Michaella Patterson is a student at Bridgewater State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco.
The reality behind the hammams is that they are traditional bath houses that were introduced during the ruling of the Ottoman Empire. Although they were highly important due to the unavailability of plumbing, today people typically go at least once a week.
The significance of the hammam still holds vital tradition other than hygiene. It once was a common area for women to scope out wives for their sons. Today, it is of high prominence to attend on your wedding day and on Thursdays or Fridays to prepare and cleanse oneself for the holy day before entering a Mosque.
Traditionally, there are three rooms: the first is where you change, the second is the steam room where you are scrubbed (by choice) and wash up, and the third is the cool down room which allows your pores to close. Customarily, a large fire pit lies underground to warm the room and water.
The innovation of plumbing transformed most hammams now to be one large room with pipes running along the walls with dozens of nozzles that control the temperature of the water.
It may sound overwhelming, but truthfully, it was incredibly relaxing and satisfying to be pampered. Coming out your skin feels immensely rejuvenated, especially due to the natural products which have been used for centuries were also provided for us.
At the hammam, you are not only cleaning yourself, but it is a ritual. There are steps to follow that are part of the tradition of going to the bath and you must respect them. I realized that taking on this opportunity was an important part of diving into the Moroccan culture; realizing that women still hold this tradition to be vital for both personal and communal gathering was inspiring. Having the chance to visit a space where women come together and respect one another’s different shapes and sizes is was both beautiful and comforting experience.
The world awaits…discover it.