Rules of the Hammam
and Men's Hammams are Separate. Some
hammams are exclusively for men or women. Others are
open for women during certain hours of the day - usually
the early part of the day - and reserved for men later
in the evening. Be sure to ask in advance so that you
aren't embarrassed by trying to enter at the wrong time
What to Bring With You
clean buckets, if you have them. (If you do not have
your own buckets, you can use the black buckets provided
in the hammam. However, at busy times there may be
a shortage of buckets and you may find yourself in
A water scoop (these are typically round plastic bowls
with no handle and a white bottom that you will see
in the souk. These are not available inside the hammam,
so this is important to bring with you.)
(preferably in a soap box), shampoo, and a razor
A brush or comb
A bag large enough to put your shoes, clothes, and
towel in. You will check this bag inside at the counter.
Most Moroccans will use the plastic woven shopping
bags you see in the Medina
A cedar wooden bench if you do not wish to sit directly
on the floor. Most Moroccans do not use a bench.
A black, rough scrubbing mitt. You will find these
for sale everywhere in the Medina.
Wear a dark pair of underwear that you will wear while
you bathe (Women will wear underpants only. Men will
wear boxer shorts or briefs.)
Bring a dry pair of underwear to change into when
About 5 dirhams for entrance at the door, and several
single dirhams to tip the person who will guard your
The Bathing Ritual
People have their own personal practices
for hammam bathing, but here is the general
order in which it is done:
- Rinse. Rinse yourself thoroughly
with clear hot water. Moroccans often
use very hot water in order to bring themselves
to a sweat.
- Wait. Wait a while until you
begin to sweat and your skin softens.
- Scrub. Once you have been wet
for a while, take the rough black mitt
and, without soap, begin to scrub yourself
in long hard strokes until the dead skin
loosens and begins to roll off. Do not
rinse until the skin starts to roll. If
you have never done this before, you will
be surprised, first, at how much dead
skin you have tolerated, and second, how
remarkably clean you will feel afterward.
Once you have finished scrubbing an area,
rinse off with clear water. Moroccans
will scrub every inch of their body this
way, and this can take a long time. Other
than companionship, one good reason to
take a friend to the hammam is so that
someone will scrub your back. People who
go alone will sometimes ask someone else
to do this for them, and offer to return
the favor. Be careful - Moroccans are
used to this and are rough scrubbers -
you could end up with a prickly rug burn
on your back after a thorough working-over
by a neighbor. Say shuya, or "only
a little", and they may go easy on you.
- Soap. Traditionally, you use
soap only after you have finished your
- Wash Hair
to Do and When
At the front door of the hammam there is typically
a person sitting and charging the entrance fee of
approximately 5 DH. Verify here that it is the appropriate
time for men or women. Pay and receive a small paper
Entering the hammam, you will see the dressing area.
There will be people toweling themselves off after
their bath and also people undressing, usually at
wooden benches along the sides of the room. Find an
open place for yourself.
Remove all your clothing except your underpants. Place
your clothes, shoes and all, and your towel in your
bag. Do not take the towel into the hammam with you.
There will be no place for it.
Check your bag at the counter. To do this, go to the
counter and place your bag on the counter with your
paper ticket and 1-2 additional dirhams as a tip for
the guardian. They will not give you a number or any
other marker in exchange for your bag. These individuals
are masters at remembering which bag belongs to you.
Take all your bathing supplies and your buckets in.
It is normal, even if you have your own buckets, to
take an additional black heavy bucket from the pile.
It's nice to have a lot of buckets because you can
build a bigger perimeter wall around your space. But
be considerate. You really don't need more than 2
buckets, and if the communal buckets are in short
supply you will be frowned at. Also remember that
the black hammam buckets are considered dirtier than
your personal bucket, so people usually wash the black
buckets out well with scalding water once they reach
the hot water cistern.
Go inside the hammam and scout out a space for yourself
with your back to a wall. As a first time hammam visitor,
you might want to go all the way in to the hot water
cisterns to see just how hot you can bear it before
you choose which room you want to settle in.
Set your things out in a semicircle to define your
space. The floors are slightly sloped for best drainage.
Watch the way the water flows along the ground, and
be careful to situate yourself uphill of your neighbors
or in a place with good drainage. Avoid downslope
corners and other areas where dirty water will gather.
Also avoid sitting too close to the water cisterns,
because at busy hours or when the water is filling
slowly a crowd will form around the cistern and may
crowd you. There will also be times when the scalding
water will overflow from the cistern and wash over
the floor in front of it. You want to have enough
warning to get out of the way if this happens (and
to help other people get out of the way.)
Go to the cistern with your two buckets. Be careful
of the scalding water. It's best to get the hot water
first, because at times the hot water is low and you
will need to scoop with one bucket to fill the other.
Then fill your other bucket with cold water, or add
some cold to your hot water. Return to your place
with your buckets.
Use your scoop both to mix the water in the buckets
to the desired temperature and to pour it over yourself
as you wash. (See "The Bathing Ritual", side-bar).
Never get soap in your buckets.
At times when buckets are rare, someone may ask you
whether they can borrow one of yours. Someone near
you may also ask you to scrub their back, if they
are alone. Or they may offer to scrub yours, a gesture
of welcome. This is the serendipity of the hammam.
Occasionally you may be approached by the guardian
of the hammam who will offer to give you a thorough
scrubbing. This usually costs a few dirhams. If you
are in the men's hammam be aware that in accepting
you might be subjected to a thorough Moroccan stretch.
When you are finished bathing, empty your buckets
and return to the dressing room. Go to the counter
and the woman will bring you your bag.
Find a new spot at the benches and towel off and get
dressed. Moroccans will usually cover themselves with
their towel while they change their underwear.
When you are leaving the hammam and on your way home,
you may hear people say to you "Bisaha", the best
translation of which is "to your health". Answer this
with "Allah atik saHA", which returns the wish.