This was my first experience with the Moroccan hammam so I did not know what to expect. I worked out upstairs first as I did know one thing, it was pampering, and being British one has to “deserve it”. The mixed workout room is on the first floor at Moving and the spa is downstairs on the ground floor. As you descend the stairs there is a small reception desk for appointments, and the hair and nails salon to the right. The massage rooms are also to the right and down a small hall that leads to a sitting room nicely decorated in soft shades of red and orange, with a large bell glass floor vase filled with fresh, full cheeked, rounded green apples.
Fatima Zora or one of the other lovely ladies at the reception desk leads you to the care of a young woman dressed in white trousers, long white overshirt and white head wrap. She picks up your large brown tweedy basket that is filled with your set of sandals, a pristine, fresh smelling, fluffy white robe, and a soft blue towel.
You enter a room right out of Shahrazade's world of oriental design of deep velvet red cushions embroidered with silver spangles and thread designs that are littered along the individual resting beds (5) that are covered with thick white on white batik spreads and matching pillows for the head. In the center of the room is a set for tea, there are candles, wall ornaments and paintings all set to soothe. The room is full, but not overwhelming. Colors here are all deep and true, nothing to jar the spirit. Here and through out the Hammam are ochre, orange, moss green, deep blue, blue-red, white and black, with the brown wooden pails in profusion to set the background of desert opulence.
The young woman indicated I was to remove all my clothing which she put at the end of the bed reserved for me, putting my watch into the basket, and covered me to my toes in a white linen towel with Velcro closing which she fastened securely and then led me through the caverns and arches of the individual hammam alcoves. Some of the alcoves had naked oiled or soaped bodies laid out in the steam and water. She led me to a small room at the back. She then took the body towel and it was the last I was to see of any covering until I returned to the resting room. This is not a treatment for gooses; you need a strong body image.
I turned to ask what to do next as she shooed me into the room where there was another woman laid out on the marble bench across the room looking very relaxed. I sat on the marble bench and tried to take in all of the room. The feeling of exotic indulgence is infused with the first breath. The odors throughout the treatment were a constant delight. I identified cinnamon, mint, almond, amber, musk, oranges, jasmine and some tangy fragrance I could not identify.
At each end of the marble outcropping where I was seated there were small golden bowls and wooden pails, design circa 1600. The floor and ceiling were stone, the walls, doors, and windows all curved upward to their destination, there are no hard angles here. At the center of the room, which was warm and steamy, but not overwhelming but like a warm blanket, was a fireplace filled with the wooden buckets in all sizes. The heat worked its relaxation on me and I too spread out on the marble quite comfortably and let the pores open, which I am thinking was the idea. Just then one of the attendants dressed in their uniform of black unitards to the knee, t-strap tops and head wraps and sandals entered to take the other woman away and another, Hennea, entered to take charge of me. First she filled one of the buckets with hot water. I was watching intently trying to take everything in when she dumped it over my head taking me quite by surprise and I let out a little yelp.
One of the amazing facets of the entire hour was their ability to have the water at exactly the right temperature. It was hot, but never too much; I don’t know how they did that.
She then covered me in black soap, more like really lovely smelling mud really but mud nonetheless. She asked me to stand and she came just to under my chin, which made for some interesting encounters later, and asked if I wanted the masque to my face. Well of course, I was here for all the experience wasn’t I? When I say she “covered” me in black soap, I do mean all of me. Then there was a short sit in the steam to let the soap penetrate, to help hydrate and nourish the skin. She led me from the room into the larger room outside with the hallway and marble tables off to each side through the arches into the individual alcoves. There were three Americans in there as well, I could hear them talking. I preferred silence as I wanted to really take this in.
Hennea had me lie face down on the warm marble with a plastic pillow for my forehead. Now we see the not only cultural but also genetic differences – my feet hung off the end. There was some general excitement over this. You really don’t have to speak the language to understand, “Merde she is so long she hangs off the end, and where are her toe nails? The toes are wobbly!”
C'est la vie!
Once I was in place she began the scrub, head to end of toes and in-between every place you can imagine with the exfoliation gloves. She then flipped me over and did the other side. This woman has biceps and triceps to make the governor of California weep with envy. It did not hurt, but I have very sensitive pale skin and it felt a bit like having the top layer off, which in truth it was! In between showing me the immense amount of dead skin she had sloughed off, she moved me about to get to every area. She then stood me off the table and in the attempt to rinse my front shot the water right up my nose, which left me sputtering and gasping for air, and all the attendants in hysterics.
Once I was clean and slick she washed down the marble table and sat me back down with my back to her. She then gave me a shampoo and head massage that was as restful as a week in the Greek Isles and smelled like jasmine. I was then spread out again and soaped with a Royal Jelly substance back and front and stood again and rinsed clean. She then put some lovely smelling conditioner on my hair and tied it back. Putting me face down again, after adding a thin cushion covered in plastic over the marble table, she oiled me back and front like a salmon for grilling. Once on my back, she put some mint smelling and cool pads to my eyes and a thick honey masque to my face and left me for I don’t know how long. The room is so warm and smells so delightful that you are entirely comfortable. The other alcoves had emptied by this time and I was alone in my oiled splendor.
After a bit Hennea came back, removed the pads and oil with a hosing down of warm water. I was waiting for the cold shot I heard the three Americans shrieking about but it did not come. (Q said they did it to her and perhaps it is just for Americans? I doubt that…) Instead she led me back toward the front of the hallway and left to get my basket. When she returned she dressed me in the warm and fluffily robe that had that ‘it hung in the sunshine to dry’ smell and a soft blue towel for my hair, and my sandals.
I was laid out on the bed in the relaxation chamber and left to relax. In about five minutes or so, time had rather lost its meaning for me at this point, the young lady who had led me in brought me the most delicious frothy drink of fresh squeezed orange juice and something that made it sweeter and thick.
Afterwards I made my way to the dressing room and dreamily dressed. I agree with Ken (his story later) who said, “There is just really nothing else like it.”
All this for an unbelievable 180 dirhams (23usd, 11 pounds) with a well deserved 20 dirhams to Hennea, and I hope I spelled her name correctly, if not I apologize. I will be back as I now doubt my ability to sufficiently clean myself. My skin felt like velvet and my face was glowing with color to the point I left the Club with nothing but La Mer to moisturize, a touch of lip-gloss and a bit of eyeliner.
james, this is not just for the ladies. Ken, mentioned above, is the sultry English-speaking voice of last week that assisted me in the gym. As it happens he is the brother of the owners and is in from Florida for a month to visit. His jet-lag remedy is 1001 Nights; pretty slick eh?
the photographs are from the link at the top. I am going to get permission to go about the club and get photographs for you at some future date.