Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blogging the hammam!

It is not very often that we find a blogger who really captures the essence of the hammam. But today we got lucky. Our spies alerted us to: The Bruising Adventures of Girl Clumsy! Yes, not only did she go to a hammam - she wrote about it and, seeing she is a Brizzy girl, from OZ, I am sure she won't mind, so... here's an excerpt plus a link to her fine blog.

As I lay face down and half-naked on the warm wet floor - my buttocks being heartily loofahed by an ancient-looking topless masseuse, and being carefully watched over by two nubile air hostesses wearing only G-strings - I thought to myself:

"Well, this is not what I expected to be doing in Morocco!"

I'm talking, ladies and gentlemen, not of a sudden foray into low-budget pornography, but of my Saturday evening in a hammam, or traditional Moroccan bath.

We arrived in Fes - once the capital of the country and still reknowned as its spiritual and gastronomic heart - on Friday night, after a long mini-bus ride up from the Sahara Desert (where we beaten the floods and food poisioning to make an awesome desert sunrise and camel ride). We spent Saturday in the company of Hakima, a famous local guide (she's even listed in the Morocco Lonely Planet), touring the even more famous Fes medina. Inside the walls of Old Fes exist over 10 000 streets. Street is actually a misleading description, as most would struggle to qualify as crawl space, and one can easily get lost, or worse, barrelled over by one of the many donkeys that replace cars as the vehicle of choice for moving merchandise inside the medina.

Our visit included trips to see: carpet-making (my goodness, but the girls are fast with their knot-tying - watching them string their Australian merino wool into memorised patterns was like watching a harpist on amphetamines); the tanneries (where they dye leather after soaking it in a scrumptious batch of pigeon poo); the weaving (pretty scarves made out of cactus silk!); and the herbalist (who made a small fortune out of my love of yummy smelling things for my skin).

So after all that most of the group felt like they needed to relax - it was only as we walked into the hammam to pay that I realised I was the only girl going in. The sexes bathe in different rooms, and understandably I was nervous. Actually, terrified would be more accurate - especially after I realised Moroccan women didn't seem to share my body hang-ups and were letting it all...well, hang out. Boobs everywhere! Once I stripped down to my athing suit and entered the steam rooms, I didn't know where to look or what to do. I had paid 50 dirhams (about 8 bucks) for a steam and a massage, but with my knowledge or Arabic and French extremely limited, I was having trouble working out what I was supposed to do, beynd nabbing myself a few buckets filled with hot water.

Then Allah smiled on me. Two gorgeous young women asked if I would like to sit with them. "Yes, please!" I cried in relief. They turned out to be Miriam and Schiamae, two flight attendants with Royal Air Maroc. They offered me cleansers and shampoos, and made sure I eventually got my massage. While we waited, I asked them about their lives as young Muslim women - they said that Morocco was quite liberal, and they could live their lives as they pleased. This included having boyfriends, although they respect their families by leaving cohabitation until after marriage. They also reinforced the fact that wearing the hijab is a Muslim women's own choice - and that in Islam it's whats in your heart that counts. (Although they did admit that life is harsher in other countries like Iran). I spoke a bit about Australia, and admitted once again ashamedly that I don't speak a second language.

All the while the two girls were topless.

Now I say this not just to be titillating, but to show the friendly social nature of the hammam. It's a place where you can just be - no clothes, no worries. Still, I was clinging on to the hope that I could keep my bikini top on during my massage - even though Miriam had started being pummelled and loofahed all over while we were speaking.

Then it was my turn.

Read the rest here: A Fes to remember!

So, what about the men's hammam?

As luck would have it - our intrepid "Clumsy Girl" had a companion...

Firstly we are told to strip down to our underwear... no swimmers allowed. I unfortunately was wearing, for the first time, a pair of white y-fronts. We all know what happens at a wet t-shirt costume when the ladies wear white? Thank god these pair were thick and new.
We are lead into a white tiled room full of naked or semi naked men and told to sit.

No sooner had my buttocks hit the warm tiles i was drenched in hot water by lanky, wiry, septuagenarian wielding a huge bucket.

He kneels next to me as i splutter and choke and rolls me onto my front. "what, no flowers, no dinner" i think as he starts pummeling, stretching and roughly kneading every limb and muscle group. He twists my knee and pulls on my elbow and i really think this guy would give Triple H a run for his money in a Cage Wrestling Match. He then slaps my thigh very hard. This is my cue to roll over and let him start again on my front. I don't know whether to laugh or cry so i kinda do both.

Read the rest of the story here: Cleanliness or Assault?.



taamarbuuta said...

Excellent find!

Girl Clumsy said...

Hello there, A View From Fes!

I just found this link through - thank you so much! I'm flattered you thought my description of the hammam was accurate and entertaining.

Will keep up with this blog now... I really enjoyed my few days in Fes and hope to return one day!

Cheers, Natalie.

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie,
Let's hope you return and we can have a glass of mint tea together.