In Morocco, the public bath has long been a sort of cleansing ritual performed 2-3 times a week for a millennia. Though there are numerous upscale, more private and intimate spa experiences to be had in every major city in the country, one of the most adventurous ways to get clean for the culturally inquisitive is to head to the local public bath, or hammam.
For just a few dirhams, you can take part in the bathing ritual and be part of a real cultural experience.
The local hammams of Morocco are always inexpensive (generally 10Dh) and cater to the local population. You can still find hammams spread throughout the old medinas of every major city in the country and oftentimes even in the more recently built parts of the city. Though in years past there would have generally been two hammams, one for men and one for women, these days most hammams divide times between genders. Usually, the men are allowed in the early morning until around 11am and again late at night, usually beginning around 7 or 8pm. The ladies have the run of the public bath throughout the day.
Your Moroccan Hammam Guide: Essential Checklist
You can purchase most of the items you might need below around the old medinas in every major city.
- flip-flops or sandals
- a plastic or wood bucket
- a cup (traditionally this would be brass, but any cup will do)
- a towel
- a kis (the scrubbing glove)
- savon bildi (black soap)
- rhassoul (clay soap)
- shower gel or soap bar
- something to cover your lower half (bathing suit or underwear, though keep in mind they might get stained if you’re going to have henna applied or might get stretched out because of the steam)
- a clean change of clothes
- an orange to eat while you are relaxing in the cooling room before you change into fresh clothes
- small change for the entrance fee, exfoliation or massage
Your Moroccan Hammam Guide: How To Hammam
The typical hammam consists of four rooms: changing room, cool room, warm room, and hot room. Usually, there will be someone on hand in the changing room to lead you through the hammam ritual: soaping, rinsing, and exfoliating. They will also vigorously (if not somewhat violently) rub you down for a small charge of 40-50Dh. Most locals opt to do everything themselves, usually going with a friend or family member to have a chat and get a hand for those hard-to-reach places.
When you first enter the steamy confines of the hammam, you will strip down to your bathing suit or underwear and put your belongings in a cubicle in the changing room. The basic idea is to gradually increase the temperature of the air and water as you go from room to room, while washing using your bucket and cup.
Generally, you apply the savon bildi in the cool room and then head into the warm room. Alternatively, you could skip the cool room and head straight to the warm room, where you can rinse and scrub. This is particularly inviting if it happens to be cold outside. Other people skip this progression from cool-to-hot all the way and go directly to the hot room and do everything there while they breath in the steam.
In the end, whatever way you want to do it is fine. As long as you keep yourself covered around the genitals (particularly the guys) you won’t offend anyone. Don’t be shy! Dive in, get warmed up, scrub off a layer of skin, and maybe even make a new friend.
About the Author
Morocco expert, writer and photographer Lucas Peters curates and edits the Journey Beyond Travel blog and pens the JBT Insider’s Guide series. After spending years traveling to the distant corners of Morocco, he wrote and photographed the best-selling guidebook Moon Morocco. He is now based in Paris, where he lives with his wife and son.