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Today my skin is baby soft, and the typist knots in my shoulders have unravelled a little. That’s because we spent yesterday morning at Les Bains de Marrakech, one of the most recommended hammams in the city. As we discovered when we tried to book at a day’s notice, it is always fully booked, so that’s another thing to book before you arrive in Morocco. However, we did manage to score two 9am slots on Sunday – New Year’s Day, which suited us fine, as we were checking out of our hotel at midday, and we didn’t go out on NYE.


Of course there are any number of cheap and cheerful hammams in the city, but I appreciate a few more luxe trimmings as I get older, and Les Bains is a perfect compromise between local bathhouse and luxury spa – a la Dior Institut at the Hotel El Saadi or the Mamounia’s legendary pamper palace.

So at Les Bains the building is a traditional riad, with Moroccan lanterns casting a roseate glow through the corridors. There are flower petals scattered everywhere, soft chaises on which to lounge in between treatments, little glasses of sugared mint tea to keep your strength up, and massages in dimly lit, gently fragranced private rooms.

We had booked a hammam & gommage for two, followed by a massage each. (There was an option to have the massage together, but I prefer my privacy.)

Although a maillot – swimming costume is obligatory, the moment we got in the hammam room, we were sluiced with buckets of hot water and asked to remove our suits. (We were in a private hammam for two people.) Of course you can keep yours on if modesty dictates or you are in a bigger hammam.  If you don’t want to get down and naked with your friend, sister or partner, then make sure you request a private, personal session. Or keep your suit on.

(I also spotted a few local ladies in the changing rooms wearing shower caps for their hammams, which hadn’t occurred to me. Even with two hair washes, I had hideous oily hammam hair for 24hours afterwards so kind of wished I had worn one too.)

After the sluicing there is relaxing in the dim heat, then there is the application of black soap, more relaxing, then the gommage. (Exfoliation with a very raspy mitt. OUCH.) Although it is very satisfying to watch the curls of old grey skin appear. Then more relaxing, then an application of some more goop, then more relaxing.

Then you are done, and it’s time to shower and wash your hair in the adjacent cubicle. (If you are only having a hammam, I’d just wash cursorily, and then head to the changing room to shower thoroughly.)

After some more relaxing, this time on a chaise with mint tea, we were led off separately for very good massages. At this point I do recommend heading for the loo whenever you get the chance – you need to drink lots of water before and after a hammam, and I had to sprint for the changing room downstairs halfway through the massage, which rather killed the mood.

I had a very thorough relaxing massage – none of that stroke-y, stroke-y aromatherapy nonsense but a skilled, therapeutic, un-knotting one, and lil’sis had a draining one, which concentrated on lymphatic drainage and the stomach.

The whole process – hammam, gommage & massage took exactly two hours, and cost 500 dirhams each – 150 for the hammam & gommage, and 350 for the massage. here are lots of other treatments available, from facials and wraps to mani/pedis, as well as lots of packaged treatments and day programmes.

Things I wish I’d packed (but didn’t): a purifying shampoo – they provide their own, but even washing my hair twice didn’t get rid of the massage oil, hair conditioner, body moisturizer & deodorant for afterwards. I also wish I had slipped a comb into my robe pocket at the start, as there wasn’t an opportunity to go back to the changing room between treatments and I had a wet, tangled birds nest on my head after the hammam shower.

Les Bains de Marrakech are open every day from 0900-1930hrs. Book well in advance.
There is a very good website with treatment & price menu at www.lesbainsdemarrakech.com

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58 comments

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Hmm .. glad it was invigorating and ‘reasonable’. But – as you know – the latter was because the people who gave you your fab massage and petal scattering and sluicing got paid about 5 Euros (or 7 dollars) an hour .. possibly less. In London or NYC they have to pay minimum wages .. in Morocco (as you know) they do not. Hope you gave them a good tip in cash. If you had gone to a local hammam (though it would *sadly* have been sans petals and as you point out rather more well .. ‘local’ .. but you were in Morocco after all) you could have supported the local community and probably met a lot more interesting people too.

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@Jane B: This is not possible to compare the wage in Marrakech with London or new York !
For the price of small one bedroom flat in London you can bye a nice Riad in Marrakech , Marrocan can have a meal for 4 & 5 Euros or even less …. ! I would say 5 Euros in Marocco would be the equivalent of 30.- Euros in London or NY.

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The point being missed by a country mile here is that the treatments are actually pretty expensive (in relation to Moroccan salaries), so the workers aren’t being screwed, as is being implied, to keep costs down and give me a ‘reasonable’ massage.

I’m going to take a punt that because most of the women employed at Les Bains were bilingual, they were probably paid more than the women in the neighbourhood bath houses, which can only be a good thing. And of course, the conducive environment for the clientele is also therefore a more pleasant working environment for the people employed there.

I’m also at a loss to understand why anyone would think this independent, Moroccan hammam is ex-the local community? Because it is, you know, IN Marrakech, and employs Moroccans, which last time I checked, makes it, you know, LOCAL.

Readers may also like to know that the female clientele that morning were both English and Moroccan. Maybe someone could leave a comment berating the Moroccan women too for going there? And why would those women be LESS interesting than the ones in neighbourhood bath houses?

Additionally, and this is why I loathe the judgmental attitude so prevalent on-line – it’s always subjective to a ludicrous degree, and frequently lacks background information – as regular readers will know, my sister is disabled. I chose the best and safest environment for her and her disability.

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I went here with my boyfriend – we both absolutely LOVED it – the experience made him suggest a future spa holiday too, so great result!

So glad to hear that you and your sister had a gorgeous time too.

