Saturday, October 20, 2007

The post of the bath...

It has to be said that I love baths with a passion. Oh such a passion. It has been a point of almost daily heartbreak for me that we do not have a bath here in Marrakech, although there are certain moral issues to such wanton water wastage here in North Africa and particularly in Morocco where there has been a drought for the last decade, but such issues aside... I miss my bath. Of all the glories of our new apartment in Paris, the fact that it has that longed-for tub almost brought tears to my eyes, but still, it has to be admitted that even through a claw-footed, cast-iron Victorian bath is rare in the average Moroccan household, they have certainly dreamed up a few rather fabulous alternatives.

Now, I must first disabuse my romantic readers of any notions of scenes like those above. Unfettered orientalism completely aside, it does rather seem as though Debat-Ponsan, Bouchard and Ingres were just looking for rather tenuous excuses to paint naked girls in exotic (i.e. sexy) environments. But it has to be said that the luxury of some of the hammams here in Marrakech does make one feel rather like one of these extremely clean young ladies by the time they are done with you.

In Le Bains de Marrakech I was steamed, soaped, and blissfully scrubbed to within an inch of my life and slathered with mud and left to steam a bit longer before having bucket after bucket of hot water poured over me to wash the mud away. At Les Jardins de la Koutoubia I had a similar experience, albeit in far more luxurious surroundings, and delivered by a girl so tiny that she had to stand on the edge of the fountain to reach to pour the hot (and cold!) water over me. You leave both relaxed and invigorated and cleaner than you have ever felt before in your life. Practically any luxury hotel here in Marrkakech (and most of the non-luxury ones too, for that matter) feature a hammam somewhere, even though it does seem that saunas and Western steam-rooms are unusual, and even if you are staying in the cheapest of the cheap, eighteen euros will see you scrubbed and steamed in Bains and twenty-five or thirty in Jardins. Who needs Clarins?

If you simply must have more, then you must surely buy The Book of the Bath.

Bernard Debat-Ponsan, Scene du Hammam
Paul-Louis Bouchard, After the Bath
Jean Ingres, The Turkish Bath

PS: I have added a few more blogs to my list on the right hand side of this page - do give them a visit!


Stephanie said...

Oh Sarah! This makes me sad...we never made it to Marakesh...our luggage did (long, long story) but we did not.

Someday I will get there and experience this as your description has me melting!

paris parfait said...

Such lovely images. I've had baths like these in the Middle East and they are really cleansing - so hard to get in the West, unless you pay big bucks at a spa somewhere. And you're coming to Paris? To stay? I'm trying to organise a trip to Morocco as a surprise for my husband's birthday.

Sarah said...

Oh no! But do try to come here at some point - it really is wonderful.

Sarah said...

PP: Yes, we're moving to Paris on the 31st of this month - I can't wait!

Yvonne said...

I am a huge bath fan as well! I must try these spots when I finally make my way to Marrakech!