The Gift of The Hammam
On my recent trip to Marrakech, Morocco I was introduced to the ancient ritual body cleansing called Hammam. From what I understand it is similar to a Russian or Turkish Bathhouse but with some differences.
First let me say, if you are body shy then this is not for you! As the hammam is a process where someone bathes you, all of you. In the public hamman the women scrub and wash each other. The men are separated from the women through different entrances and they bathe in a separate building or area.
I experienced my first hammam at the villa where I stayed and I think I would have actually felt more comfortable in the public bath. There I could hideout. The focus and special attention of hammam is something I truly had to surrender to.
I was taken to the locker room to remove my clothes, there in my locker was a thin layer of see through material in the shape of a triangle with elastic on the sides. This was to go over your personal "V". Also called disposable underwear. Which served absolutely no purpose at all. I held it up between my two fingers still seeing the light through it and had a nice chuckle.
When I was done wiggling into my disposable underwear someone came and led me to a warm room. Ok, a big, hot, marble room where my Lady (well, what do you call another women assigned to give you a personal bath?) took my robe and then she said "Don't wet your hair, right?" I obviously was not the first black women in these parts! But I threw her a curve ball, "No, it's okay to wash my hair". And so the experience of my first hammam began.
I was left alone in the heated room to just relax, like a sauna. After about 15 minutes my Lady came back to help me to the shower where she began to wash me from head to toe. I immediately tensed up. I felt my shoulders begin to rise up by my ears. To my own surprise, I was uncomfortable. She washed my body and my hair. Still tense, she asked me to lay face down on the raised marble platform where she had placed a towel. Ummm, okay, more tension. I had to ask again for clarity, lay on my stomach? Yes, she said, like it was no big deal. Again she washed me while I lay on my stomach. I was officially stressed.
The second wash down she used a scrub and as she asked me to turn over she showed me my where my skin had begun to slough off. I was stunned at the sight of my own dead skin. I watched as she scrubbed my arms all the way down my body to my feet. She seemed to be joyfully dedicated to the cleanliness of my body. It was something about watching her take care of my feet, and rub my belly and wash my arms that made me begin to relax. I know it sounds crazy but I started to really feel like she was taking care of me, but even more she was honoring me. She was being of service and what felt like a sacred commitment to this ritual, humbled me. She loves me, she cares, she wants a good tip! It didn't matter as I slowly felt my shoulders relax and my tension began to melt. I was in receive mode.
The final phase was to plunge into a tepid jacuzzi where I was left alone. I was so relaxed that I hardly noticed she was standing off to the side of the jacuzzi with my robe waiting for me to come out. I paid money to be taken care of by the ritual of hammam and even then, it was challenging to just relax and receive. I had to truly experience the dedication of another taking care of me before I could fully commit to my own wellness.
Receiving is a process but it is also a belief. A belief that I am simply good enough to receive because I am. Deeper than that, I was born this way. I need do nothing else in order to receive what is for me. And so it is with you! Thank you Sweet Lady for giving me this gift!
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