Sunday, April 29, 2007


In a backstreet, somewhere behind Central Station suddenly there is a house with colorful mosaics around a delicately carved wooden door. The recent alteration flows nicely on the facade of an old art deco building. Through the curved entrance you come upon clean, clear, uplifting tiles and a bunch of Moroccan women. My daughter is initiating me in the ways of the hammam. Bring a large towel, soap, shampoo, a scrubbing mitt, a bowl to poor water and dry underpants. A pair of plastic slippers is also useful. Yes, it is a bathhouse. Sundays and Wednesdays it is for women only. There is a convivial atmosphere of mixed ages, body forms and languages yet all sharing the same purpose: getting clean in a pleasant, relaxing way. There is ease at being among women, no shame, no exhibitionism, most keep their panties on. There are three different steaming rooms, the first one cool to acclimatize, half way and hot. Everyone has a big bucket and a tiny plastic stool. Before starting, you work up a sweat by sitting and talking in your temperature comfort zone. All come in pairs since talking and getting your back scrubbed is an essential part of the procedure. The hammam is totally tiled; water running, being splashed, poured, dipped into. The noise level is amazing in this welcoming atmosphere with a no nonsense kindness. There is time for henna in the hair, for shaving superfluous hair, cleaning up and out the worries of the week from body and soul. After a good long soak, the second phase is scrubbing starting from one’s feet working upward, to end at one’s heart. The longer you scrub and soak and rub, the more dead cell layers will be removed. If you get too hot, go to the first room for a relative cool down, there a lady earns a hard won living by scrubbing women thoroughly when asked. They comment on the amount scraped off under general laughter. There is pride in shedding one’s skin. The women talk, move around, hot buckets of water are emptied over the head of a friend or a family member. Watching the others, we are adviced to get some olive based peeling soap. After all the soaking and scrubbing it feels sweetly soft and gentle, but low and behold after a while one gets rid of at least three more layers of the old husk of oneself. It was at my daughters suggestion to do this today, to rinse off, peal away part of my old life to be fresh and really clean with a new sensitive, open skin for my birthday and a new start tomorrow.


  1. Well written. I could almost feel the layers falling off. I had almost the same feelings when I was going to the sauna and hot tub at the Y. I find it strange that we can be so private and yet get naked in a communal place to bathe. My wife and I hope to travel to Morocco to see our friends some time this year. MUD

  2. hehe, slapeloos nachtje, lees je blog. heerlijk vind ik het stukje over de hamman. je lichaam schoonschrubben met als resultaat een mentale zuivering, eem nieuw begin. benmet mijn dochter in b. naar een mooie (schotse) film gaan kijken, red road, van adrea arnold.

    duizend tv-avondjes waard!!