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The Hammam

I’ve never felt so clean.

That was my first thought after leaving the small Hammam (Moroccan Bath House) in Azrou, Morocco, following nearly two hours of continous bathing, scrubbing off dead skin, and relaxing in the comforting humidity of three rooms worth of hot water and tile floors.

Much like a YMCA changing room, you must discard your typical understanding of personal space and comfort, and instead embrace the strange companionship of every other person in the bath with you. While at first you might be uncomfortable at the sight of two elderly men thoroughly scrubbing each other with kiises (Skin Scrubbers) and the constant insistence of your companion to give you a pat down, you soon learn that the feeling you get when layers and layers of dirt, grime, and daily scuzz buildup are washed off with the intensity of an Antarctic winter storm, is well worth the discomfort.

The moment when you step out of the humidity and into the changing room and feel your skin is one of pure pleasure. As someone who’s used to the all-too-familiar feeling of crocodile skin, I must say that touching my face to discover the texture of a baby’s hand was a wonderful experience.

There is also the emotional cleansing. As you sit there, quietly running water over your back and head, eyes closed, mind drifting, you feel a release. All of the weight of the day, of the weeks and months and years before this moment, all of it fades away. Replacing it is the sensation akin to when Dorothy first steps into Oz: all of the color, all of the feeling, every gust of wind and every caress of the sun on your skin, it all seems so much brighter. You feel absolutely fantastic. In the moment you wonder when it was last you felt like this, perhaps it was a first kiss, or the moment that you made a friend you knew you could never lose, perhaps even it was the first moment you held a newborn’s hand (For me, that was my little brother.) Whatever that might be, you feel it again. A childlike sense of joy, where everything is wonderful.