Canadian Versus Moroccan Women

Being conservative in Morocco and being conservative in Canada mean two very different things. After a long day of classes a group of us decided to treat ourselves with a trip to the hammam. It is relatively difficult to find recommendations online in Morocco so we asked our host mom (lala) where she would recommend we go. She insisted on taking us to ensure we were charged the normal price because often when foreigners go to the hammam the prices are doubled. At the hammam you have a choice to scrub yourself (or with the help of a friend) or pay a women who works there to scrub you. We wanted the full experience so before lala left she arranged for each of the five us to have our own women scrub us.

After everything was sorted, lala left us half naked (in the equivalent of a bathing suit) sitting confused in essentially a large steam room. A women walked over to each of us and began yanking off our tops. We were shocked and confused. Through a rough game of charades we determined that it was required to have nothing but bottoms on, at the most. The women looked almost insulted at the fact that we felt uncomfortable removing out tops. After a few loud shrieks and resistance the tops were off and the women began vigoursly scrubbing us with what they call a kessa and black soap. In the end the experience was very rejuvenating and we came out feeling cleaner and softer than ever before.

What I found most interesting about this experience was the level of comfort that Moroccan women versus Canadian women have with nudity and body image. Women in Morocco feel very comfortable being nude in front of one another in this situation, however in the streets it is frowned upon to show almost any skin as there are both sexes present. The opposite is true in Canada where it is socially acceptable to wear a relatively small amount of clothing while there are both men and women present, yet girls and many women feel extremely uncomfortable being nude in front of one another. I thought the lack of conservatism in the hammam was great that showed how comfortable Moroccan women were with themselves and the respect they have for their own bodies.

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