Must-Do Couples Hammam in Marrakech :  What Why and How?

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 10 March 2024 |

I’d read that no visit to Morocco would be complete without experiencing a traditional hammam.

While spa days and massages might not typically be our thing, the idea of an ancient cleansing ritual with promises of rejuvenation was rather compelling.

If, like me, you’re apprehensive about a public hammam and prefer to protect your modesty then fear not.   We found a private spa in the heart of the medina, offering an opportunity to experience this centuries-old tradition with a Hammam in Marrakech, tailored for couples as well as solo visitors.

two hammam spa robes waiting for us as we entered the changing room during our traditional hammam in Marrakech

What Is A Traditional Moroccan Hammam?

A traditional Moroccan hammam is a public bathhouse; quite literally a place where folks went to wash.  Historically homes didn’t have hot water, plumbing or baths and the hammam offered a practical solution. 

People would visit to bathe but also to wash before prayer.  Hammams became social centres, they grew in popularity and started to appear close-by or even within mosques.  Indeed, the idea of cleaning and religion isn’t unique to Islam; I remember my Mum telling me that cleanliness was next to Godliness. I’m not sure that was true of my ten-year-old self but it was certainly a commonly used expression I remember from childhood.

Hammams became associated with good health and people felt better for the experience.  Then as now, it was recognised that sweating, cleansing, scrubbing and circulation-aiding-massage is good for us.

Today they are as popular as ever and there are still a few traditional hammams in the heart of the Medina in Marrakech.  If like us you’re not quite that adventurous but would still love to experience a Moroccan hammam worry not; there are a number of excellent private hammam experiences available.

interior of a private spa and hammam in Marrakech

How Does A Moroccan Hammam Differ From A Turkish Bath?

Hot baths have existed for millennia.  While the Romans are famous for their elaborate bathhouses, the idea of bathing is much older.

The Great Bath in the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro, in the Indus Valley in Pakistan is thought to date back almost 5000 years.  Bathtubs and washing facilities were commonly used by Ancient Greeks and the ancient Egyptians. 

Culture, religious differences and even climate meant that bathhouses evolved differently.   Moroccan hammams are typically smaller and lack some of the features found in Roman baths, such as a plunge pool.  Likewise, Turkish or Ottoman hammams may be larger and more elaborate.

Islamic Hammams evolved to meet the needs of purification. For example, Romans had pools for submersion, a style less favoured in Islam which prefers bathing under running water.

Moroccan hammams and Turkish baths are both steam baths, but in Morocco there is often more focus on detoxification and scrubbing, whereas, in a Turkish bath, the focus is cleansing with water and submerging in hot and cold pools. 

steam room in the private hammam, the seat and walls are made from marble

Is The Hammam Like A Spa Or Massage?

Hammams can be similar to a spa experience but that is not their purpose.  Typically, they don’t include the treatments that you might find at a modern spa.  You can though expect washing, scrubbing, steaming and cleansing masks.

Massages and other spa treatments are often offered as additional options to compliment the more traditional experience in private hammams.

Are There Private Hammams And Couples Hammams in Marrakech?

Yes.  You will find both options in Marrakech. You would need to ask specifically about the couples and mixed-gender option as not all will offer this. 

I knew that we wanted to both enjoy our experience together (or maybe we were both too afraid to go alone!) I actively searched for a private couples hammam.   

There are also a few excellent group tour options if you’d like to go with a local and have a truly authentic hammam experience.

★★★★★

WE LOVED OUR HAMMAM IN MARRAKECH

  • private spa meant we would book together
  • the experience held true to the traditional Moroccan hammam
  • a little pricey but worth if for this shared experience

What To Expect During A Moroccan Hammam Experience?

A typical hammam experience involves several stages and we were guided through each.  The stages happened to us rather that us doing anything :

  • You’ll change into minimal clothing, usually a swimsuit or underwear
  • You’ll spend time in a hot, steamy room, meant to soften your skin and open your pores
  • You will be washed with warm water and the traditional black soap by your attendant
  • Your entire body will be scrubbed with a special glove to remove dead skin
  • A clay mask, made from Rhassoul clay, may be applied to your skin to further purify and soften
  • You will receive a final rinse with warm water.
  • Expect time to relax and enjoy a traditional Moroccan mint tea

How Was Our Couples Hammam Experience?

When I first told Gerry that we were going to have a Moroccan hammam he immediately asked a few questions; do bear in mind this is not the sort of activity that we’d usually undertake.

  • What is it?  I have no idea what that is!
  • Will I have to be naked?
  • This all sounds strange; will I like this experience?
  • How much is this going to cost us; is it very expensive?
  • How long will it last? Is it an all-day affair?
  • Will you be there too? I don’t want to go alone!

I think his responses were fair.  Having already done a little homework I was convinced that we would need a private hammam and I knew that Gerry would not go alone, so a couples option was a must. 

