Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lovely Things Day 3: Moroccan Hammams

Disclaimer: Chances are most of us are not flying off to Morocco for Valentine's Day (if you are, damn you!), but hey, this is my fantastical list of ideal lovely things and I can dash to North Africa for a moment if I choose to. :)

Last year in March, for Matt's birthday, we took a trip to one o
f the most beautiful, intense, crazy places in existence: Morocco.

And in Morocco, immediately an enchanting mix of French charm and Arabic mystique washed over us in a cloud of unfamiliar, exotic smells, sounds and sights. Amidst the mint tea vapors, lost within the souks, and even in the bright colors of the newly dyed wool, we found a relentlessly prolific devotion to the here and now. In Marrakesh life is quite alive, and quite, quite lovely.

Lovely Thing #3 is MOROCCAN HAMMAMS

* * *

One aspect of Moroccan culture that was endlessly appealing to the classicists in me and Matt was the concept and abundance of gender-segregated public baths. Something straight out of ancient Greece or Rome, complete with the prerequisite caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium, the only thing missing in the Moroccan Hammams was the ancient hypocast heating system.

We had to forget the prejudicial, modernized visions of cess pools and murky water that the term "public bath" may have previously conjured for us; Moroccan Hammams, whether located in our tiny riad (imagine a bed & breakfast Moroccan style) or in one of the hundred tangled derbs
within the walls of the medina, proved a true escape and, more importantly, utterly human display of comradery and community. People in the city incorporate the Hammam into their quotidian rituals; it is a place of gathering, a place of tranquility, where strangers and neighbors alike will literally scratch your back if you scratch theirs.

Les Bains de Marrakech

While wandering the laberinthine city, we discovered what can only be compared to a secret, magical hideaway:
Les bains de Marrakech It is just as hard to find this place as it is to leave it. It is tucked away in an almost invisible derb just around the corner from the national palace, and offers luxurious Hammam-days for unbelievably reasonable prices for those of us still too touristy to venture into the PUBLIC public baths.

But forget the price: there's very little that can approach, much less surpass, the deliciousness of personal scrubdowns with mint infused black soaps, or hour-long massages with essential rose oils, or even just lying in a beautifully draped room, lounging on mounds of pillows while you drink Moroccan Mint Tea from an impossible tiny and intricate glass cup...

Ah, comme c'est beau - comme c'est beau la vie!

Today's lovely thing is brought to you by "Szerelem szerelem" a Hungarian folk song from the English Patient Soundtrack. A real thing of beauty, like Morocco.

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