Moroccan Hammam Spa: All You Need To Know

by capetocasa

Growing up in Morocco, I have many memories of going to the Moroccan hammam with my mother and sisters. The hammam is an important part of Moroccan culture and is a place where women clean up, relax, socialize, and enjoy some much-needed pampering.

So what happens in a Moroccan Hammam? This is a question that many people have, but few know the answer to. A Moroccan Hammam is a traditional spa ritual that is popular in Morocco and other North African and Middle Eastern countries.

In this blog post, we will take a close look inside the Moroccan hammam and discuss what happens step by step during this unique ritual and how you can have the best Hammam experience in Morocco and at home.

What is a Moroccan Hammam?

A Moroccan hammam is a traditional spa or bathhouse that is popular in Morocco and in other North African and middle eastern countries.

The word “hammam” comes from the Arabic word for “heat,” and these baths (Hammams) are typically very steamy and heated by a central fireplace (using cut wood).

Moroccan traditional hammams usually have two to three rooms: a hot room and a cold room, separated by another medium heated room. You can choose to use all the different rooms or just stay in one.

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A wall-hanged sign for a local Moroccan Hammam for men

The hot room is where Moroccans spend most of their time scrubbing and socializing. This may also include scrubbing each other’s backs, washing each other’s hair, and exchanging Moroccan black soaps and other Hammam essentials.

Some people prefer to stay in a medium-heated room to avoid the extreme heat of the hot room. This room is still quite steamy, but not as hot as the first room.

The cold room is typically used for cooling down, washing up, and getting ready to leave.

Moroccan Hammam Types: Spa Hammam vs Local Hammam

There are two types of Moroccan hammams: Spa Hammams and local Hammams.

Local or public hammams are open to anyone who wants to use them and are usually located in cities and towns. These are typically less expensive than Spa hammams and are a good option if you want to experience a traditional Moroccan hammam without spending a lot of money.

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Moroccan Hammam spa interior

Spa hammams are usually found in hotels, resorts, or spas and are only accessible to guests of these establishments. These hammams are usually more expensive than public hammams, but they offer a more luxurious experience.

For a first-timer, I highly recommend going to a spa hammam instead of the local one. The experience is very different, and you will feel like a VIP!

However, if you want to try the local experience, you had better go accompanied by a Moroccan friend to help you navigate and feel more comfortable.

What to expect during a Moroccan Hammam treatment?

In this section, we will cover the Moroccan Hammam experience in a private spa hammam and not the public Hammam.

Private or spa hammams usually have one hot room where all the process happens and they provide you with everything you will need. So, don’t worry about packing up your Moroccan Hammam bag.

Step 1: Undress and get ready

The Moroccan hammam spa experience begins with undressing. Women can choose to go completely naked or keep a bikini or underwear. I personally prefer to keep a bikini bottom but if you are comfortable being naked, then go for it!

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Hammam towel and slippers

After you undress or even before, your attendant will give you a key to lock up your belongings, a towel, a robe to cover yourself with, and disposable slippers.

For men wearing bottoms is necessary. They are usually given disposable underwear to use but sometimes they don’t so you can wear your own.

Step 2: Detoxify the skin in the steam for a few minutes

The next step of your Moroccan Hammam experience is that the attendant will accompany you to a hot dimly lit room filled with steam. The idea is to spend some time, 5 to 10 minutes in this room to relax, and let your skin soften and detoxify in the steam.

Step 3: Get soaked in the Moroccan black soap

Once you are sufficiently sweaty, the attendant will start the second ritual which is applying a thin layer of Moroccan black soap all over your body. No part should be excluded.

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Moroccan Black Soap (Moroccan Beldi Soap)

This step is extremely important in a Moroccan Hammam ritual. The purpose of the Moroccan black soap is to soften up the top skin layer of your body and prepare it for the next step which is exfoliation.

After resting for about 5 to 10 minutes it’s followed by rinsing the applied soap with lots of water then the next step begins.

Step 4: Exfoliation time

After you have washed off the black soap from your body, the attendant will use a Moroccan exfoliating Hammam glove called Kissah or Loufah to scrub out the dead skin.

Moroccan Kissah glove_Credit: Zakia’s Morocco

That requires a lot of turning, sitting, and lying down, so the attendant can reach out to all your body parts to give them a nice scrub.

You will be amazed by the resulting dead skin coming out of this treatment.

This scrubbing process can be a bit uncomfortable but if you feel the attendant is being rough on your skin, don’t be shy to let her/him know.

Step 5: Moroccan Ghassoul Mask

Depending on the spa hammam, some may include applying a Ghassoul mask after rinsing off all the dead skin.

Ghassoul is a natural clay found in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. It is rich in minerals and has many benefits for the skin such as cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing.

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Moroccan clay mask, black soap, and clay rocks

In addition to the mineral clay, the Ghassoul mask may also include other ingredients such as argan oil, eucalyptus, and lavender.

After the Ghassoul mask is applied all over your body, you will be asked to relax for about 15 to 20 minutes for the mask to work its magic.

After the relaxing time is up, it’s rinsing time. The attendant will help you to wash off all the Ghassoul masks with lots of water.

Step 6: Hair washing

After the Ghassoul mask is rinsed off, if you are a woman, the attendant will start washing your hair with a special Moroccan Hammam shampoo.

