All the Naked Ladies…

I wanted to include a small glimpse of my cultural adventures in Morocco. Although my study abroad adventures occurred almost two years, this was one of the more memorable of moments I shared with Moroccans and my fellow study abroad classmates. I hope you enjoy reading about my hammam adventure.

July 8, 2013

My day started off per usual. Arabic 101 class at 9 a.m, a three hour break, then another class from 3 p.m.-6p.m. After that, one of our study abroad directors met us to experience  the joys of our first hammam.

Hamman in Arabic translates to bathroom (bathing room).

There are 3 saunas in this chamber (warm, warmer, hot). You walk into this sauna almost completely naked–underwear only–with many other naked ladies. It was interesting, but at this point I felt only slightly uncomfortable.

The basics:

Visuals: a chamber-like sauna; filled with many other naked women of all shapes and sizes

Step 1: Apply this strange looking soap. I later learned that it was olives mixed with henna powder.

A simple Google image–but the point is clear.

Step 2: Rub it into the skin.
Step 3: Stare awkwardly around and let the concoction sit on your body for 5-7 minutes.
Step 4: Wait for torture.

*My apologies for the dramatics.*

Step 5: After the soap is rinsed off, you wait until it is your turn to have another woman scrub you down with rough sponge– to literally scrub off the first layer of your skin.
Step 6: I will spare the details. Let me just say that it was very–invasive. Keep in mind the attire (or lack there-of) of those around me as well as the old woman that was scrubbing me down.It was during this moment that I questioned my life experiences. This woman was not messing around. I’ve never felt so close to another random stranger in my entire life.

After she completed scrubbing me down roughly twice, I had to rewash myself as there were pieces of dead skin hanging off of me. It sounds morbid, I know. However, I left the hammam feeling more clean than I had in my entire life. I actually went back a second time before I left Morocco with two other students. The women didn’t mind that we were the only white girls in the hammam. They were patient and did their best to answer our innocent questions in broken English.

Most people I told were shocked and surprised at the hammam. They couldn’t believe that I actually did something like that and went back to do it again. I studied in Morocco because I wanted to immerse myself in a culture that was wholly different from my own. I wanted to experience life as a minority figure for once. It was eye-opening and inspiring, and I learned more about a culture and a people than I ever had in my entire life.