Travel

Marrakech Hammam “could be compared to the opening scenes of a lesbian porno”

‘I like your skirt – you walk like a chicken’ was just one of the many bizarre, backhanded compliments I received from business owners eager to attract attention in the markets of Marrakech.

Odd greetings and persistent yells were only too common as my sister and I explored the labyrinthine market streets lined by the prying eyes of shopkeepers sheltering from the oppressive midday heat. Like cowering spiders they crouched on stalls, receding into the darkness of their tourist caves and watching intently for those vulnerable enough to be lured into their webs of lanterns, spices and slippers.

With tourism the major industry of Marrakech, the locals have learnt the tricks of the trade, mostly in the form of competitive shouting. Subtlety was excluded from their marketing strategies, replaced with aggressive sales pitches ignoring any notion of consumer choice.

Entering the Jama El Fna (Marrakech’s main square) at night was difficult feat without being bombarded with bellows of offers for dinner, each restaurant claiming to have an advantage the others didn’t. Some had been ‘dined at by Rick Stein’, while others guaranteed ‘Asda prices with the quality of M&S’.

We were given an entire speech in ‘TOWIE’ slang, including the words ‘reem’ and ‘jel’, spoken in a questionable Essex accent. The input of British culture into the lives of these young men (women were excluded from these jobs), while comedic at first, eventually seemed somewhat sad.

As tourists we should have been embracing the Moroccan culture, but instead the locals were embracing ours.

In an attempt to experience a ‘more authentic Morocco’, my sister and I booked ourselves a Hammam (also known as a Turkish bath). My sister had been keen to experience this spa treatment, a traditional communal activity in Arab countries allowing men and women respectively to socialise and scrub simultaneously.

Despite promises of true relaxation and cultural insight, I was sceptical, but in fear of disappointing my older sibling I agreed to try it out.

As we sat naked, side-by-side on a marble bench overlooking an equally marbled table, I began to regret my give-it-a-go attitude. There was barely time to utter a nervous giggle before we were choking through a suffocating torrent of water that a nonchalant Moroccan spa worker flung at us. I blinked and choked through the freezing gush, amazed at how this violation could in any way be advertised as relaxing.

These initial feelings of misery were perhaps preferable to the levels of discomfort that came next.

My sister was invited to lie on a marble table while I remained seated, watching. While I’m all for sisterly bonding, watching every intimate nook and cranny of your sibling’s naked body being scrubbed and scoured by an equally naked Moroccan woman is a step too far.

My eyes burned as I surveyed an experience that could easily be compared to the opening scenes of a lesbian porno. I resisted the temptation to gouge out my eyes and took my own position, ready to finally experience the relaxation I had been promised.

Relaxation is difficult to achieve when being scrubbed by a texture comparable to sandpaper. I lay grimacing inelegantly on the cool marble surface, as the burning sensation in my eyes spread across my body.

The only positive gained from this painful exfoliation was that it marginally reduced the effect of a failed attempt at Henna, which had given my left arm an unusual orange glow comparable to a fake tan fatality.

Although not necessarily relaxed as I left the spa 20 minutes later, the removal of several layers of skin assured that my body definitely did feel cleaner. My mind? Not so much.

20/03/2017

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jenniferredfern



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