The first half of this blog entry is completely unillustrated with photos – largely because I was clothed in only a paper g-string for most of it and that’s an entirely inappropriate image to share with anyone but my husband and middle-aged Moroccan ladies. You’ll just have to use your imagination for the next bit!
So K and I were keen to visit a few different hammams while in Marrakech. Our stay in the city was designed to be a relaxing holiday rather than a jam-packed action trip, and what better way to relax than in a Moroccan hammam with steam rooms, body scrubs and massages? We visited Hammam Rosa Bonheur first, as it was one of the hammams that offered a reasonably priced ‘couples experience’, rather than separating guests by gender from the start.
We chose their special offer, which included a 45 minute traditional hammam experience, 1 hour and 15 minute massage, a 30 minute facial, and a three-course meal for only 95 Euro per person. A bargain by most accounts, as it’s a two and a half hour pampering experience with a meal for only about $150 AUD!
So how did our morning play out?
- We arrived at Rosa Bonheur and sat down in their lounge with a glass of mint tea to start.
- We were shown to our own private massage room and undressed there, putting on provided paper G-strings (which made K somewhat uncomfortable!) and a bathrobe.
- We were led down to their heated hammam room with slabs of hot marble to lie on in only our paper G-strings.
- A Moroccan woman came in to pour water over both of us before soaping us up in the famous Moroccan black soap and leaving us to lie down and soak the soap into our skins.
- She returned with a colleague to scrub the soap off us with an exfoliating glove. I’m pretty sure she removed about ten layers of dead skin from me, it was quite disgusting.
- After that, we got wrapped in a mud wrap for further beautification before we were completely rinsed off, re-robed, and led back upstairs for our massages.
- Our massages were equal parts painful and relaxing – my masseuse got right into my muscles which were quite tight after months of sleeping in beds of differing qualities on our travels! They use a lot of argan oil, so make sure you wear old clothes when you go, as your clothes will get quite oily when you put them back on afterwards!
- We had two different face masks applied during our facial which was quite relaxing. I may have even fallen asleep during my facial!
After these hours of pampering, we got dressed back into our street clothes and went to their rooftop terrace, where we had a private dining booth of luxurious red velvet set up for our meal. There were a few other groups dining there at the same time as us, with one particularly rowdy party of English ladies who must have been there as part of a 40th birthday celebration. Actual overheard quote: “They’re taking naked photos of each other in the massage room!”
We started off our meal with the typical Moroccan Harira Soup, a protein-rich blend of lentils and chickpeas, seasoned with plenty of cumin and pepper. The chickpeas were kept quite hard and nutty, which made for a particularly hearty soup.
We also got these little morsels of samosas to start – so small that you could probably fit four in the palm of your hand! There were two varieties – one with a soft white cheese filling, the other with a tomato-based vegetable filling. The cheese was my favourite – while quite rich on its own, it was particularly delicious when eaten with a single mint leaf. Mint plays such a large part in Moroccan cuisine, and I can see why – it really helps to enhance so many of their dishes!
Our side dish was a stewed eggplant dish in a crushed tomato sauce – very simple, but particularly delicious when eaten on the Moroccan khobz bread that accompanies every meal. This is the type of vegetable side dish I’d like to make more of at home, especially when eggplants are going for cheap! While technically Moroccan in style, it could very easily be adapted to suit other cuisines – with some chilli and chives for Chinese dishes, extra garlic and basil for Italian…the options are endless!
The star of the meal was the chicken tajine, cooked with olives and citrus peel in the classic Moroccan combination. Interestingly, this tajine didn’t seem to be properly glazed inside, which meant that all the flavours of this dish and dishes before it were baked into the base of the tajine to create a particularly tasty sauce base to be sopped up with our khobz bread.
This was the dish – one piece of chicken maryland each, as well as some olives on the side. The chicken was unfortunately not as tender and tasty as the one we’d had the day before at Nomad Cafe, but was still quite enjoyable. We had a stray feline visitor during our meal who also enjoyed the little bit of chicken we gave her!
We finished off our meal with our dessert – some simple orange slices with sliced almonds. Simple and refreshing, especially with the nutty toasted almonds.
Our feline friend wasn’t impressed that we didn’t have any more food to feed her! I don’t think she actually belongs to the hammam – she just prowls the rooftops of the hammam and the adjourning buildings, hoping for some handouts!
A half-day of pampering with an included meal is a must-do while you’re in Marrakech. You really learn to let go of any personal inhibitions, especially as Moroccan women casually manoeuvre your body into various positions to make sure that they reach all nooks and crannies with the black soap. Rosa Bonheur is the place to go if you want to package up a hammam experience, massage and a facial into one experience to be shared with your loved one!
Hammam Rosa Bonheur is located at 79 Derb habib allah Quartier in Marrakech Medina, Morocco.