Window in the medina, Fes, Morocco (2011-10)

It’s getting hot in here


It seems that you won’t really see authentic Fes unless you put yourself in the care of one of the many guides that roam the city. So after a very interesting visit to the old Jewish quarter and the medina we decided to once again use the services of Kaleem to take us to a traditional Moroccan bath, the hammam.

He offered to organize an air conditioned private bus but since that would have just been half as much fun we opted for public transport. Naturally none of us would have been able to recognize the bus stop as such. But even with Kaleem we waited for 50 minutes not really knowing when exactly the next Number 17 would show.

One the bus the party was on: people were singing and playing songs on their phones. Even though it was crowded and hot everyone seemed to be having a great time. Until the ticket inspector discovered a couple of women that had not paid…

At the hammam men and women were split up. We were taken to a first room where we told to take off our clothes. There were half naked women sitting, chatting and enjoying tea and bread. After we’d dressed down to our underpants we were ushered into a large room with marble floor and two water basins in the corners. The wash women – as we had realized by now – made us sit down on the floor and kept bringing in buckets of water, first a rather cold one and then warm ones. The air was warm and full of steams. I didn’t quite wanna look like I was staring at them but from the corner of my eye I could see that while we were cautiously emptying the buckets all over our body the other women had brought their shampoo and body wash, rubbing off the dirt from the streets of Fes. There was laughter and singing and the little girls were running around.

After we’d emptied the first two buckets the washing ladies gave each of us a bit of fluid soap. And since I hadn’t booked the ‘massage’ I had time to observe what happened next to my companions: the washing ladies put on gloves that looked like sand paper, made my companions lie down on their backs and started scrubbing. My companions were hurled around like they were mere puppets. It actually looked a little painful – the things you do to be beautiful, I guess…

The ‘massage’ was followed by more water buckets. And one of the washing ladies must have taken some pity in me cause she handed me her glove so I could scrub myself (somehow this statement sounds dirtier than it should…).

Finally we were taken back to the first room and handed some bathrobes. We could have sat there for hours hadn’t our guys had far less of an relaxing experience (they had to leave after barely more than half an hour). One of the ladies came in frantically pointing outside ‘Husband!’ So we reluctantly got dressed, enjoyed a coffee with the guys just down the road from the hammam, got back on the party bus (needless to say: after waiting another 45 minutes), and went back for pizza for dinner.

Some technical details: the bus was 3 dirham each way; ladies pay 13 dirham / guys 12 for the hammam itself, if you want to get a proper scrub down it’s 60 dirham (including admission)

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