Getting naked

A few of us wanted to attempt the traditional Moroccan communal-style bathhouses. The majority of us first heard about this during the first few days in Morocco. There was discussion that we would have to bathe with other women with our tops and bottoms off. This made us feel quite embarrassed at first, but we thought perhaps it would not be necessary to take off our undergarments. Barkave and Erin’s host mother and father kindly took Shewit and I along with them, as we lived very close to each other (Liisbet and I lived in Kebibat and they lived in ‘Ocean’, until later we found out they also lived in Kebibat). Once we arrived, we met with Lily and Mahisha, and we went to a small convenient store. Inside was very busy with men, women and children buying all sorts of good such as food, appliances and household items. In our case, we came to buy black soap and a scrub. As we entered the hammam, we paid a small price for our baths which also included a woman who would be scrubbing and massaging us. A fresh citrus smell wafted the entirety of the hammam, and this gave the impression that it was clean and comfortable. As soon as we entered inside, we could see women of all ages stripping naked and passing their belongings into cubbyholes. At this point we all looked at each other in disbelief and awkward laughter, as we were not prepared to fully undress ourselves in front of each other. We decided we would keep our tops and bottoms on until we were asked to remove them. Hot steam and damp floors covered each inch of the hammam. A gush of brown water was being rinsed from the tiled floors as I made my way across the room wearing the slippers I had worn outside on the streets. Naked women were scattered and sitting on small plastic stools. We were told to sit on the floor in between buckets of hot and warm water. Immediately, Barkave’s host mother told us to remove our tops, and in respect, we listened. At first we were all covering our bodies, until later the women who would be bathing us came towards us with water, soap and scrubs. It took only a couple of minutes until we felt somewhat more comfortable being topless in front of each other. The women scrubbed us all pretty harshly with the black soap until handfuls of dead skin rolled off our bodies. Throughout this experience I felt gross and anxious, as my bare body was touching the dirty floor along with everyone else’s soap, water and skin cells. Communal washing spaces had always made me feel itchy and I would tend to take a shower once I got home again. However, I did feel relatively clean after the hammam, but did shower the following day. I enjoyed the experience and would probably do it again, but I hoped I was more prepared for the nakedness and standards of hygiene.

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