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Yes Sir To The Hammam


If I hadn't been there myself, standing only in the buff, I would never believe it. Marrakech's, legendary hotel, La Mamounia, is noted for many things – glorious art deco lobby, signature art deco furniture, trickling mosaic fountains, magnificent gardens, poolside restaurants and other fine gourmet eateries, the hotel where Winston Churchill came for a respite, a list of celebs that frolic in this colorful Moroccan city and there's the spa. The first hint that perhaps it would do my skin a duty was when I used one of the many hotel amenities – a loofah mitt. No big deal, I thought then, but this was a mitt with wow power. So I booked an appointment for an hammam, a steam bath with all the trimmings. It was a hot sticky day, I had done the souk in the morning, spent mucho dirhams here and there helping out the local economy, and now I wanted to de-stress away from the crowds, dust and temptations.

 

Courtesy of La Mamounia.So down I went to this model of marble splendor. A long narrow reflecting pool stretching the full length of the area with intermittent crossovers was where a largish woman dressed in nurses white met me and who spoke as much English as I did Arabic. In other words – none. However, she must have gotten the drift of my hand signals because I was lead into a small locker room where she motioned for me to take everything off.

I had come from my room, through the elegant lobby wearing the fluffy terry bathrobe trimmed with Mamounia pink, and underneath in my Canadian modesty, a bathing suit and real shoes. None of those equally fuzzy slippers in public for me.

Meanwhile, I've now taken off everything and hang it neatly in a wooden locker which would later take me 15 minutes to open. I now realize with the constant stream of moisture, they were all warped stuck. Big Woman hands me a large towel, which I quickly wrap around myself. Now Big Woman points to a door and when I enter, there is a hunk of a man wearing wet, tight biking shorts, showering down another female guest. In a state of disbelief and frankly astonishment, I feel like a voyeur at a porno palace as he stretches her arms, rinsing them from wrist to armpit then washes down the front and back and every fold known to the female human form.

My first and only thought is, is this going to happen to me and how do I disappear without anyone noticing? No escape. I have to save face

Courtesy of La Mamounia.Josef, (I only learned his name when we became fairly close to each other!) tells me to shower using only water, no soap…yet. So far so good. But not for long. Just wishful thinking and a small prayer. After my fellow hamman-ite departs for cooler and less invasive climes, it's now my turn. Not only am I losing face fast but also my modesty. Josef now takes a handful of a thick olive oil paste mixture, which he proceeds to smear on my entire body, leaving only my neck and face exempt from this goo. He tells me it will make me sweat and it will all disappear while I'm the steam. It does, as does my ego. Still in shock, I stay in the marble steam-filled room where I serendipitously wear the wooden soled shoes provided for the clients. Luckily, it was a wise move, since the floor is like a furnace as is the marble bench. Another bit of quick thinking is to have brought my towel, which has become my security blanket.After 15 minutes, or so, Josef retrieves me from this cloudy mist-filled oven of a room. And the fun begins. There is low bench covered with smart tooled red leather cover. This being Morocco and all, I tell myself, this is a necessary accessory. A towel is put on top and I'm told to lie on my back. When I left the Hamman just minutes before, my face was flaming red. Now, I pale, as I stretch out, nude as the day I was born and not one part of me is covered except a shower cap for my hair. The scrub begins and though I should be flinching, I'm being very Zen and taking myself away from here. Zone out time. From the toes to the neck, Josef, doesn't miss a body part. Then, like a rotisserie chicken, I'm told to turn over and same 'schpiel'. By now, I am totally immune to everything and the only option is to speak to Josef until this so called de-stress thirty minutes is over.

Courtesy of La Mamounia.Josef was born and raised in Marrakech. Hammans and exfoliating are part of the culture, he tells me. When he's not de-sloughing, a chic Chicago guest later told me over drinks (I needed one very badly), he works as a masseur and a mighty good one.

