Hammams are communal baths which are found throughout Morocco. There is one near the hotel we're staying at here in Essoaira and this afternoon I went for a visit. I'm still reeling from culture shock! First walking around the streets of Morocco I've only seen women veiled and draped...and suddenly in the Hammam, my eyes do a double-take as I walk into a world in which the children are completely nude and the women are wearing just panties. Altogether it seems that Moroccan women actually have a greater degree of comfort with their bodies than most Western women! I was guided into a room in which most of the women were either scrubbing themselves or their children. Being new at this I was assigned a washing assistant. First I was handed a slimy piece of brown soap and instructed, in sign language, to lather myself up. Then buckets of water were poured over me.
Next my assistant put on a very abrasive glove and began to exfoliate my arms, legs and feet. She was really rough and at moments I would motion for her to stop. Then she began scrubbing areas I've never scrubbed before like the sides of my neck and under my arms. No parts were left untouched as she grabbed at my breasts and well under my panties..
Then my hair was washed and combed into a Berber style with a plastic head massager. Finally I was led into another room and told to lie on my back. She virtually got on top of me and started to pull at my arms. This was part of a massage which included lots of pouncing and grabbing, smacking and twisting. In that no one seemed to be concerned about what she was doing to me, I figured it was all standard behavior. Eventually she began pouring pitchers of water on me--I joined in and poured water on her...I was almost tempted to slap and pull at her, too--just to get even!
I left in a culture-shocked daze...