Once your hair is all washed, the attendant will apply a conditioner and let it sit for a few minutes while you finish up the rest of the Moroccan hammam ritual.

Step 7: Skin Hydrating, body Massage, or both

In the most luxurious Moroccan Hammams, other steps may be included such as a skin hydrating treatment. This usually includes applying a natural moisturizer (Argan oil) all over your body.

The Hammam spa ritual may also include a whole-body massage where the attendant uses traditional Moroccan oils and creams to massage your entire body.

This is the most relaxing part of the hammam experience and you will probably fall asleep if you are not careful. 

Natural argan oil for hammams
Natural Argan oil used to massage & moisturize the body

But those special treatments are not always available in all Moroccan Hammam spas.

And that’s it! You have completed the Moroccan Hammam experience. You are free to go!

Or not yet! There is yet another step we absolutely should not miss!

Final step: Relax and sip Moroccan mint tea

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Moroccan mint tea and snacks

Most Hammam spas in Morocco offer their guests a cup of Moroccan mint tea before they leave. You can just relax in the tea room area where they offer freshly made sweet tea and spend some time chilling and enjoying those last moments before you face the real world again.

What to pack for a local Moroccan Hammam

If you choose to go to a Moroccan Hammam Spa, most of the time, they will provide you with everything you need. However, if you are going to a public Hammam, it is important to know what to bring.

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Moroccan Hammam traditional essentials_Credit: Zakia’s Morocco

Here is a list of items you should bring to a Moroccan Hammam:

  • An entrance fee of approx 15dh ($1.5) but bring extra if you want to hire an attendant to scrub your body.
  • Water Buckets to fill in the water and one small one to pour the water over you. Most Hammams provide shared buckets but hygienically speaking, it’s better to take yours.
  • A chair or a Hammam mat to sit on because there are no built-in chairs like the private Spa Hammams
  • A towel (take it with you when you enter the washing area in the Hammam. You will need it to cover up when you come out)
  • Soap, Shampoo, shower gel
  • Moroccan Black Soap (a must). You can also buy it at the Hammam store. Most local Hammams have a small store at the entrance.
  • Hammam Gloves (exfoliating gloves). You can also buy it at the store but it’s better to go prepared.
  • Masks and hair treatments (optional)
  • Slippers or flip-flops to wear in the wet areas
  • Clean, comfortable clothing to change into after the Hammam
  • Other things (whatever you like to use after your shower (creams, perfume, body spray…)

What time should I go to a local Hammam?

Local Hammams tend to get very busy during weekends and afternoons on weekdays so you may not find a nice spot or a spot at all.

The best time to go to the local Moroccan Hammam is on weekdays in the morning or very early in the morning on weekends (early means 7-8 am when the Hammam opens).

What to wear in a local Moroccan Hammam?

Just like the Moroccan hammam spas, you have the choice to go in the nude or with a bottom bikini on.

Once you are in the hammam rooms you will quickly notice that most women wear something down there, just a few feel more comfortable walking bare.

But at some point in the washing process, women remove their underwear to wash their private parts.

However, men must wear undies.

Things you should know before visiting a local Hammam

It’s unlikely to find someone that speaks English in a local Moroccan Hammam. Be prepared to struggle to communicate if you are going alone (without local help)

Attendants and hammam helpers may not be available to assist during peak hours. Plus, hiring one requires a few words of Moroccan Arabic.

If you want someone to scrub your body, make sure to bring enough money for the extra service (30-50dh should do the trick).

Don’t bring your valuable belongings to a local Hammam. Most of them won’t provide a locker and you will just give your Hammam bag to be stashed somewhere near other people’s bags.

How often should you have a Hammam treatment?

A Hammam treatment is a lengthy process that requires a lot of skin scrubbing to take out the dead skin. Moroccans usually go to Hammams once a week which is enough time for the skin to build in dead cells.

Don’t overwhelm your skin by going to Hammams more than once a week.

>> Looking for a Hammam Spa experience to try in Morocco? Check these recommendations

How to have a Moroccan Hammam treatment at home?

Not everyone has the luxury to live in Morocco or have a Hammam near them. So, here is how you can have your own Moroccan Hammam at home:

The Moroccan Hammam routine can be easily done at home with the Moroccan products mentioned earlier (Kissah glove, Black soap, Ghassoul mask) that you can easily find in Moroccan online stores such as Zakia’s Morocco store on Amazon.

hammam spa kit morocco
Must have Moroccan Hammam Essentials_Credit: Zakia’s Morocco

The secret to a successful Moroccan Hammam at home is the steam. You need to obtain enough hot steam in your bathroom/shower. That will help soften your skin and open its pours for the products to work their wonders.

Sit in the bathroom/shower for a few minutes, and just relax.

Once your skin is all steamed up, start by using Moroccan black soap to soak your body, focusing on the problem areas (elbows, knees, and feet). Make sure to use natural Moroccan black soap.

After that, rinse off and use the Kissah glove to scrub your entire body.

Moroccan Ghassoul clay mask is great for your body. Once you are done scrubbing rinse off again and apply enough to cover your entire body and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

Rinse the Moroccan Ghassoul clay mask off, wash your hair, and you are done.

After the Moroccan Hammam routine, make sure to moisturize your skin with Argan oil or Moroccan body cream.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Moroccan Hammam experience and maybe you will even get a chance to try it out yourself one day. Thanks for reading and let us know if you have any questions!

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