"Sit up," he tells me and I obey immediately. Now facing him, he gets right into my shoulders, back and chest and yes, boobs. Just as fast as it is done, I'm suddenly back into the first room where I am showered down exactly as the former client was. And for the finale, I'm handed lotion, which I start to apply myself only to have Josef continue the spreading. It's soon hosed off with a strong stream of lukewarm water.

Afterward, in my investigative mode, I search out the first woman I had 'met' and ask her opinion about this somewhat intimate session. Without a pause, she admits she loved it almost as much as the after glow that comes along with this abrasive rubdown.

Courtesy of La Mamounia.In retrospect, she is right. My skin feels like a baby's bottom with a nice baby pink glow. I still haven't made a decision whether this is worth the somewhat unusual, humbling experience. But for Josef, it's all in a day's work. Nothing personal. All that for only 3000 dinhars about US$30 and a self help ego boosting session, to boot.

When You Go:

La Mamounia's address is: Avenue Bab Djedid, Marrakech, Morocco.
Tel: 212 4 38 86 00 / 212 4 44 44 09
Fax: 212 4 44 46 60
Email: marketing@mamounia.com

The hotel is 10 minutes from the Marrakech Menara airport. The Casablanca Mohamed V Airport flight to Marrakech is 40 minutes.

From Paris/Geneva, the flight is 2 hours and 30 minutes, and from London/Brussels/ Milan, it's 3 hours.

If you're driving from Casablanca, it's 240 km – approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. From Agadir, it’s 270 km – approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.

After 15 minutes, or so, Josef retrieves me from this cloudy mist-filled oven of a room. And the fun begins. There is low bench covered with smart tooled red leather cover. This being Morocco and all, I tell myself, this is a necessary accessory. A towel is put on top and I'm told to lie on my back. When I left the Hamman just minutes before, my face was flaming red. Now, I pale, as I stretch out, nude as the day I was born and not one part of me is covered except a shower cap for my hair. The scrub begins and though I should be flinching, I'm being very Zen and taking myself away from here. Zone out time. From the toes to the neck, Josef, doesn't miss a body part. Then, like a rotisserie chicken, I'm told to turn over and same 'schpiel'. By now, I am totally immune to everything and the only option is to speak to Josef until this so called de-stress thirty minutes is over.

Courtesy of La Mamounia.Josef was born and raised in Marrakech. Hammans and exfoliating are part of the culture, he tells me. When he's not de-sloughing, a chic Chicago guest later told me over drinks (I needed one very badly), he works as a masseur and a mighty good one.

"Sit up," he tells me and I obey immediately. Now facing him, he gets right into my shoulders, back and chest and yes, boobs. Just as fast as it is done, I'm suddenly back into the first room where I am showered down exactly as the former client was. And for the finale, I'm handed lotion, which I start to apply myself only to have Josef continue the spreading. It's soon hosed off with a strong stream of lukewarm water.

Afterward, in my investigative mode, I search out the first woman I had 'met' and ask her opinion about this somewhat intimate session. Without a pause, she admits she loved it almost as much as the after glow that comes along with this abrasive rubdown.

Courtesy of La Mamounia.In retrospect, she is right. My skin feels like a baby's bottom with a nice baby pink glow. I still haven't made a decision whether this is worth the somewhat unusual, humbling experience. But for Josef, it's all in a day's work. Nothing personal. All that for only 3000 dinhars about US$30 and a self help ego boosting session, to boot.

When You Go:

La Mamounia's address is: Avenue Bab Djedid, Marrakech, Morocco.
Tel: 212 4 38 86 00 / 212 4 44 44 09
Fax: 212 4 44 46 60
Email: marketing@mamounia.com

The hotel is 10 minutes from the Marrakech Menara airport. The Casablanca Mohamed V Airport flight to Marrakech is 40 minutes.

From Paris/Geneva, the flight is 2 hours and 30 minutes, and from London/Brussels/ Milan, it's 3 hours.

If you're driving from Casablanca, it's 240 km approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. From Agadir, its 270 km approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.