I knew that I wanted to experience this during our stay so I researched more and found the perfect option at the Riad Al Ksar in the heart of the Medina in Marrakech.

Gerry and Colleen before going into for our hammam experience in Marrakech
Looking ever so slightly apprehensive before our Hammam

Authentic Moroccan Spa in a Moroccan Riad

The website says that the hammam respects Moroccan traditions.  They have steam rooms and pools made from Moroccan marble and tiles made with traditional “Zéliges” or ceramics.  It certainly looked beautiful with its mix of stunning emerald and turquoise colours.

The entire setting reminded me very much of the baths that I visited in Seville many years previously at the start of Via de la Plata Camino.

From the outside the ochre coloured walls of the Medina revealed very little of what lay ahead. We entered through ancient wooden doors and walked into an oasis of calm.  Comfortable chairs lined a small pool and glorious planting and bougainvillea adorning the terrace walls. You would never have guessed from the outside that this little haven of a hotel and spa existed.

Top Tip : I booked our hammam online weeks before we arrived.  I knew that there were limited options in Marrakech for couples and I didn’t want to miss out on this experience. 

We were welcomed in and our booking confirmed.  The reception staff speak excellent English and French and the booking process was easy. The treatments were explained and we were asked to confirm our preferences.

  • How long did we want the massage?
  • What products did we wish to use? 
  • Did we have allergies or medical conditions? 

Each step was carefully explained, and we felt relieved that no prior hammam knowledge was needed.

can behind a wooden door on the streets of the medina near our hammam

Moroccan Hammam Experience For Two

We were informed that we could leave our underwear on during the hammam; indeed it was mandatory for men but optional for women.

Armed with freshly laundered dressing robes and slippers, we were taken to a small private room to change and once ready we were led away for our hammam experience.

It would be fair to say that we had no idea what to expect and we both felt a little anxious; I’d go so far as to say embarrassed; this entire process was a first for us both.

I wore an old swimming costume and Gerry wore speedos.  My costume was very promptly pulled down and honestly I recommend that you skip the whole all-in-one modestly protection and just wear a pair of undies or a bikini bottom.  Rest assured those undergarments remained in place for the duration.

The room had subdued lighting and exuded relaxation from the outset.  The attendant (a lady) took control from the start. 

The steam bath is less of a bath and more a laying area where the marble slab and walls are warm to touch. It immediately felt relaxing and also smelt divine.  I’m not a fan of overly scented rooms but this was very subtle and felt like a pure scent and not a manufactured perfume.

There was very little talking as neither party spoke each other’s language but this was no barrier.  The attendants are clearly professional and we were guided through the entire process and it never felt awkward. Indeed the silence is preferred.  There is something quite soothing listening to the sounds of the water and the scrubbing and the soap.

Glorious Hot Steam, Scrubbing, Water Baths And Scented Oils

Almost immediately our nerves dispersed.  The ritual starts with a thin layer of black soap applied over your body, after resting, there followed a process of rinsing with hot, warm and cool water.

I expected an odd smell with the olive soap but there is none.  A gentle hint of amber maybe but again subtle.

After this, using the traditional kessa glove (almost like a glove made of loofah) she scrubbed dry and dead skin from your body, leaving you tingling all over. This was followed by more rounds of soap, oil, rinsing and waiting.  Lastly. a purifying rhassoul clay mask was applied to absorb impurities from your skin.  

We were left alone and I could have quite easily fallen asleep but soon enough there was more rinsing, hair washing, head massaging and cleaning until we were fully scrubbed and ready to move on.

Expect this process to last around 45 minutes.  It was never uncomfortable and extremely relaxing.  Although Gerry did chuckle at my cozzie being pulled down!

Gerry and Colleen after our hammam experience in Marrakech
Looking relaxed, happy and positively glowing after our Hammam

★★★★★

WE LOVED OUR HAMMAM IN MARRAKECH

  • private spa meant we would book together
  • the experience held true to the traditional Moroccan hammam
  • a little pricey but worth if for this shared experience

Traditional Moroccan Black Soap

Moroccan black soap, is crafted from olive oil and macerated olives.   Integral to the Moroccan Hammam tradition, black soap is revered for its skin-nourishing properties :

  • Exfoliation by gently scrubbing away dead skin with the kessa mitt, black soap is said to reveal a smoother, softer, and brighter skin.
  • Hydration from the natural oils, black soap replenishes moisture and fortifies the skin’s barrier against dryness and flakiness.
  • Cleansing from the blend of olive and eucalyptus oils, black soap deeply cleanses, eliminating impurities like dead skin cells and excess oil.

The Moroccan Rhassoul Clay Mask

This natural mineral clay has been sourced from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco for hundreds of years.  Its fine texture makes it ideal for facial and spa treatments and is favoured for its cleansing, nourishing, exfoliating, and rejuvenating properties.

Said to act as a detoxifying cleanser and conditioner it is rich in minerals like Silica, Magnesium, and Calcium, and the clay is esteemed worldwide for skin care.

