Bed, Baths and Beyond - The Art of Pampering at a Hammam (Moroccan Spa)

Bed, Baths and Beyond - The Art of Pampering at a Hammam (Moroccan Spa)

Picture this: naked women of all shapes and sizes unabashedly bathing, gossiping and lounging with each other.  I was about 6 years old when I first went to a hammam.  These are public bathhouses in Morocco, in which I briefly lived with my family.  In Marrakech, bathing at a hammam is a social ritual to which we do not have an exact comparison in America.  It most resembles a spa, but not as luxurious as its western counterparts nor as private. Women in Morocco frequent the hammam about once a week and are not as modest as American women at spas.  It might be difficult to comprehend  a room full of naked women massaging each other's breasts as innocent and devoid of sexuality, but this is atypical scene at a Moroccan spa.

The hammam's main room is tiled and steamy.  You can hire a professional bather, but many women scrub, massage and cleanse each other.  Amber colored goo is applied generously to the body, followed by a rigorous exfoliation with loofah mitts.  Everyone has her own bucket of hot or cold water  to douse herself with.  Most women and girls are naked, except for some panties.  It is quite an intimate activity to share devoid of awkwardness.  The women are more accepting of and open about their bodies than many American women.  Imagine if you can, a group of naked women not obsessed with cellulite, saddle bags or stretch marks.

The hammams were my first experience at pampering and it left a lasting impression.  As a little girl, I mostly remembered the amber goo and how soft my skin felt afterwards.  I would often think about the clean feeling I had immediately following a visit to the Moroccan bath.  I was dirty most of the time in Morocco from the dust, wind and communal living.  Even through the mind of a child, I knew a visit to the Moroccan spa felt more than just about getting clean; it felt like a fresh start.

As an adult, I decided to further my education in the arduous (wink) and highly competitive field of becoming a spa aficionado.  I have delved enthusiastically into this area of study, dedicating many hours of research to visiting day spas, traveling to destination spas and reading many complex treatment menus.  I have submitted myself to be the subject of dozens of grueling experimental spa treatments.  I have been wrapped in chocolate in Mexico, had a gin martini facial in Paris, a rose-petal massage in Thailand and Lomi Lomi in Hawaii.  With just a few credits shy of getting my degree, I have my thesis: Pampering is about feeling taken care of.

The stresses of life can be exhausting and we are all guilty at time of biting off more than we can chew, doing too much and subsequently running on empty. In this drained state, we have little to give and often take for granted the blessings in our lives.  The act of being pampered is rejuvenating. It is like refueling.  Going to the spa is taking care of yourself and allowing someone to pamper you.  Spas are sacred temples to renew a sore body, weary soul, a broken heart and a tired mind.

Pampering does not need to be luxurious or expensive to be effective. A natural mineral spring bath can be just as effective as a pricey treatment in Beverly Hills.  Even a short pampering session like a pedicure can go a long way to remove the grime of life that prevents you from seeing the beauty that surrounds you. Take delight in discovering new pampering activities and remember, as a goddess, we must always be working on a Phd in pampering!

5 comments (Add your own)

1. kim, mermaid pin-up wrote:
there must be a hammam somewhere in L.A.
korean day spa's are the closest thing i've heard relating to women shamelessly walking in skin.
have you tried glen ivy hot springs? it's a wonderful place for a day trip, & very affordable.
ciao bellisima's

Mon, May 5, 2008 @ 8:24 PM

2. Annie Dice wrote:
There is a spa in LA like that! My daughters and I go all the time. Its very affordable too. Its just $15 for the spa. They have treatments too that are wonderful. Its an amazing ritual not to mention the condition of your skin when you leave.

Tue, May 6, 2008 @ 11:44 AM

3. Christina wrote:
Reading this made me cry a little. This is something I definitely forget to do more often then I like to admit to. Thank you so much for writing this.

Fri, May 16, 2008 @ 4:06 PM

4. Janice wrote:
Greetings Dolphina! I just watched the Conan video --it was killer funny--ooo that sexy Conan!!! HAHAHA , you were beautiful as always!

I loved this post--the hammamm is so fascinating to me, as is everything Morrocan! One of my creations called "Fitna Goddess of the Dance Turquoise Necklace" led me to write a little piece on the hammamm on my blog, but I really enjoyed reading it from a first hand perspective! Click here for the piece, enjoy!

Fri, August 8, 2008 @ 3:05 PM

5. Janice wrote:
Hello Dolphina! Your bit with Conan was killer funny-- ooo that sexy Conan!!! You looked beautiful as always!

I so enjoyed this post on the hammamm-- I love everything Morrocan! What's interesting is that just two weeks before your post, I created a necklace called "Fitna, Goddess of the Dance Turquoise Necklace" one quiet night while I was home alone and was inspired to write a piece about it on my blog--the hammamm wound its way into it, and I found myself photographing it on pages from Buonaventura's gorgeous book Serpent of the Nile. (The necklace sold the very next day!) (See my "goddessfindings...jewels for the spirit" blog April 13, 2008) So I especially appreciated reading your first hand version here. Keeping writing, it's a pleasure!

Fri, August 8, 2008 @ 3:12 PM

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