If you are in Paris and want to experience Morocco but don’t have the time to – take the time to visit a Hammam in the 5th arrondissement in Paris.
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to take the afternoon to relax with a couple of girlfriends. We decided to take the afternoon to visit a Hammam, proving to be the most relaxing four hours I’ve had in Paris.
A Hammam is known to be a steam room, similar to a Turkish bath, where Moroccans habitually go weekly to cleanse themselves. As a Westerner, I had no idea what I was getting myself into – I just knew that I was in for a relaxing afternoon. If you aren’t into exploring other cultures, then don’t waste your time going. But if you’re open-minded and curious, visiting a Hammam is highly recommended.
Upon entering the Hammam, you take your shoes off and proceed to a room to change. The Hammams are never co-ed (there are particular days for women to go and other days for men to go, or in some – different rooms for men and women). While some choose to get almost completely naked, my friends and I felt more comfortable wearing our bathing suits.
After changing we were given “black soap” – an African soap used to heal skin. We cleansed our skin, stood in the shower room for fifteen minutes, rinsed off and proceeded to the steam room. In the middle of the steam room there is a giant bath filled with cold water. You are welcome to stay in the steam room for as long as you wish. My friends and I spent longer than other visitors in the steam room (which is probably why I felt reinvigorated and relaxed after my experience).
When you decide you’ve had enough time to steam, you head over to get a complete body scrub. This was the most uncomfortable part of the experience but my skin has never felt softer than it did afterwards. I’ve also never seen more dead skin in my entire life (seriously, it was disgusting). I mean, they won’t even let you go back to get your pending massage without taking another shower but lets be honest – you wouldn’t want to not take a shower anyways. The massage experience in the Hammam isn’t like your typical massage. You aren’t brought into a dimly lit, private room. You go into the main area of the Hammam where others are lounging on the cushions along the perimeter of the room, or getting their massages at the same time. At first it looks like it would be uncomfortable – and for those who are not adventurous – it would be. Although there were people around me while I got my massage, I felt like I was in a private place. I had time to think, uninterrupted. I had no phone, no one asking me about my future, why I was in Paris, or what I wanted to do upon the completion of my program. Finally I not only had a physical break, but a mental one as well. It is a spa-like experience you just can’t get anywhere else.
Our experience finished up with going to steam more after our massages (this is optional) and then being given a mint tea – which was arguably the best mint tea I’ve had in my entire life.
So far, this was one of my favourite things I’ve done in Paris. The Hammam isn’t the only experience you can have there though as there is an entire mosque, garden, and authentic Moroccan restaurant you can visit. Around Paris there are more modern Hammams, but I highly recommend visiting the one that I visited. The moment you enter it feels like you’ve left Paris and gone into another world. Relaxation, reinvigoration, and leaving Paris without leaving Paris – what more could you ask for in the city of light?