The Massage

After our steam and soap and rinse we popped on our robes and were led to an incense infused candle lit room; I usually don’t like incense as it irritates my sinus but it was not overpowering and not a problem.

I’m also not a fan of massage but the package included a 30 minute massage with essential oils.  Again my apprehension quickly disappeared.  They massaged from finger tips to toes.  It was so relaxing I didn’t want it to end.  But end it did and once complete they left us our the candle lit cocoon to chill.

I thought that perhaps we’d giggle like children but instead we both fell silent and drifted off into a relaxed hammam type haze.  It was glorious. 

Finally Moroccan Tea

All too soon it was over.  We were back in the changing room.  Once dressed you return to the central courtyard for hot refreshing mint tea; we’ve developed a taste for this tea during our time in Morocco

There is a small pool here and you could bath if you wished but we decided against.  I imagine in the heat of the summer it would be very refreshing.

Moroccan mint tea served in a silver teapot after our traditional hammam in Marrakech

Was This The Best Moroccan Hammam in Marrakech?

Of course we have no idea if this was the best hammam.  Was it fabulous? Yes.  Are we glad we booked? Absolutely.  Would we do it again?  For sure!

I loved this experience.  We are both pretty down to earth and there were times when I wondered if we’d made a mistake; I’d read a few online accounts that made me nervous.   There is no doubt that a traditional Moroccan Hammam is a unique experience.  It’s also a great way to experience the local culture. And you definitely need to leave your modesty at the door. 

But we both loved this experience. The attendants are so professional that it is easy to relax.  If we had been longer in Marrakech I would have booked a second visit.

If like us you are unsure of the undressing then rest assured it’s fine.  Lighting is subtle, the team are professional and very respectful and believe me when I say you’ll never feel quite as clean or scrubbed as you do after a traditional hammam!  Just writing this post makes me yearn to return! 

Our couples Hammam more than exceeded our expectations.  If you are visiting Marrakech then book your hammam and look forward to a few hours of tranquil escape. 

pool and interior of the private spa and hammam that we visited in the medina in Marrakech

Moroccan Hammams: FAQ

How much does a hammam session cost in Marrakech?

The cost of a hammam can vary considerably depending on whether you choose a public or private experience.  The cost will also vary depending on the services included and the products used.  For example, argon oil is offered but was more expensive. 

  • You can pay as little as 8€ in a public spa alone, go on a group guided experience in a public hammam for as little as 33€. 
  • A private hammam experience starts from around 40€ per person with a reduction for 2 people together.  Ours was 75€ for two.

Are there any special rules or etiquette to follow in a hammam?

Yes, in Morocco hammams are not always gender specific so you do need to ensure that you follow the rules of etiquette when visiting :

  • First and foremost be respectful, discreet and remember that these are places of relaxation and quiet; selfies are definitely a no no.
  • Whilst open to both sexes public hammam are separate, so be sure to go to the one designated for your gender
  • Never go naked; both men and women wear shorts or underwear, even though genders are segregated.

What should I take to the hammam in Marrakech?

When visiting a private hammam they will inform you what is needed.  We needed to provide nothing except what we would wear during the hammam and clean underwear for after. 

In a public hammam you will be expected to take

  • Swimsuit or underwear
  • Flip flops or sandals
  • Towel (although some hammams may provide them)
  • Soap and shampoo (black soap and shampoo may sometimes be sold at the hammam)
  • Kessa or your scrub mitt (you may be able to purchase in the hammam or in the souk
  • Sometimes you are expected to provide a small plastic bucket for rinsing
  • Wash bag to store your items
  • Cash for the entrance fee and tip
Spa products offered for sale in our hammam in marrakech medina

What do you wear to a private hammam?

For a private hammam, you can choose the level of privacy you feel comfortable with.  At ours it was mandatory for men to keep their shorts on.  I wore a swimsuit but it was quickly rolled down by the attendant and knickers or bikini bottoms would have been easier.

Top Tip : never go completely naked in a public hammam

How long does a typical hammam session last?

A typical hammam lasts for about an hour.  We opted for a 45 minute hammam and a 30 minute massage.  With hindsight I wish I’d booked the longer session as the time passed very quickly.

What are the benefits of going to a hammam?

There are reportedly many benefits to going to a hammam, including:

  • Improved circulation
  • Exfoliation and softer skin
  • Relaxation and stress relief

Finally : Is it Worth Taking A Traditional Hammam in Marrakech?

For us yes!  We really loved this experience and it is genuinely not the kind of thing we would normally do.  I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to venture into a public hammam alone; but if I was to go with a girl-friend or able to book on a tour then maybe I would now.

If you’re looking for something a little different, you want a taste of Morocco then don’t hesitate.

The true reflection of how good something is has to be would we go again or recommend this to a friend.  Yes we would.  Without hesitation.

Are You Planning A Visit to Marrakech?

I have a series of posts that may be of interest to you and help you plan your Marrakech visit :

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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