When I recently set off with some mates, to take a look at the deserts in the south of Morocco, paying for a chap in nothing but a pair of baggy grey Y-fronts to sit on my chest wasn’t something I had made plans to do. Furthermore, to find myself being washed by another person was something that I don’t think I’ve experienced since the age of three (which most men will recognize, coincidentally as the time when as a boy, you more or less stop washing altogether.)
So imagine my surprise when, once I had overcome the sense of mortification that being an Englishman presents in situations like this, I found that visiting the Hammam (municipal steam baths) in Ouarzazate, was one of the most positive experiences I've had in a while. Initially everything about it, the dark vaulted rooms (there are three interconnected like a Roman Bath, hot - sıcaklık, warm -tepidarium, and cool - soğukluk) with no natural light and partially hidden exits, the intense heat and humidity, the semi naked blokes scattered around ladling water over them selves, all added up to a feeling of pretty serious alienation.
Add to this the gentleman described above, sweating gently in his underwear, and motioning for you to make like a starfish on what is called the göbek taşı (or tummy stone), and you can see that the urge to run screaming into the dusty streets of Ouarzazate was becoming hard to ignore. What rescued the situation was a last minute moment of clarity, when I decided to open my mind to - and enjoy - the sensation of being somewhat beyond my comfort zone. Funny how as you get older it’s harder to do, but it turns out that it’s a really good thing every now and then.
From that point on, I was able to see the Hammam for what it was; a deeply civilized institution and one which everyone else in the room viewed as a pleasurable, but none the less routine ritual. Add to that the unquestioning hospitality with which I, as an extremely large and very white (actually almost luminous, I noticed) foreigner, was treated and it’s no exaggeration to say that I left the Hammam feeling a little humbled. Possibly even a better person. Certainly a cleaner one.
Posted by: Caroline