Lalla Mira & Hammam

April 19, 2007


The best thing about Morocco’s first and only organic hotel Lalla Mira is it’s wonderful public hammam which is free for guests. A German woman who was into organic farming reformed it and the riad out of all organic materials with a restaurant that serves organic food, so we wanted to support that.

We were on the suite on the very top floor, so there were lots of steps but it was worth the walk. It had a sweet energy and was perfect for our last night in Morocco. We had a cute balcony of our own as well as a lovely large terrace above us. In our closet we found two djellabas for the hamman and the charming bathroom had organic soap and towels on a rope.

Mozart had gotten a rose as we left Marrakech and she tucked it into her backpack as she rolled it along. When we arrived here she unpacked it and put it in the vase on the table  that had some good snacks. She liked the poster bed.

For those that do not know, a hamman is a traditional moroccan bath. They are the closest thing to the  Roman baths which is one reason I wanted Mozart to experience them. We have read about the Roman baths and even experience much about them at Pont du Gard with that great museum, but this was like
going back in time.

It is open to the public, but men and women go at different times of the day.I think it is similar to the community oven, as it is a place for people to gather. Water is scarce here and people do not have running water, so a community bath was a time to handle that and also a relaxing and social time. I think there are rules about going into a mosque clean and cleanliness was important in this ancient society when Europeans were in the dark ages and not bathing.

It was in a beautiful crypt like space with lovely tiles all around. We came in the door and down some steps where we were greeted. The first room off that room was a changing room with lockers. After than we went into one room and then another.

We went early in the day so there was just one other person there and she seemed quite blissed out enjoying her massage. The woman guiding us and the woman giving the massage to the other tourist spoke no English and they were both wearing just underwear. It was dark and hot and steamy when we entered and with my claustrophobia, I wanted to change my mind and leave, except I wanted Mozart to have this experience, so I sucked it up and tried to endure.

They put some mats that were like plastic picnic table cloth material, down on the floor and pointed for me to get on the big one and Mozart to get on the little one. I think the custom is to leave on your underwear, but we did not know that so were totally naked, but they did not seem to mind so maybe people do both.

There are echoing sounds as they get the water from across the room and fill up some buckets with water. She gave a big one to Mozart full of warm water with a cup like container and showed her how to splash herself as she knew this was a good way to keep a young child occupied while she worked on me.

She had a little stool and would grab my arm or leg and work on it with some kind of tools which help exfoliate the skin. I had heard sometimes they can REALLY rub you raw in hammans, so I made it clear with sign language that I did not want too much. I think she primarily used a mitt and also a pumice like stone and it felt good. One of my favorite things that we have with us is a long Japanese washcloth (because it dries fast) and I love its rough, scratchy texture, especially on my back, so I am used to this.

Mozart enjoyed playing with the water and watching me and the other lady get worked on and splashed with water. When they empty the buckets they go to where the water comes in  and get some more. They drag the heavy buckets over to where they want them. It is not a quiet place, but I relaxed and began to enjoy the sights, sensations, and sounds.

I have forgotten the exact routine, but I think she put the famous black soap on me next. I had read about it and seen it in the souks in the spice shops as it is a popular item all over Morocco as every village has at least one hamman. She puts that all over my skin which feels nice and Mozart thinks I look very silly. She lets us just rest a little while and I listen to Mozart play in the dark echoing chamber.

The other lady has left now as she was quite a bit ahead of us in her process, so it is just Mozart and I which is kind of sweet. She is getting a little warm and is ready to go when the other ladies come back and it is time for our massage. She rinses me off, while the other lady starts to massage Mozart...who loooves massages.

It is not a massage like we have at home, but enjoyable in its own right. It was kind of like a Swedish massage, but on a hard surface which is not terribly comfortable, but not bad when I was laying on my back. The sensation of buckets of warm water poured on you is a delightful one too and the products she used smelled good and were organic. My biggest fear was about how I was going to get up as it is very hard for me to get up from a flat on-the-ground perspective and it was very slippery on the floor with nothing to hang on to.

I decided to just relax and enjoy the massage and when it was time to get up, I made it. They wanted to help me, but I felt I could do better on my own as they were not too big. It is quite slippery and Mozart bumped down on her bottom a few times as she scurried about even though I told her not to, and I did not want that to happen to me. I slowly got up on all fours like a toddler and used the mat turned over to give me some traction and that seemed to work.

I did feel really clean, refreshed and rejuvenated when I was done and was so glad that I did this with Mozart. It is an experience we will always remember. Sadly, I found out later, that it is too dark to take any photos with my camera. It is quite beautiful so I snuck in to get a shot of just the lovely architecture, but I guess I will just have to remember it in my head. Now we are looking forward to checking out and comparing the hammans and massage in Turkey soon!











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