11th Oct 2013
My experiences of an old Moroccan Hammam
Tonight I feel sexualness not sexuality or sexiness just sexualness – All these words have such a subtle difference and are worlds apart. Sexualness is word we don’t come across often but means so much more, it means everything about loving and being love to everyone and everything without the sex. It’s loving everything about you, everyone you encounter and everything you experience. It’s just waking up to the world and being unconditional love with everything in it.
I have had a lovely amazing day. Though most of it spent at home writing and catching up, I visited the hammam for the first time in Moulay Idriss, it was not an experience I would have liked to have missed and bears no resemblance to the tourist attraction hammams of Turkey which are fun. Here men and women use the Hammam at different times – Men in the morning and evening, women in the middle of the day.
I remember my visit to a Turkish Hamman this summer, striking up a conversation with a guy from I think Sweden. He sat impatiently telling me he had regretted coming in – this was not a real hammam he said. Hammam which he was expecting without the frills and show – I didn’t understand what he meant, but now I do. This is such a contrast; it would have been daunting to be on my own for the first time but with Rose leading a few of us I was getting excited and curious at the same time. As we entered the doorway, and followed the dark stone corridor of the ancient building, that I have walked passed so often wondering what lay beyond, I was actually here walking through it as all was about to be revealed. There was an air of so calm and peace, women looked at us but not to a point of us feeling uncomfortable or intimidated. As we were curious of the experience, so were they of who we were, and that’s all it was.
If I have said before, this place so resembles the stories of where Jesus lived and here I was again getting another insight into something that would have been part of women’s lives then too. Wet stone walls, arches, high ceilings, so ancient, full of character and half naked women sitting on the floor, washing and scrubbing themselves, with hammam gloves and buckets of water in front of them, some of them with children sitting between their legs. As the place is heated with wooden fires underground.
Rose had asked me the day before if anything was not the way I had expected it or was different or challenging as I arrived and could not put a finger on anything other than the amount of stairs. Here my experience was totally different mentally and emotionally aswell as physically, than the commercial version of the Turkish hammam, it was worlds apart. If there ever was a picture portrayed of women on the square in the jelababs hiding every part of their body from the world, here the hammam painted a different story, the reality of who these women are was exactly the opposite. Rose led us into a changing room, warning us of the nudity we maybe exposed to – haha a bit late as we were already there, half naked women were relaxing on benches, half covered in towels, chatting, gossiping and relaxing after the day of cooking, cleaning, shopping and children which was their role here. Here the women were just women as they were created to be, nurturing each other, being women, being themselves, no embarrassment, no covering up in front of anyone we were all created equal.
We paid an extra amount to be scrubbed rather than scrub ourselves and walked through 2 rooms, each one warmer than the other, the last room we entered was pleasantly warm, sweat started to pour of us as in a steam room but not uncomfortably. We seated ourselves behind 3 buckets of water. I awaited to see what would happen, not sure of anything but open to everything feeling very safe and secure and in such a welcome environment even though we were whiter than all still welcome. There were a few giggles but Rose assured us it was only because we were different than them and of course for us communication hard, though luckily we had Rose to translate.
As we waited a couple of women approached us and began to scrub our bodies after we had covered our bodies with black beldi soap – which is also supposed to help with exfoliation and removal of toxins. (typical Moroccan soap made from olive oil kernels, that you can buy in the streets.).
Hammams are part of communal life – family and community are integral to daily life, where water and cleanliness are essential elements of Islam
Women all shapes and sizes and all ages, some even bringing their own children along, were scrubbing themselves and each other around the room. It was so lovely that these women were more that the women we imagine them to be in this Muslim state, full of sexualness full of nurture just being with each other doing what women do best. This is where women can be themselves.
I felt so child-like as I was washed cleansed and scrubbed succumbing to the actions as a child would their own mother. There was no shame or hiding from each other we were just Eve nurturing and being nurtured. Hands washing, scrubbing and brushing your hair just as your mother would bringing out a sense of vulnerability within each of us relishing and experiencing to the fullness the whole experience of being woman. I came out feeling clean and light, layers of me that was no longer of use to me left behind and a smoothness of my skin expressing how I felt, like a new born baby – just being me, just being a woman on every level.