Posted by: Merrilee | January 12, 2010

It’s a Man’s World…except in a Hammam

By all appearances Morocco is a man’s world – in the mosques, the streets, the public markets, the cafes.  My perception of this changed one day when my Moroccan friend Wafa and I entered the private world of a female hammam (public bathhouse) to have a thorough soaking.

We came well-armed with buckets, a plastic stool, soap, shampoo, and scrub pad.  We deposited our other possessions, including the clothes on our backs, just inside the entrance.  I felt like I was entering some sort of secret sorority.

There were three small rooms for bathing, each hotter than the one before (see dome in picture on right).  The lights were dim; steam filled the air; the second and third rooms were packed.  Women, stripped to their underwear, were sitting on plastic stools and mats.  Small children joyfully ran naked. The deafening sounds of excited voices bounced off the barren walls of stucco that arched to a beautiful tiled dome in each room. This was the oldest hammam in Morocco, Wafa said.

It seemed that other than bathing, the favorite pastime was gossiping with friends while gathered around the hot water spicket in each room which spewed endless hot water into waiting buckets. Many a smile came my way.  I was clearly perceived as an outsider here.

Shortly after we left the hammam at 6pm it was to be transformed into a man’s world for the evening.  Wafa said that many women who were there that day (for hours) will return the next day when it again becomes a female hammam.

Now when I encounter veiled Moroccan women, I smile at them knowingly and say to myself —- you who hide behind your veil – I have seen your face, shared your smile, enjoyed your laughter.  You are beautiful.



  1. Thanks for sharing! That’s a place I would never get to see 🙂

  2. loved this description – so vivid – I could really see it
    thanks for sharing Merrilee.

  3. Hi Merrilee, just to say I’m very much enjoying reading about your travels, steam baths and marriage proposals … thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts and by the way, happy new year!

  4. On my trip last year, one really hot tiring day ended in a hammam. I was unsure if I would like the experience as I’m not big on massages. But the heat and scrubbing and camaraderie were wonderful. The local women thought we were really funny as we figured out the process. You will probably enjoy this many times.

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