Twin sisters Beryl and Barbara of Chic Riads run their own renovated riads right in the heart of Marrakech, so it’s fair to say that they’re experts on the colourful city’s thriving culture, as well as its traditional rituals. Below, they introduce the secrets of the Moroccan hammam. These traditional spas, provide sauna-like steamy heat, cooling pools, and massages. Visitors to the city can stop by the following spots for a relaxing and authentically local experience.
“There’s no better way to ease your mind and revitalise your skin after a busy day in the medina than by heading to a traditional Moroccan hammam. The word ‘hammam’ literally translates to ‘spreader of warmth,’ and after just a few minutes in the steamy heat, most visitors will feel the benefits of this traditional ritual. It’s a little-known but interesting fact that several of Marrakech’s oldest facilities are located right next to bakeries, as the warmth from the rising bread helps to heat the hammam and the bathers inside.
The traditional hammam procedure is more or less the same wherever you go. In a spacious steam room, a therapist will apply Moroccan black soap, followed by an exfoliating body paste and scrub with a rough-textured ‘kessa’ glove. The steam increases the chances of the skin fully absorbing the oils, whilst also relaxing the muscles.
Marrakech has dozens of good hammams to choose from, from historical ones that date back hundreds of years to brand new ones in swanky five-star hotels. There are two in particular that travellers to Morocco rave about – Hammam el Bacha and Maison Arabe. The first is one of the most famous in the city, as it boasts striking architectural features and used to be the place where staff and servants from the nearby Dar el Bacha palace would bathe and cleanse. Though the hammam has no website and no phone, it’s fine to stop by its location at 20 rue Fatima Zohra and pay in cash. At the other end of the scale, the luxurious (but no less authentic) hammam at Maison Arabe requires appointments and offers special treatments that include clay masks and crushed rose petal and geranium oil massages.
If money is no object, the hammam at Amanjena is a treat. Located roughly five miles outside of the city, it has a sizeable spa and, within that, a tiled hammam. It’s the skilled therapists at Amanjena that make the experience, and you can rest assured that only the best are working within their walls. Marrakech’s other high-end Moroccan hammam is the world-famous spa at Royal Mansour, which, with its snowflake design, palatial setting, and high level of luxury, has to be seen to be believed.
A little more down-to-earth, but still in the luxury bracket, is the newly opened Mosaic Palais Aziza Hotel and Spa. Located downstairs from the lobby on the ground floor, the spa is small, with just four treatment rooms, but the décor dazzles (purple and orange drapes and cushions evoke an Arabian Nights ambiance). The hammams here are dimly lit and thick with steam and the scent of clay and precious oils.
Lastly, our new riad, Riad Sapphire, will open this winter season. The modern-colonial style setting will offer guests a spot of tranquillity in the busy medina, with a warm, authentically Moroccan welcome. Wellness will also be a large focus at the new riad: in addition to two courtyards, complete with soothing fountains, our spa area will have its own hammam and salon for relaxing with mint tea afterwards, in the traditional fashion. We’ll be posting updates along the way…”
View more information in our Marrakech city guide
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