January 2, 2009 – Casablanca, Morocco
My perfect New Year’s day: a trip to a hammam, which I’ve been dying to get to! Read: Holy Hamami! This hammam was everything I could hope for…actually it was better. I had been preparing myself to go to the public baths, which would have been about 1/3 of the price, but not nearly as luxurious. But hey, it’s the New Year’s. Time to splurge.
It all started with the disrobing. I had brought my bikini bottoms, just in case. But it was au natural, which was probably just as well, since my bikini is a shimmering turquoise snakeskin pattern. That might’ve scared them. As it turns out, I was the one in for a scare, as I stood naked in the tiled room with steam enveloping me. The attendant, called a tayebas, enters and promptly douses me with buckets of water. I now intimately understand the concept behind waterboarding.
Next, I lie on the tiled bench and am rubbed with drab green muck that looks suspiciously like the especial del dia spinach tapa Mom and I ate the other day. I decide not to taste it. The muck is called saboon bildi and my guide book describes it as an “organic dark-brown olive-oil soap-cum-paste that gets deep into your pores.” Glad I didn’t eat it. Tayebas then goes to work and starts scrubbing me with a kees, a cleaning mitt that reminds me of a Brillo pad. It feels like one too. Seriously lady, what did my arm pit ever do to you?
At this point, my lack of French and Arabic is getting to be a bit of a problem. After a series of heavy sighs from tayebas, I finally get the position right: lying on my side, arm over head and legs bent and slightly askew. This is not a flattering angle for anyone. She goes to work again. She wants me to open my eyes so I can bear witness to all the skin that she’s sloughs off. But, obviously, I know exactly how much skin I’ve lost as my body is now one giant raspberry. I’m starting to think my snakeskin bikini was an appropriate motif since I am, indeed, shedding a second (or 5th – but who’s counting) skin. After several more rounds, I get suds up and rinsed off for the final time and am plopped down on a small stood to get my hair washed. Lava clay, or rhasoul, is applied to guarantee “silkiness” (again, the guide book). I get 3 rinses for good measure. Tayebas now asks if I want a massage. Hell yes I want a massage! I’m about to achieve nirvana!
I get toweled off and head to another room down the hall. I’m handed what I think is a hairnet, but it turns out to be a gauze thong. I’m not sure why all of a sudden we’re into modesty, but I’m in no position to ask questions. My massage starts: my back, my feet, my face, my scalp, my stomach, my breasts. Hey, wait a minute. I don’t remember ever getting a breast massage back home… As my masseuse leaves, I peek at the bottle of what I believe to be rose oil. Instead it reads: “ultrasound oil.” Huh? I’m refusing to believe it’s not rose oil. Another shower and suds-ing and I am shiny and new! The quintessential New Year’s baby in the flesh! Or, what’s left of my flesh anyway.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 4th, 2010 and is filed under Arab Region.