Marrakesh is bewitching, but boy can it wear you out: the sun is unforgiving, it’s noisy and dusty, you’ll get lost in the medina more times than you can count, and everyone seems to have something to sell you. Stepping out from the tranquillity of your riad into the heat of the street can feel like entering a gladiatorial arena. To keep your sanity and stay refreshed, you will need pampering, and lots of it.
Fortunately pampering is something Marrakesh does very well. The hammam, or Turkish bath, is something most locals indulge in at least weekly, and if you want to sweat away your troubles and get the scrubbing of a lifetime, there’s nothing better. By all means go local if you fancy it (the Hammam es Salam near the Menara gardens is recommended), but be warned that some of them are a bit rough and ready. If you want some five-star spa treatment, or if you’re a couple and want the experience together, read on for what to expect in the best private hammams.
THE SPA HAMMAM EXPERIENCE
When you arrive, the first room you’ll be shown is the least glamorous: the changing area, where you strip down to your boxers (or bikini) and don a robe. Then you head to the hammam itself, a dim and humid room with walls of tadelakt (a kind of waterproof lime plaster). Through the steam your attendant will point out a slab to lie face down on. The fun now begins.
Initially you’ll have warm water sloshed over you from a bucket, after which the attendant will lather you with black soap scrub, the scent of which varies by spa; eucalyptus and bitter orange are the most common. So far so relaxing, but while you’re not looking the attendant will don a loofah glove and begin to vigorously scrub off all your dead skin. It’s a bit like being sandpapered; your pores won’t know what’s hit them. Finally, you’ll be coated with ghassoul (a natural mineral clay mined from the Atlas mountains) and have your hair washed, before getting sloshed again from the bucket.