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Whilst I agree with your choices and appreciate and respect your writing, style and blog content, I think you need you need to repect other people’s views a little more, just because you do not agree with someone else’s comment you not have to berate them. You could address and respond with a little more grace, if you can’t accept freedom of speech and others views/ feedback, why blog? I’ve seen this almost every time anyone dares disagree with you or critique your writing or blog in any way….

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Dear Emma

I appreciate your measured comment, even though I may not agree with your point of view. I am sorry if I lacked the grace in replying to my previous reader that you would like to see, but tant pis. It is what it is.

As you can yourself read, that reader wrote a most unpleasant and ill-informed attack on my actions. I responded because I have the right to reply and to defend myself when someone implies I am morally obtuse.

And I stand by the same thing that I have always said: intelligent, thought-provoking comment is welcome, whether it agrees with me or not. Sanctimonious, small-minded, inaccurate & unjustified moralising is not. There are important questions to be raised and an intelligent debate to be had on responsible tourism. That reader was not engaging in either.

Most people choose not to publish their negative comments. I publish the few that I do receive, precisely because I DO believe in freedom of speech. Many journalists do not bother to respond to their comments on-line, and really I don’t have to justify my actions, but I do because I think it’s important to address these things.

I have always said: LLG is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s free. So if people don’t like it, the they are free not to read it.

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@Em: freedom of speech shouldn’t be thrown out there to protect ill informed people with rudeness at the forefront of their comments, it dulls the meaning. I wonder if the person in question would have spoken like that if she were in the company of the author?

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did you ask ‘Les Bains’ how much they pay their staff. Or indeed ask the staff how ‘conducive’ they find their ‘working environment’ rather than just taking a ‘punt’ .. .? You are a journalist after all aren’t you (even by a ‘country mile’)? For your information I am also regarded as ‘disabled’ (or I have a badge that says I am) although I regard this as relative. We are all disabled in some way. I would ‘loathe’ to have a colleague or friend .. let alone a sister .. describe me as such .. especially online. Same as you seem to feel about feedback.

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@Jane B: t
You could enjoy LLG posts for what they are; interesting, informative and entertaining or don’t read them Choice is yours

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@Jane B:

You may not respect my sister’s right to defend herself against your hectoring, but as her disabled sister ( I describe myself thus and have no problem with it) I am exercising my right to object in the strongest possible way to your patronising attempts at ‘inclusion’. Most people are NOT disabled in the way that I am. They have legs and arms, bowels and bladders that work as they should, lives uncurtailed by pain and fatigue, and uncomplicated by speech problems and cognitive dissonance. I would not dare presume what your issues are, but whatever they might be, I think there are causes far more deserving of your righteous indignation than anything you will find here on a personal blog.

I do not need your solidarity and condescension and I don’t consider the wonderful people of Morocco do either.

P.S My sister generous to a fault and always tips above and beyond, whether it is expected or not.
She has cleared her diary to organise and pay for this trip for me and has done so with kindness and consideration for all those who have helped directly and indirectly. It takes some of the joy away for me to see her attacked by you.

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@Jane B:

jog on…

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i cannot wait to go to Morocco and visit all these places you have blogged about. we have been wanting to go but whenever my husb gets time off, it is too hot to go to that part of the world.

as for the rude people commenting here- you are really too kind to them- they are just jealous and have nothing better to do in life than berate kind people like you- if the reader knew everything you do for your sister and for your fellow bloggers – big or small- (myself included) h/she would not write such a ludicrous, ill-informed message. x s

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Sorry Jane B that you don’t like the terminology LLG used but doubt her sister minds or she wouldn’t call her this. It is not kind for you to make assumptions in this case. It is clear from the above that you have decided upon your own version in your own head regarding the spa and the standards imposed on those who work there. Nothing LLG says about what she actual encountered there is going to make a tad of difference. It’s your choice to make victims out of the staff above without knowing any facts. 2 reasons why LLG got a bit huffy.

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Umm… Can i just point out that LLG is on holiday? She is supposed to be on holiday relaxing with her sister as she has made clear. She is not obliged to write a cutting edge journalistic piece of reportage. I also feel that she should not have to justify why she chose one hammam above another, or indeed anything else she does, whether she is on holiday or not.

Furthermore, all blog comments have to be approved by the blog owner. I think it says a lot about her that she is willing to accept and publish critical comments at all. She doesn’t have to do it. She could just delete and ignore such things.

As for defending herself, I do not think she was particularly rude, or harsh, she merely stood up for herself, as she is entitled to do on her own blog. And the points she makes seem reasonable to me.

As for the comments regarding disability, as you will understand yourself, Jane B, there are different levels of disability and different levels of need with regard to public access etc, so I guess you’d have to know LLG’s sister and her needs very well to feel that you have the right to say those kinds of things on her behalf.

Having had the great pleasure of meeting LLG this year I found her to be charming, kind, infinitely patient and polite above all. I respect her work and her attitude, and if you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that she tirelessly champions both her sister and others who have disabilities and would never dream of being disrespectful to or about anyone with disabilities.

I am utterly impressed that she has published your comments which I find small minded in the extreme and which I would not have hesitated to delete were I to have received them on my own blog.

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What a thoroughly wonderful treat for you and your sis. Well deserved after a busy year and I appreciate the tips you’ve been giving following all your experiences. 🙂

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What a gorgeous way to spend New Years Day. I had a similar experience with my sister at a hammam in Jordan. After the initial shock of standing naked while being doused in water and rubbed with oil, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of the trip, and a great memory to share with my sister. Loving the series of posts of Morocco, I hope you and your sister enjoy the rest of your time there!

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