Archive for the 'Marrakesh' Category

Marrakesh to Essouaira






























Barefoot in the Djemaa el Fna



One of the many performers in the Djemaa el Fna (market square in Marrakesh)  it was hard to photograph them without being hasseled for money but I was pretty happy with this hip shot.


When I was a little girl my father had a friend that came to visit us at our cabin in the woods.  I remember she was very beautiful in a way that was completely new to me; she wasn’t pretty like my class mates who had the coolest clothes or glamorous like the movie stars who effortlessly moved about the screen.  It was more like the beauty of my Mother, more truthful but hers was new and unfamiliar.

I don’t remember what she looked like but I remember she could walk barefoot across glass.  In my mind that became the answer to her beauty and mystery, it also became a vivid image that I can always look back on.  The following fall I vaguely remember telling a teacher that when I grew up I wanted to be a woman that could walk on anything.

While we were in Morocco I had some strange dreams, most of which left me with more ideas than exact images, but one of the dreams included walking on glass and this woman who amazed me so much as a little girl.  After the Hammam we went to the Djemaa el Fna where we rather spontaneously decided to get some henna.  We did not however think about how long the henna would need to sit and/or how cold the air would become in the next half hour.  So as they finished the Berber deigns and the sun went down we realized we’d have to find a place to sit for a while and we’d need to find it without putting our shoes on.

Now, as a kid I was barefoot everywhere and as an adult I take pleasure in grass between my toes in the right places.  As a girl who went to school in the city and has seen a few too many people use the subway as a toilet wearing flip flops in a city makes me a tad uncomfortable (too thin soled and open).  However, traveling changes the rules even if you didn’t think you had many.  Before I knew it I was walking across glass, laughing with my Sister, and appreciating the Moroccan street cleaners.



Back at the Riad, playing with my flash and the bright orange of my freshly washed feet.


Our Riad, gorgeous.



It makes sense that the word Hammam is from the Arabic root, hmm, meaning heat.  I really love that, such a universal reaction to warmth, saying it kind of warms your lips.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the Hammam.  I’d heard of Turkish baths before and I was looking forward to the experience but while listening to Sister read out the descriptions from Lonley Planet there seemed to be such a wide range of differences.  In the west a steam room or spa is usually a luxury but here it sounded like it was more of a necessity, not only warmth that soothes your pores but also the shower to keep you clean.  DSC_0804

We decided to go for the cheapest place, they were all really cheap but this one was said to be used by mostly only locals and not to expect any frills.  As we followed some back streets and walked through the trash filled parking lot to the spa we stayed silent, I don’t think either of us wanted to turn back so we quieted our uneasiness.


back of the Hammam

There wasn’t a door just one of those openings that has another opening behind it so you can’t see anything from outside, kind of like mall and airport bathrooms so no one has to touch a door handle.  We walked in and immediately I take a photo of the ‘do not’ symbols, always interesting.


Do not sit on your bucket!

The woman behind the counter starts yelling then I realize why, there’s about 5 women perched behind her naked.  I apologize, she shrugs.  Sister asks about the prices, the woman walks to a back room with her hand up in the air in a sort of  ‘you don’t know what you want, I do, so just listen’ sort of way.  Sister and I look at each other with question mark faces, but we listen.  She returns with slightly worn plastic buckets each containing a plastic mat, plastic sandals, a scrubbing brush, and a few small containers of what I guess to be shampoo.  She mimes undressing and plucks at my shirt. Here? Oh, um, ok.

Luckily another woman comes in at this point, a regular by the looks of it, with her bucket and sandals in hand she waves then strips.  Sister and I check in to make sure we’re both fine with this, we both say why not? So all of a sudden we’re standing in our underwear in what seems to be an old garage (with no lighting by the way), wearing sandals that seem to be owned by the general public, and following an old woman who obviously doesn’t speak English.

We shuffle through the dark hallway with the older woman and another woman, naked and very thin who seems to have been assigned to us.  Slowly we feel the steam, it’s getting warmer and as my eyes adjust I see women perched around the room scrubbing and sitting.  I feel relieved, every age of woman around me and no one seems uneasy in their nakedness.  We must be the whitest and most confused people in here but we don’t get many stares at least not the rude type, more just curious, like the little girl in the corner who seems entranced by Sister’s blond hair.

The old woman finds us a spot, tells the thin woman something then hobbles off. The buckets are filled while we sit and try not to stare too much.  Then, without hesitation the woman pours water over our heads and legs pulling us around like children.  She tilts our heads and guides our backs then hands us each a handful of thick brown stuff and shows us that we’re to rub this all over. After she scrubs us down with the brush, a bit rough but she obviously knows what she’s doing. Then she gave us each an amazing massage and rinse, not shy about anywhere.

I could feel myself relax with everyone in the room, women wondered in and out filling buckets, lending each other soap, and chatting in Arabic about what I imagined to be the usual.  It was nice after all the glares I’d recieved for my ‘inappropriate’ clothing and ordering wine at the bar.  Finally it felt like we had all found a common ground, in body parts and sisters, aching muscles and collective hmmms.

My oh My Marrakesh


It was strange to be back in a city all of a sudden and that first day was a bit overwhelming.  After dropping off our bags we walked into the center, elated because there was so much to do (unlike the last two places) but a bit confused by seeing all the things we’d appreciated not having, i.e. McDonalds and the like.



We took a cheap cab back to the hotel and rested up for what would be a completely packed visit in Marrakesh.