Hammam and Festivals
I would like to visit a hammam when I go to Morocco. What kind of etiquette should be followed? I am female. Also, any recommendations for public and/or private hammam in terms of interesting architecture/tile work/etc.?
What kind of festivals take place in the Spring or Summer? I’m thinking to try to see something cultural not necessarily musical.
You’ll find local hammams throughout the Medinas of every city – there are reputed to be 250 in Fez el Bali alone – so you’ll not struggle to find one. The best bet is to ask at your hotel or riad, though good traditional ones include Hammam Bouloukate in Marrakesh (close to the Jemaa el Fna) and Hammam Aïn Azletzen in Fez.
There’s a definite routine in the hammam, so you may want some assistance from someone at your hotel on your first visit (also often useful in finding the hammam in the first place). It’s customary to wear a swimming costume in public hammams, and to bring your own soap, shampoo and towel; Moroccans often bring a plastic mat to sit on as well, which you can buy in most towns.
Note that there are separate entrances and opening hours for men and women (sometimes different days). Alternatively, many riads have more luxurious in-house hammams, offering numerous types of massages and various other treatments.
Festival-wise, the moussems at El Kelâa M’Gouna (a celebration of the annual rose crop in May) and Imilchil (the famous “Marriage Market” in the High Atlas each September) both make great spectacles, as do the music Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez (fesfestival.com) and the Festival Essaouira (festival-gnaoua.net), both in June.
James Rice from the office recently visited a selection of hammams and wrote an interesting article about the experience. It’s online here:
By contrast, I wrote an article about my experience in a basic traditional hammam in El Jadida. www.farawayvisions.com/behind-the-pla...
I spent 2 months in Morocco living on a small sailing boat with no shower. The hammam was the only place I could wash and I loved them. I used only traditional public rural hamamms and was made most welcome. What began as an experience which lasted an hour, grew to epic visits of 2 – 3 hours. Despite the noise, it felt like a safe peaceful place and it was perfect for meeting local women. It helps if you speak french and even better if you have some arabic.
Women are treated like royalty in the fruit and vegetable markets as traditionally they choose the food for the family meals.
On clothing – cover your arms and legs when in the more rural areas, but I felt much more comfortable staying covered all the time. Loose clothes are cooler and less suggestive. I always wore a scarf (around my neck mostly), but it was handy if you felt the need to cover your head. The ladies in the hamamms will show you how to wear a headscarf properly if you ask. Apparently it’s not seen as the sensible thing to do to go outside with wet hair.
Also, a Moroccan lady told me to wear a tunic/blouse long enough to cover your crotch as this is seen as good practice. I was treated like a lady everywhere I went. Never grabbed, leered or shouted at. Morocco was Magical.
The hammams I wrote about in the article Tim mentions are definitely at the luxury end of the market, so it will depend on whether you’re after an authentic Moroccan experience where the locals go, or whether you want to go all out on pampering. If the latter, Heritage Spa in particular is perfect for easing away your aches and pains. They have some great oils and soaps, and the massage is first-rate.
We’d like to send you a Rough Guide to Morocco. If you’d like to email your address to [email protected], we’ll pop one in the post.