WHEN IN MOROCCO....TAKE A BATH!
I was literally submerged in one fine Moroccan tradition. The Hamman Bath. I had no idea of what I was getting myself in for because I only focused on the words "great skin." So while our esteemed tour guide, Hasan, was extolling the virtues of the Hamman Bath, I sat in the back of the bus cloaked in a comfy daydream of smooth, glowing skin... all the imperfections scrubbed away.
So I signed up.
The Hamman was a specialty of the hotel where we were staying in Marrakesh. The spa was located in the labyrinth of the hotel's bowels. It felt as if I were traveling back in time as I descended the cold, stone steps for my appointment.
A beautiful Moroccan woman greeted me as I entered the spa. She directed me with more gestures than words to a women's locker room where I was instructed to remove everything and put on a bathrobe. I stowed my belongings in a small locker. The tiny paper panties were so hilarious, I actually took a picture of them to share a laugh with mom.
So clothed in only a bathrobe and paper undies, I was escorted by an unspeaking attendant to a room I could only describe as a Raiders of the Lost Ark destination before they demolished the movie set going after the bad guy.
The focal point of the subterranean room was a glowing center pool flanked by tall carved pillars. It didn't take much imagination to see minimally clothed sultans frolicking with their favorite consorts in the warm waters. I longed to test the pool with a dip of my toe, but the attendant directed me to one of the lounge chairs located in a stone alcove. I reclined and tea was brought. There was one other cocoon-wrapped individual in the room. But across the pool I could only seen the faint white outline of the body apparently also enjoying tea before their appointment.
Red, blue, and gold lights flickered. Only the trickle of water could be heard. All other sounds sucked into some genii's box. I itched to get up and explore the small rooms, dark stone corridors, and pool, but fear of the unknown kept me planted. This whole experience had taken on an other-world vibe that I decided to just float away with it.
After about 15 minutes, another silent attendant floated in and silently beckoned me to my feet. I followed the woman down a stone passageway to a small door carved in a rock wall. She opened the door and motioned me inside. I found myself in a tiny anteroom where the ceiling was just above my head. Everything was rock and there the room was devoid of any furnishings or decorations. It was as plain as a monk's cell. Unsure of what to do, I turned to my guide for instructions.
Without speaking a word she reached over and began to untie the bathrobe. "Hey, its cool, I can do that," I exclaimed. It was pretty obvious she spoke no English because she just looked up, smiled, and tugged the robe off. Well, I figured she's seen it all. So I probably wasn't the most shocking specimen to stand before her. Plus this was apparently all part of the ritual. She motioned me through a curved doorway which sloped downward into a hollowed out stone room. There was a large rock slab, small sink, and beaten copper bucket inside. That was it.
I wasn't sure what to do so I sat on the slab dangling my feet and watching the woman turn on the spigots and fill up the bucket. It was soothingly warm in the room. The rock was dry, but steam drifted near the ceiling. The whole room seemed to wrap me up in a comforting embrace.
Then. All. Hell. Broke. Loose.
The attendant smiling graciously walked over and dumped a five gallon bucket of water over my head. Water sluiced down everywhere. I gasped and cleared the water from my eyes. Looking up I could see she was already back at the sink filling up for round #2. Which came just as unceremoniously. Kerplop. Right over the head. Seriously didn't she realize I had mascara on? Waterproof or not, I was headed for the zombie queen look which, truth be told, would probably fit into my environs.
Filling fully saturated, the attendant then motioned me to lie on my back on the stone. I settled in and was pleasantly surprised to realize it was heated. So blissful. Back at the sink, manning the bucket, the attendant was again filling up. This time she took the bucket and splashed it up through my feet encompassing me entirely. When I was describing this process for my mom later, she wryly commented, "Well it sounds like the tide went in, but never came out." Spot on, mom.
After very being thoroughly soaked, the attendant applied their famous black soap all over. Legs, arms, torso all covered in the stuff. Then she disappeared. I imagine at this point, I was expected to give myself over to the moment and fall into a mediative state. Instead all I could think of was that I was lying in a subterranean room and if by chance the whole thing caved in, I was a goner.
While contemplating my demise, the attendant waltzed back in with looked like two huge black oven mitts over her hands. And then she scrubbed me within an inch of my life. I could now understand about that glowing new skin promise. I had nothing left of the old skin. The sensation was a cross between a satisfying scratch to borderline "umm that's enough" feeling. Then my shiny new body was coated in a soft cream and once again my attendant disappeared.
This time I studied the shadows on the walls. With dim lighting, there was plenty of see among the stone squares. Just when I decided I had sufficiently freaked myself out, the woman returned. Again I was doused with warm water and she scrubbed my head too. After that, I was motioned to stand up and belted back into the bathrobe.
Back in the pool area, I lounged again with a sweet glass of tea. I had opted for the royal treatment, so my next stop was a back massage. Before long I was escorted through another stone corridor to another room. This time the room had more of the usual touches you would expect at a masseuse. The only bit of comedy here was that I (because of the drug I'm on to prevent the breast cancer from returning) have scorching hot flashes. In the middle of getting my back pummeled, I experienced a sizzler. I felt the woman's hands slowly raise off my back. I look over and she had stepped back from the table with a confused look on her face. "Are you okay?" she asked (in English!). I nodded to the affirmative deciding not to explain about my superhuman powers to ignite my body into a blow torch probably capable of heating water in thirty seconds.
She nodded and continued. Gradually the heat ebbed away and she relaxed.
Feeling very coddled, I returned to the women's locker to fetch my belongings. I looked like a drowned rat with raccoon eyes, but I felt dreamy. My skin did indeed look miraculous. I would say like a newborn baby, but we all know that would be a huge stretch.
Of all the folks on the tour, I believe about three quarters of them experienced the Hamman Bath. When we reached our next hotel on the trip, our guide was besieged with requests to set up more of the Hamman Baths.
I declined to undergo the experience for a second time.
Simply nothing could beat the first time.
Coming up next: Putting Goats in a Tree for the Very Finest Skin Care!