Marrakech Magic

Kim Inglis 09 November 2009 0 comment

I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Marrakech, a town that assails the senses with an often bewildering mix of the modern and the medieval. Expect impeccable wi-fi connectivity and salons of splendor within ancient fortress walls; muezzins calling next to perfectly coiffured Frenchwomen drinking perfectly palatable Moroccan wine; scents of rose, argan and patchouli with the less alluring ones from the sewer. Donkey carts jostle for predominance with motorbikes on tiny cobbled lanes; and everybody stays in wonderfully restored courtyard houses or riads.

For spa aficionados, a trip to the hammam is not to be missed. A hammam is a traditional Middle Eastern variant of a steam bath or wet sauna and serves as a place to socialize and cleanse. Before the advent of modern plumbing, hammam were invariably public bath houses, but today many riads have a private hammam attached. Even though the word translates from many dialects of vernacular Arabic as “bathroom” or “toilet”, it’s a misleading term. Many hammam are architectural gems: think fluted arches and domed ceilings and a riot of mosaic tiles in gem colors.

Rituals vary, but generally you’ll be encouraged to lie in the steam chamber (with temperatures often rising close to 50ºC) for ten minutes or so to allow the skin’s pores to open up. Then, you’ll be doused in hot water a few times before an attendant covers the body with a smooth paste known locally as “black soap”. Made from processed olives, it has a slightly slimy texture, but isn’t unpleasant.


PA206779 The next part of the process can be a bit unpleasant, however. My  pain/pleasure threshold was veering rapidly up the pain scale, while
my partner started hyper-ventilating from the heat — and had to  take a  brief rest outside! Nonetheless, I clenched my teeth and endured the  most abrasive body scrub with a glove that resembled the equipment
I use in the kitchen to scour my saucepans … afterwards, though,my  whole body tingled delightfully, a sense exacerbated again  once the  attendant threw bucket after bucket of freezing cold water all over me.

Once I was fully rinsed, I was led to the tranquil courtyard of our riad, wrapped in soft towels, given beautifully scented mint tea in an antique glass and a carafe of water — and advised to rest for a while. This was an excellent tip, as the whole hammam experience is not for the faint-hearted: Your skin feels super soft, your head is seemingly weightless on the top of your neck, you feel relaxed, but energised — but you’re also seriously dehydrated. If you do opt to hammam — remember to rehydrate well.

Kim  Inglis

Kim Inglis

A spa and ski fanatic, as well as a traveller, mother and full-time writer, Kim is a bit of a design aficionado as well. Taking the risk of sounding shallow, she thinks that sometimes how a thing looks, rather than what it is or does for you, really can be its raison d’etre. After all, who wants to live in a shabby home, look like death warmed up or utilise products that are clunky and grey, rather than sleek and colourful? Spas, spa treatments and spa products can help the outside shine; Kim’ll bring you lots of info on these, and hopefully your inner you will match that outer façade too. Check out Kim Inglis web site

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sign In

Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

Wellness Spa

Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

Travel Adventures + Singapore

Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

Travel Adventures + Borneo

She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

Photo Blog + Taiwan

She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

Kuala Lumpur

From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

Chiang Mai

After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]