Tight muscles, acne flare-ups, and exhaustion are common side effects from a time zone change or packed travel schedule. If you’re taking a trip to Morocco, a visit to a local hammam will provide multiple health benefits and can relieve you of these symptoms. Part spa, part steam bath, hammams vary widely depending on which one you choose to try. They’re rooted in the tradition of communal baths and some have transformed into full luxury experiences.
Hammams are usually experienced in the nude, with discrete and separate entrances for men and women. They’re a large part of Morocco’s history and present-day culture as a popular place to socialize. When visiting Morocco, skip the trip to an expensive tourist spa and try the traditional hammam where you’ll reap these five health benefits.
1. Dead skin renewal
After visiting a hammam, you may realize your personal exfoliation regime was grossly subpar. You’ll be scrubbed full-body with a black soap known as savon beldi. Don’t be alarmed when noodle-like rolls of dead skin start slothing off! This treatment brings new life to your skin, leaving it soft and fighting the look of aging. It’s a great regimen to remove blackheads and other blemishes as well.
2. Muscle relaxation
Depending on the size of the hammam you visit, there will be numerous rooms of various temperatures. Most will have rooms that become warmer and warmer as you progress through the building. Spend time in the hottest rooms, with buckets or pools of warm water to reduce tension in your muscles. You may not even realize how much stress you’ve been carrying in your shoulders and back from sleeping in foreign beds. Many hammams provide massage services at an additional cost, and you can never go wrong with those.
3. Sinus relief
Most hammams will have a room specifically designated to steam, very similar to saunas. Make sure to spend time here for your airway passages to loosen up. This portion of the hammam helps to open up nasal cavities and bring some physical relief to sinus infections or the common cold, which are typical ailments of a long trip.
4. Increased circulation
Exfoliation, massaged muscles, and warm steam will naturally lead to increased circulation. Getting the blood flowing to your brain, organs, and down through your limbs has a wide range of health benefits — from cell growth to the lowering of blood pressure. Another benefit of increased circulation is your dewy complexion. Blood flow rejuvenates skin growth and fights against infection. Blood circulation is important to keep top of mind after a long day of traveling or an extended time being stationary.
5. Mind-body connection
Besides the physical aspect of relaxation, you’ll experience when visiting a hammam, you may notice an increased clarity in your thinking. Long gone are the beliefs that our body and brain aren’t connected. With peace of mind, taking deep inhales and slow exhales, you’re bound to be much more prepared to face your next day of exploration.
To make the most of your hammam experience, bring a clean change of clothes, your own shampoo and conditioner if the hammam does not have its own on hand, and a bathing suit if you’d like your first experience to be more modest. Give yourself enough time to relax, with an allotment of two to three hours for the full experience, depending on if you’ll be seeking additional treatments.
Where to find a good hammam
Marrakech and Fez are chock-full of tourist-friendly hammams, so it will be easy to find them with a quick online search. But if you’re taking a ride from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar to visit the northern coastal cities of Tangier, Rabat, and the blue-washed mountainous town of Chefchaouen, recommendations are as follows:
In Rabat, Hamaam Laalou is a women-only, one-room building where all the locals convene. So be ready to jump in head first for an authentic hammam experience here. Tangier’s Hammam Boughaz Tanger is a clean and affordable option if you’d like a local’s experience rather than a luxury spa. It welcomes both genders (separate sides of course) with plenty of people on staff for massages. The Lina Ryad & Spa in Chefchaouen is the most opulent of the hammams listed here. It’s located right in the middle of Chefchaouen’s medina.
Whichever Moroccan cities you visit, you’ll be able to find a hammam if you search near old mosques — as hammams were once the only options for bathing before indoor plumbing was common in residential buildings. Remember to tip your masseuse, try to let go of the stresses of your travels, and soak in all of the health benefits these baths have to offer.