Marrakech is spellbinding, but boy it can wear you out! The sun is ever shining, it’s chaotic, dirty and dusty. You’ll get lost in the medina more times than you can count and everyone seems to have something to sell to you. Stepping out from the tranquillity of your riad into the hustle bustle of this red city can feel like entering a dueler zone. To keep your sanity and stay refreshed, you will need pampering and lots of it. This is how team One Time Fashionista spent almost half-day on 31st December 2014 – envigorating muscle tissues slowly with the Hammam bath followed by an argan oil massage. What better way to end another year than being treated like royalty!
Fortunately pampering is something Marrakech does very well. The hammam, or Turkish bath, is something most locals indulge in at least weekly and if you want to sweat away your troubles and get the scrubbing of a lifetime, there’s nothing better. By all means go local if you fancy it but we’ve heard that some of them are a bit rough and ready. If you want some five-star spa treatment or if you’re a couple and want the experience together, read on for what to expect in Hammam of La maison Arabe – if not THE best but certainly one of the best private hammams in Morocco. It is a highly regarded private hammam in one of Marrakech’s most exclusive boutique riads. This Hammam is usually booked up, so a reservation is highly recommended.
We booked a traditional but stimulating 45 minutes Royal hammam package with black soap body scrub, honey body mask and 15 minutes in-steam body massage with argan oil. One of the reasons we booked this spa was so that we could have our treatments together. We had a private hammam and massage cabin. It seems that this Royal hammam treatment is specifically meant for couples (though it doesn’t specifically say so in their brochure). So don’t go with your ‘’good friend’’ unless you are missing the good old days of boarding school and like sharing cosy showers. The royal hammam which was 450 dirhams per person £40 included treatment with a scrubbing and oiling of only around 5-10 minutes and a hot steam bath for the rest of the total 45 minutes. We arrived at 11.00 and left at 16.30 feeling zen and relaxed. We had such an amazing time, the receptionists, hostesses, therapists were all really nice, polite and professional and the place is run very smoothly. The place is absolutely beautiful as you can expect and the treatment time was respected. Surprisingly, this is one place in Marrakech where we found the staff were speaking great English but even if they didn’t, it would have been fine with us as we both speak French.
This is the most beautiful spa I have EVER been to. I don’t usually go to spas in London as they are not wallet-friendly, but I have been to few in other countries and nothing compares to this. In fact we have had our very first Hammam bath in Istanbul, Turkey back in 2011 but this beats all previous experiences. Just walking in the door, I was enveloped with the most glorious aromas imaginable, as well as the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. The room took my breath away. It was dimly lit by candles. The room was covered in black tadelakt, floors, ceiling, walls and tubs. It is the most beautiful and luxurious sight I’ve ever seen. The first stop was a lovely lounge area with relaxing day beds, beautiful lighting and soft music. There was a tub in the centre of the lounge covered with candles and rose petals. The tub was filled with aromatic oils and so many rose petals. It was glorious, and it was all for us!!!! People were drinking tea. We were greeted by the hostess and were throughoughly explained step by step what to expect from the treatment showing the products to be used during the treatment. We were soon whisked off to the hammam scrub. After briefing what to expect, we were then escorted to a dressing room where we were both given a locker with a key to keep our belongings. We were told to strip down to a thong (for the lady) and a boxer (for the gentleman). You may feel a bit self conscious about just wearing bikini bottoms or knickers but they provide gender specific white robes and slippers.
THE SPA HAMMAM EXPERIENCE
The first part of our treatment was the hammam bath. So both of us were headed to the hammam itself, a dim and humid room with walls of tadelakt (a kind of waterproof lime plaster). Through the steam your attendant will point out a slab to lie face down. The fun now begins.
Initially you’ll have warm water sloshed over you with a bucket. After which the attendant will lather you with black soap scrub, the scent of which varies by spa; eucalyptus and bitter orange are the most common. Ours was the eucalyptus. Although the steam room was hot, almost too hot to put your feet on the floor but the mask helps cool your skin. So far so relaxing, but while you’re not looking the attendant will don a loofah glove and begin to vigorously scrub off all your dead skin. It’s a bit like being sandpapered; your pores won’t know what hit them. Finally, you’ll be coated with ghassoul (a natural mineral clay mined from the Atlas mountains) and have your hair washed, before getting sloshed again with the bucket.
Our massage was fantastic and very thorough. If you haven’t had one of these before, be warned, it’s not a soft soothing experience. They literally scrub the skin off you with a very abrasive mitten. We knew this and expected it and actually liked it! But let me explain the entire process. We were taken to a steam room with only two beds- this is the best part- we had the room to ourselves. We both had our personal attendants. Then we were left to soak up the steam for a while. Then a woman came in and rubbed black soap all over me and I was left to relax again. The other attendant was giving the exact treatment to Shehzaad at the same time. If you don’t like having your breasts touched, perhaps it’s best to wear a bra, or a bikini top and bottom. The ladies will touch any part that is exposed.
After a while, the attendant returned and she started the scrubbing process. As I mentioned, I rather liked it but it could come as a shock to anyone who hasn’t had it before. Then the two women showered us individually and removed all the loose skin. After that, you are given a body and face mask and left to relax again. This is followed by a shower in which the attendant will help you unless you tell her not to.
We would suggest you carry tip money in the pocket of your robe (20 Dirham or so per person). We completely forgot about it but I felt kind of bad that we couldn’t give the attendants the tips soon after. They did not ask for any or seem disappointed. I just wish we had thought about it earlier. There is a general tip box into which you can place the tips if you so desire. No pressure.
The hammam scrub and steam is an exhilarating procedure. We were then escorted by our dedicated hostess who seems to know our exact schedule, to an even more beautiful coed room with amazing lighting effects, soft music and beautiful organza draperies. A charming lady brought us some menthe tea. We had a relaxing soak. So, I wanted to close my eyes and enjoy it, but even more, I wanted to keep my eyes open and remember forever the experience!!!
It’s a good idea to book an argan oil massage as a follow-up to the hammam. (Argan oil comes from the fruit of the argan tree, which grows only in Morocco. It used to be harvested from the droppings of the goats that climb the tree to eat the fruit; thankfully, these days it tends to be picked off the tree.) Beforehand, you’ll be asked which essential oils you’d prefer and invited to sample from the choices on offer: these typically include patchouli, orange, rose, and verbena.
The massage rooms are lit with only a few candles and soft music plays. Off comes the robe again and as you lie on the massage table and get all your muscle tissues slowly reinvigorated, any stress related to taking an hour to get out of the medina, or overpaying for a teapot, will fade away very quickly .
The massage we were booked in was more like a rubbing with oils, than a muscle massage, but it was good. It took place in a private room with only two of us, playing soft music in the background and candles and rose petals everywhere. The masseuse spent an hour, thoroughly rubbing oil into every part of my body. Same for him. Once again, if there’s a part you don’t want touched, wear something over that area. The massage included face and head. The masseuse was very good, she seemed to know where not to exert force.
After that, we were free to relax in the lounge and I have to confess that I fell asleep there for don’t know how long until I heard the sound of the shutter clicking away pictures of a semi-naked me by none other than him.
We can’t recommend this place enough as we were truly treated like royalty. My skin melted away after being scrubbed and rubbed. If you want a nice relaxing day and a welcome break from the souks whilst in Marrakech, go here. Again, the prices are not cheap, and you can get cheaper elsewhere in Marrakesh (baths are aplenty!) but then luxury is never cheap! It is a beautiful place with candles and rose petals, metal cast ceilings and soft chiffon furnishings. So if you think its worth it, after the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, book a Hammam bath experience at La Maison Arabe.