Fwoooshhh, my body accelerates across the slippery marble slab. I’m lying down, wet and all lathered up in black soap, giggling with naked nervousness. I’m striving to regain a minute amount of composure while my hammam host takes hold of my ankles and slides me across the bench. After being doused with buckets of warm water, my skin is sandpapered top-to-toe. It’s a bizarre experience yet refreshingly liberating to be in the Ourika Valley region, on the outskirts of Marrakech, undergoing my first Moroccan bathhouse ritual.
Hammam’s are Turkish baths and similar to the Roman baths of Europe. An important part of Moroccan culture, the baths and pools are not only about ritual cleansing from the dusty streets, but are where locals catch up with friends, gossip, socialise or relax for hours. In contrast to the streets of Morocco where women are not customarily seen without being well covered, inside the hammam (where up to 20 ladies dowse, lather and scrub) is a completely different story. And for the body shy – as more westerners want to try the experience, solo-hammams are becoming available.
Who needs microdermabrasion, I thought, when I have a Moroccan woman in her underwear armed with a kessa (mitt) and some olive oil soap? Like a comedy, drama and romance film all rolled into one, there are moments of laughter when the kessa nears my armpits, eye watering moments as I lose a layer of skin in delicate areas that don’t normally see the sun and finally, moments when I fall in love with the softness of my skin.
In all, the bathhouse ritual doesn’t take long. The host hoses herself down in water and declares – “finished.” Feelings of nipple chaffing aside, I exit the purpose-built spa at Quaryati Eco-lodge with my tingling skin never having felt so smooth, and dare I say – fresh.
The French influence across parts of Maroc is evident, including here at the purpose built Eco-lodge Ferme d’hotel, complete with delicate laced window frames, manicured grounds, white rose-lined paths winding throughout the fenced-in estate and petit morsel patisserie-styled canapés in the lounge. French owner, Francoise explains, “the upmarket destination retreat with bathhouse, steam and massage rooms is a getaway for International tourists.” It’s true, an afternoon lying by the 25 metre swimming pool gazing at the Atlas Mountains beyond and I’m already lost in the Quaryati contemporary interpretation of a getaway. For, aside from the property’s artistic Berber tent centerpiece, a guest could be forgiven for forgetting where in the world they were. The isolated property only further accentuating the retreats focus on guest seclusion and privacy.
As my relaxing spa stay draws to an end, I take my newly buffed body and sit in the outdoor lounge, mirroring the pink-hued sky. My stay in the lovely Ourika Valley’s Quaryati hinterland spa is certainly a grand getaway. Tomorrow, I considered, I’ll unravel a sanctuary of a different kind – a Moroccan spiritual retreat. In the meantime, however, I decide to join the millions of stars seen from the rooftop: beaming.
Quaryati Eco-Lodge Retreat – www.quaryati.com/en