I really thought i wasn't going to do this, but it's been niggling at me and i've decided to give in to the need to complete my Marrackech Files series. It feels almost redundant doing this now because it's been...what?...3 months since i got back from the trip. Anyhoo, just for completeness, below is the account of my final day in Marrakech last year. (see here, here and here for accounts of days 1,2 and 3).
So, as i mentioned at the end of Day 3, my trip to the beach at Essaouira was cancelled because i was the only person wanting to take the trip. The hotel staff tried to flog me another day trip to Ouarzazate, which i declined. I asked for a refund because my whole body still ached from my mountain hike the previous day!
The day gets off to a slow start. After breakfast, i finally get the chance to lounge by the pool with book, which is nice because the previous days have been jam packed with activity.
Later on, i decide to give the Hammam another try (it was closed when i got there the previous day). The Hammam i choose is one of the oldest in the City. Strictly no frills. Just your basic service with an entry fee of 10 dirhams. I've only got big denominations of dirhams on me and they have no change, so i offer to go and get some change and come back.
I take the opportunity to take another stroll through the Souqs and as expected, i get called out to by the shop keepers. I decide to take a detour into one particular shop which appears to be a kind of antique type store. I get talking with the manager and when i mention i'm 'from' London, he drops his sales pitch like a hot potato. Apparently, it's only the Americans who are rich enough to purchase his wares. Nonsense! Anyway, i take a look round the store and he gives me a running commentary of the goods on display. He then invites me to come downstairs to the basement with him, and once again, like they have at so many different stages of this trip, alarm bells begin to go off in my head. I mean, i had an amazing time travelling on my own, and i intend to take several more trips solo, however, not before i become fluent in some martial art or the other, so i at least have the confidence that if anything happens, i will be able to defend myself nicely against anyone who might be tempted to try it on.
Sha, i go downstairs with him. I should also say that his colleagues are on the ground floor i.e. we are not entirely alone - hey, i'm not stupid, ok! So, he makes a show of pointing out items to me and finally plonks himself down on a sofa in the corner and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. He invites me to sit down, and i politely refuse. He offers me a cigarette, which i also politely refuse. He eventually confesses that he has lured me down there so that he can have a smoke. It's the middle of the month of Ramadan, you see. So everyone is meant to be fasting. He is not. I ask him why, and he confesses that he is not a practising Muslim, however, no one else knows this. The reason he has taken me down into the basement is so he can have a quick smoke and then blame it on me if any of his colleagues asks! Imagine!!!
He finishes his cigarette and we go back up. I say my goodbyes and am on my way back to the Hammam (which is nowhere near as tush as the picture above) where i pay my 10 dirham entry fee. None of the attendants speak English, so i kind of have to play it by ear. And ok folks, warning, look away now if semi-nudity offends you! Basically, you go in and you strip to your knickers, you pay, you leave your bag with the attendant, and a bucket is thrust into your hands. You are then pointed in the direction of the steam room. So far, so good. I step into the outer steam room and navigate through the other women in various stages of undress, squating or sitting on the floor, and i fill my bucket up with hot water. The attendant had muttered something at me and pointed to a spot beside two onyinbo girls (the only non-indigenes in the place). Oh yeah, as i paid, i was also offered the choice of a gommage (which is basically an exfoliating scrub with a really, really rough sponge) and a massage, and I had declined these, as i wasn't really too sure how i felt about having complete strangers touch me like that!
It soon becomes clear to me, as i squat in the corner, that without either the gommage and massage, the whole experience will be akin to having a wash in a communual space and going home. So i siddle back up to the oyinbo girls whom i had move away from and basically squeak 'help!'. They turn out to be Belgian, and one of them speaks a bit of English. She explains to me what i need to do, and offers me some of her oshe dudu which i have to rub on my body and wait for one of the attendants to come and gommage the hell out of me. Okay, so i wait until she is done with the Belgian chicks, and this woman now turns her attention to me...and i'm like,'okay!'. She (the woman, who looks like she should be a black woman named Bertha)grabs me, spreads her thighs and lays me across one of them...i kid you not! She seizes her gommage sponge and then begins to scrub the crap out of me. All i can say is 'mega-ouch'. One side finished, she flips me over and scrubs the crap out of my other side, then front, then back. In my mind, i'm reciting the alphabet, counting sheep, just doing anything to distract me from this completely surreal experience. I basically go to my happy place, so to speak.
When i made the top up payment for the gommage, i stated explicity that i didn't want a massage, but they choose to ignore this and i am passed over to another attendant who proceeds to knead me all over, like a lump of dough. Not a minute too soon, it's all over and i'm sent into the inner chamber which is the actual steam room/sauna. I chill (if you can say that in a steam room) for about 15 minutes, douse myself with warm water and then come out. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed in the Hamman, so folks, i gat nothing for ya...As i step out and towelling myself off, i'm handed my bag and i get dressed. It's been a gruelling, unfamiliar experience, but heck, as i walk away, i have a big smile across my face, and feel like i am floating! Would i do it again? Oh, hell yeah!
Okay, i go into the square, and get somthing to eat at one of the roof top terrace cafes, while watching the sun set. Beautiful.Then it's back to the hotel. And home the next day.
In summary, i don't think i'll ever forget this trip. It was liberating on so many levels. I've always enjoyed pushing myself to see just how much i can achieve, and this was almost the ultimate test of this. I put myself out there, and i survived. I think that was the main thing i learnt (or maybe confirmed). I can do anything i want to...on my own! Goodnight, Marrakech. And you better believe i'll be back...