The hamman is the public bath, and at the same time it is a resting place and a place to socialize and engage in gossip and  hold political and social meetings.

Certainly the origin of this custom originates from the Islam recommendations about the mandatory ablutions, as these imply the cleansing both of the body and the spirit. Water in the Islamic world is a fundamental element, a divine gift that symbolizes purity and wisdom.Hamman Al Alba

In Morocco there is a hamman in every neighbourhood. It often shares the heating facilities with a bakery. Usually, there are hammans for men and for women, but there are also mixed hammans which have the days and the hours booked up in an alternative way and  have two doors, one for men and another for women.

In the medinas, there are some old bath houses still functioning, with traditional architecture, entirely covered with “zel-lig” (glazed tiles) and with a water fountain in the middle. The more modern hammans are unpretentious, although they imitate the old ones. They usually feature three interconnected rooms through which the bather passes gradually to different environmental temperatures. In the last room, the hottest one, a small cistern receives a jet of boiling gushing water. Next to it there is another cistern with cold water. They have hot and cold water taps where the bather can fill the bucket with hot water mixed with cold  to their liking and another tap exclusively with cold.

It is advisable, if we have time, to go when there are fewer people, usually before noon, from Monday to Thursday. It is more comfortable and relaxing, although less authentic.

Hamman Al Alba

It is imperative to take with you a bath towel, a pair of flip-flop shoes, a swimming costume and a small mat to sit on and whatever you normally use in a shower (shampoo, conditioner, razor, etc…). It is also advisable to take with you something to cover yourself, if you don´t want to catch a cold.

When you buy the ticket you can also buy soap (bildi) and a scratchy glove to scrub your body. We must inform them, if we wish for someone to assist us with the bath, and to give us a massage and help us with the stretching. (The tayabastes for the women and the kyassas for the men).

After changing and hanging our clothes in the changing room, we are given two plastic buckets to carry water. We pass through the cold and lukewarm rooms and enter the last room, which is the hottest. We fill the buckets. We mix, to our liking, the bucket with hot water and with cold; we pour some water on to the floor we are going to sit on and begin to get hot. If our body can stand it we lie down on the floor. After a few minutes rest (10 minutes is enough) we pour over ourselves the bucket with the hot water to dilate the skin pores even more, and afterward we pour the bucket with the cold water to contract the skin pores and expel the toxins. If you are in no hurry and are feeling fine, you can repeat this process.

When we decide to leave the hot room we refill the buckets and move to the second room, the lukewarm one. Once more we pour some hot water on the floor and immediately we smear our body with the soap we bought at the entrance. We clean with hot water and again with cold. We then proceed to scrub down, vigorously, from head to toe, with the scratchy glove until our skin turns red. Again, we clean with hot and cold water and, if we haven’t hired an attendant to give us a massage and to help us with the stretching, we move to the cold room where, for a few minutes, our body loses heat.

Hamman Al AlbaTo carry out all this process, especially the soaping, the pouring of water and the scrubbing down of our skin, it is practical to do it in pairs or to ask the help of the masseurs. It is also advisable, on our first visit to a hamman, to go with someone who knows the ritual and who can help us with the scrubbing or the pouring of water. Otherwise, ask for the help of the masseur.

With respect to the massage and the stretching, it is important to point out that these are not performed by physiotherapists and therefore, those who have any health problems should abstain. Furthermore, if we are not accustomed to the massage, it is necessary to tell them not to be too vigorous when doing it. After observing, for the first time, how they carry out their work with other bathers, then we will get a good idea of what we are saying.

If we can, it is advisable to go there when there is little activity. The working days and early in the morning is the best time to go. Ask the hotel assistants who will advice and clarify any doubts you may have.

Women usually plaster their bodies with homemade potions and remedies, they depilate and wash their hair with a soapy clay diluted in rose and orange-flower water.The use henna to dye it and to strengthen it. After leaving this potion on their heads for hours or days, they usually to remove it during their stay in the hamman.

Deep down, in the hamman one takes advantage of the excuse of personal hygiene for what amounts to a personal relaxing pleasure.