Hammams of Marrakech
Written by Brian Johnston
Hammams are central to Moroccan culture, and there is no better way to unwind after a day of sightseeing in Marrakech than with a vigorous scrub-down followed by tranquil relaxation in a traditional bathing establishment.
Marrakech is certainly a beguiling destination, but there’s no denying that sightseeing amidst the heat and tightly packed streets of the medina can be exhausting. Fortunately, as the sun goes down and pleasurable tiredness sets in, Morocco provides a lovely day’s finale in its many hammams.
The hammam visit is a key Moroccan social custom, with locals attending public baths weekly, and those with the means indulging at more sophisticated private hammams. They aren’t just venues in which to relax but also to socialise and even network for business. Hammams vary from a couple of simple rooms in villages and medinas to elaborate, historic venues decorated in tiles and stained glass, and heated from beneath the floor by wood fires.
The central part of any hammam is a low-lit, warm room where you acclimatise before heading through to a second hot room, designed to open the skin’s pores. You then return to the first room and slosh yourself with water before coating yourself in black soap, made from olive oil, often scented with orange or eucalyptus. You then use a rough-surfaced hammam glove to scrape off the soap, and can then coat yourself in ghassoul clay from the Atlas Mountains. Finally, wash down with more warm water.
In most hammams, you bring your own glove and black soap. In upmarket hammams, an attendant might do this process for you, and many visitors follow up the core treatment with a massage using an essential oil, generally orange, rose, or argan, derived from a tree native to Morocco.
Five-star La Villa des Orangers, on the edge of Marrakech’s medina, is a traditional Moroccan riad centred around a series of tiled courtyards lush with orange and palm trees and tinkling with splashing fountains. The Relais & Châteaux property has a notable fine-dining restaurant and a beautiful hammam, where you can enjoy scrubs, massages, and a relaxation room.
La Villa des Orangers
6 Rue Sidi Mimoun, 40000
Tel: +212 524 384638
Distance: 5,813 km
Flight Time: 8 hours
Frequency: 3 flights a week