who don’t want to sit on the ground; a peeling glove; soap, shampoo, towels and clean clothes. The entrance fee is about one euro. If you want to be scrubbed by a hammam employee, you pay a few euros extra. It is ridiculously cheap. When you are satisfied with your scrub, just give a nice tip.
Next up: the private hammam, where you will be taken care of from head to toe while lying on a preheated marble stone – which sometimes gets too hot or slippery, but then it’s up to you to report it. For those of you who have never been to a private hammam, get ready and surrender. What’s about to happen is this:
– Firstly, you will have to undress.
– Then you lay down naked on a heated marble table in a private room.
– You will think: gosh, I feel like a chunk of meat – and basically, you are.
– Someone enters the room who sprays water on you without notice and then starts washing you thoroughly (even where the sun doesn’t shine).
– Occasionally you get an order to lie down on your side or belly.
– Sometimes you slip back and forth a bit which is indeed uncomfortable.
– Sometimes the hammam employee will help you with turning in a well-intentioned but harsh way.
– You will receive a scrub as if you were a piece of wood that needs to be sanded.
– The bright side: after that you will without any doubt not have a single dead skin cell left.
– You will be sprayed off again.
– You are washed again. Now your hair too. Which will be combed as well. For those with long hair: you will for sure feel that.
– Shampoo in your eye, shit. You don’t dare say anything because you already feel pretty much too much (because cuckoo, someone is scrubbing your body as if her life depended on it and you haven’t been in the shower for at least a year).
– You are rinsed off and rubbed with oil.
– Oh, that feels good! Now that you’re rubbing your hand over your thigh, you think: oh, for heaven’s sake!
– And when the treatment is almost finished – take two hours for it – you, as a prudish westerner, finally dare to relax and surrender. You’re feeling how gloriously rosy you are and how delicious everything actually smells.
– Good, so then the treatment is finished and the drying and dressing is done. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and see a radiant skin with a blush you haven’t had in years. You will think: how pleasant is the hammam! And then right after: someone please give me some water.
Finally, there are bathing palaces which you often find in super luxurious hotels and which are actually just five-star spas but with beautiful Moroccan architecture.
Best hammams in Marrakech
So by now, you know a little bit about what to expect in a public and private hammam. Let’s list the best hammams in Marrakech to try out.
Hammam Mouassine in Marrakech Medina
Type: public hammam
Note: Hammam Mouassine is the oldest public bathhouse in Marrakech and you will find it the heart of the medina. You will be served fresh mint tea and, if you ask for it, a helping hand of an employee when scrubbing. Also possible on request: a rhassoul clay wrap.
Price: The prices in Hammam Mouassine range from 10 to 250 dirham (converted; between 1 and 25 euros) – it just depends on which treatments you want.
Les Bains de Marrakech (Medina)
Type: Private Hammam
Note: Les Bains de Marrakech can also be found in the medina and is very popular amongst tourists. You have rooms with two baths, so you can bathe as a couple – a unique hammam concept and ideal for family, couples and friends. Book in advance.
Price: converted between 20 and 45 euros.
Hammam de la Rose
Type: Private Hammam
Note: Just like Les Bains de Marrakech, Hammam de la Rose is very popular amongst tourists. It’s a cozy kitschy furnished hammam with all the hammam comforts, where you can choose from a lot of treatments.
Price: converted between 25 and 100 euros.
Type: Bath Palace
Note: Those who do not shy away from excess and have enough holiday budget, are welcome at La Mamounia. It’s a bit expensive, but you for sure will get something special. The best hotel in the world, according to the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Winston Churchill agreed with the words: “The loveliest spot in the whole world.” And what’s good enough for Winston is good enough for us. The spa is so beautiful you would almost drown in it. Don’t do that. Its architecture is inspired by Moorish and Berber culture. There are plenty of treatments and when you’re done, it’s great walking around in the beautiful lobby (make sure you’re presentable).
Price: converted between 110 and 190 euros.
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