We made ourselves cozy during our stay in Essaouira. The winds along the sea and through the narrow alleys of the medina nearly blew us off the continent and did quite a number to my hair. To avoid the rain we ducked into several of Essaouira's many tea shops and drank Berber Whiskey (mint tea) throughout the afternoon, tasted the local space cakes sold off of trays by the port, and experienced a traditional Moroccan hammam.
The hammam, or bath house was one of the most unusual experiences I've ever had. I was referred to a washwoman by the hostel owner, and was lead down the twisting alleys to an unmarked door. Inside, we walked down narrow hallways of tiled walls, past a wood fired stove that provided the heat for the bath water. We traded bath tickets with the women in the woman's room for soap, not dissimilar to something that might happen in Spirited Away. My guide, who up until this point had been fully robed and veiled, began to take off all her clothes and instructed me to do the same. For a country that traditionally is so conservative with gender, it was interesting to watch how differently women conducted themselves in the baths. Though it was not crowed inside, the hammam could easily be a very social place, and women had no inhibitions inside, often walking over and scrubbing another woman somewhere she could not quite reach. I sat in the corner as the wash woman filled up plastic jugs of hot water from the faucet and poured them into three big brown buckets veined with the white shadow of old plastic. She dumped the first bucket on my head then lathered me with soap and left me to steep for a while in the corner. After some time, she came at me with a course wash pad and rubbed me raw from head to toe, pulling my legs towards her stomach while she was scrubbing, my toes quite in danger of running abreast with her nipples. She then washed my hair, and called me her "baby" as I sat huddled knees to chest, not quite ready for the exposure of a public bathhouse. Afterwards she dried me off, and we redressed, she redoing her veil. A small tip to the bath women, and off down the snaking streets, my skin bright pink; a clean, glowing contrast against the muddy streets and dark skies of Essaouira.