A Steamy Adventure in a Marrakech Hammam

Throughout my life, I’ve prided myself on my ability to know when and when not to be naked. But travel, as the Wal-Mart motivational posters say, is about getting out of your comfort zone.

The hammam (Moroccoan bath/massage/minefield for morons like yours truly who don’t know what they’re doing) I went to was the most intro-level hammam I could find. Hamam Lite™, if you will. Usually they’re big rooms where everyone washes together, but I wanted to ease into it – I haven’t been washed by someone else since I was a baby. That is, if you don’t count Jesus washing my soul every day. And I don’t.

Things I learned: when it comes to underwear, yes is generally the answer. Even if the woman motions for you to take everything off and get into the bathrobe, she means “everything” in the metaphorical sense. Otherwise you’re both in for an unpleasant surprise when she takes your bathrobe off to shepherd you into the steam room.

Once the underwear was back on and the universal facial expression for “sorry I showed you my butt” was across, I was scrubbed clean with scalding hot water and a glove made of something like rubbery sandpaper.

They say, “nothing good ever comes without pain.” Not true. I’ve never had a problem with my normal sandpaper glove-free baths.

Then I was covered in towels and brought to the massage room. She motioned for me to get on the table. Robe and towel off? She nodded. Everything off? She nodded again. But I wasn’t falling for that a second time. I don’t know sign language, but I think she was making the sign for “take the underwear off, you idiot.” She even held up the towel to give me some privacy. No dice.

We were two superpowers staring each other down, me the United States and her – Morocco, I guess. Not a superpower now, but we all have to start somewhere.

Then, like Russsia in October 1962, I blinked. Off the rest of my clothing went.

Second thing I learned: once your clothes are off and the employees have left the room, wait for them to tell you to put them back on. I’m used to being chastised for being naked, but not the other way around.

All in all, this experience didn’t just loosen my back muscles. It also loosened the biggest muscle of all: my brain. I am wise now. Versed in the way of the hammam. A true scholar who knows when you must wear clothes and when you must not.

‘Tis the truest of life’s truths: every once and a while you’ll be caught with your pants down. Or worse: your pants up when they should be down.

Epilogue: too much described nudity for you in this post? Same here. But, as my editors tell me, sex appeal sells blogs. That’s how we keep these bad boys flying off the shelves and raking in that blog money. The industry’s not what it was back when Hemingway was blogging, no ma’am. It’s a blog eat blog world out there. (See? Even that. “Puns, Mike. Dog puns, if possible. We need that cold hard CASH!” – Let’s Go head honchos. I am but a cog in the giant e-machine.) I promise next post will be blog fit for the whole family.