The Hammam Bath House Experience

DOUZ, TUNISIA

I have been to many bath houses before- like the Korean Wii Spa in Los Angeles, or the all nude, mixed gender German saunas in Kempten. But today I had my first experience in a Hammam in Douz Tunisia which is quite different all together.

Upon arrival, I am told that today is a very busy day and one of the girls in our group of three opts out as she says- “oh no, I don’t like it when it’s busy like this”. So she sits and waits and my other friend and I enter the steam filled hallway.

I am in Douz, Tunisia, so the primary languages spoken are French and Arabic and immediately upon entering and starting to disrobe a woman starts to scream at me as my friend begins laughing. I am clueless as to what her problem is, and my friend cannot stop laughing long enough to translate for me. As I stand there almost nude minus the sandals and panties, the woman continues to yell at me. Finally my girlfriend gets it together and explains that it is my thong underwear she has a problem with- not me. Apparently no one here (especially this woman) wants to see the string up my butt – but they have a solution – (probably because these lovely women that have brought me here have washed my clothes for me on more than one occasion and knew this was coming) they have brought me not one, but two pairs of regular panties.

Phew! Saved me from this woman with a big time objection to thong underwear- or my butt.. either way, she stopped yelling at me and left so that was good. Next we enter the actual “hammam” which is series of dark steamy rooms with buckets being tossed around like skeeballs at Chucky Cheese. The place is packed with women and echoes with the splashes of water being thrown all over the place. I follow my friend as she guides me to the water trough and hands me my own buckets to throw around. After we fill them with way too hot water, we move into another room where she points to a free space and tells me to sit and sticks my feet in one of the buckets of water before leaving to get… yes, even more buckets of water.

When she returns, she shares with me some soap and a shower puff and instructs me to start scrubbing myself. We spend about 10 minutes in this super hot, super steamy room before she disappears and I decide to start meditating. Then I hear this tiny voice close to me say and repeat (in English!) – “are you meditating?” I open my eyes and see a very curious girl leaning close to me and she is smiling. After a quick conversation about meditation she leaves and I go back into my trance. Then, about 5 minutes later, the next thing I hear is a “Pssst! Pssst psst psst!”. I open my eyes to see that I am the only one left in the room and the same woman who was yelling at me earlier about my G string is pointing at me and pointing at the door. Time to go? I guess it is…

I leave the room and start searching the hammam for my friend. After finding her she asks me if I would like a scrub down and massage. Hell yea I would! She points to a burly woman who begins speaking rapid French with me. Again my friend just starts laughing as I look at this woman with utter confusion on my face. When my friend explains that I do not understand French, the woman lets out a hearty laugh herself and points at the place in front of her for me to sit. Now this is where it gets really interesting.

My friend leaves me again while this woman starts scrubbing my hands and arms with brut force and a semi-steel glove. Then again, she says something in French and I look at her like a dog cocking it’s head like “are you going to give me something?” She laughs again and pushes and pulls my body and places my face practically in her crotch and continues the steel glove scrub down. The layers of dead skin begin to gather and fall off my body in long snake like rolls that are … yea. .. just gross. She finally says something to me that I understand as she points to all the crud she is scaling off of me- for you- 10 DINAR!! Then she flips me over and continues the assault on my skin cells with a strength usually reserved for gladiators I would imagine. I cannot help but laugh at this treatment and her determination to get all of the top few layers of my skin off.

Finally, it is finished and she covers me in some kind of mud and the same girl who was speaking English to me about meditation earlier explains that I am to go into a stall, prepare a bucket of water and wait 5 minutes before rinsing the mud off. I do as I am told and when I’m done I retreat back into the hallway where my other friend is waiting for me with my clothes. “What did you think?” she says. “I absolutely loved it” I reply as I sneak back into my thong warily looking around for the yelling woman. “Can we come every week while I am here?”

hammam, bath house, tunisia, travel, backpacking, wanderlust

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