You're pulled into the first of three steam rooms as another woman pulls the door closed behind you. This room is somewhat steamy, all tile (mostly white, with a few black accents at waist level), and before you really have time to process the scene, you've been pulled through the archway into room number two. Now this is steamy. Here you have an opportunity to look around and observe what you are about to endure. There are plastic buckets everywhere - surrounding every woman there are least five buckets that have been filled from the six red pipes jutting into the room. The other women waiting like you have begun to scoop water from the buckets onto their bodies, saturating their hair and skin. So you join in. Some of the buckets around you are too hot and one of them is definitely too cold, but inevitably you find one that is close enough.
The woman who you now recognize as the one who dragged you into this corner has returned and is toting a mat for you to sit on. You have only a moment to sit down before she is scooping black soap from your container (you're still unsure of the purpose of this soap, but what you do know is that you need it in order to properly experience the hammam) and she is rubbing it onto your legs. It feels like shortening - hard, yet silky, intriguing, but a little gross and it leaves small amounts of reside behind. She pushes you flat on your back and her hands are everywhere - does she have four of them? Eventually you get used to the feeling, so you take a moment to enjoy the steam, the sound of water splashing, the sense of oneness with these women whose lives are so different from your own - before you're being unceremoniously pushed onto your side so she can scrub down the side of your body, your arm, and most uncomfortably, your inner thigh. This does not last long and before you know it, she has scrubbed both of your sides and is pushing you face down so she can get to your back. While on your stomach, you close your eyes again, appreciate the almost back massage and go back to feeling peaceful - until her four hands begin to roll and move your underwear so she can scrub everywhere. Instantly, what little sense of privacy you had is gone and your only option is to just go with it. You take a deep breath and are flipped back over when you notice them - small grey accumulations of dead skin on the mat surrounding you. "My god," you think, "do I not clean myself when I shower?"
She's now moved back to your arms and you find yourself flexing your hand to avoid the occasional caress of her breasts. While this exercise is futile, it allows you to regain a small sense of propriety and you return quickly to the thought process of "just go with it." You look up when you notice the scrubbing has stopped and have only a second to prepare yourself for the onslaught of water being poured on your head, she then takes about three times your normal amount of shampoo and slathers it into your hair. This is familiar - you may be practically naked in a public bath halfway across the world, but this feeling is reminiscent of getting your hair washed before a haircut in a salon back at home, and you are so thankful for that brief scalp massage that you decide you like this experience (if only for this small reminder of home). After rinsing your conditioner out, she begins covering you with body soap using the kiis you bought earlier in the medina - it's scratchy, not in a terrible way, but not as comfortable as the mitt she used earlier for the removing your dead skin. You're still thankful for this because your newly exposed skin is now being hydrated and moisturized. Now it's time for the massage part of the experience - it's short and isn't the best spa treatment you've ever had, but it's worked out a few kinks in your back and legs and it's all a part of this experience. From here, you're almost done: you've sweat, relaxed, shed your skin (literally), and have enjoyed an important piece of this unique culture. There is just one thing left to do. Be rinsed.
At this point you're anticipating something - just not an entire five gallon bucket of water to be dumped on your head. You quickly shove your chin into your chest, so you can breathe through the waterfall and await the next one, two, three buckets. Finally she splashes you with cold water, posing the question: "is it too cold?" You hesitate briefly (it is cooler than you'd like), but you go back to your newfound mantra of "just go with it" and motion for her to bring it on. And bring it she does. This bucket seems fuller than the rest. Colder than that splash. You gasp for breath before smiling up at the woman, who is now beaming down at you. You've done it - you've survived your first experience at the hammam. The woman who is now well acquainted with your body tells you her name: Samira, and indicates that when you come back, you ask for her. "Of course", you say; while thinking "why would I go with anyone else?" When you re-enter the dressing room, retrieve your bag and redress quickly before paying for Samira's assistance (50 dirham) and walk out the door after thanking her one more time: "Shukran!" You're in the small alleyway heading back to catch a taxi when you realize you did not go into the third room - the boiling hot steam room. But that's ok. You'll be back. You can venture in there next week.