“I was too distracted by her bulging mammary glands to notice much else…”

Unfortunately for me, such ornate sinks and decorated walls were no where to be seen. Breast wise, however… Spot on.

My first thought was that it reminded me of the shower chambers in a Nazi concentration camp, my second thought was, “Golly there’s an awful lot of naked bosoms in this room”. Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I was in a Moroccan Hammam. And no, it wasn’t the type you’d see in tourist photos with arches, painted walls and stacks of fluffy white towels neatly arranged at the side. This was the real deal. The women here had come for their one wash and scrub of the week – showers and baths are a luxury not all can have in Fez, Morocco.

My friend Marla and I strode confidently into the entrance room: I had already frequented a bath in Turkey and we had been promised a massage, so where was the concern? The minute I stepped into the aforementioned chamber in just my knickers I knew this was hardly the experience I had imagined. All around the steamy, white- tiled room were naked women surrounded by sponges and buckets of water, scrubbing away at themselves like there was no tomorrow. One thing for certain is that this was a far cry away from the silent, veiled woman we had seen around the city quietly going about their day. It would seem that when away from men, these women do not suffer from prudishness in the slightest! Everywhere, a giant bosom swung, pendulum like, before my eyes. Flat-chested-ness is clearly not a worry in that part of the world!

And so Marla and I squeezed ourselves in-between two women enthusiastically soaping their young children and began the cleaning process, aided by the woman next to us who seemed to be the only woman in the building who spoke French other than just Arabic. Just as we got had got into the routine of soaping up and dowsing ourselves with buckets of warm water, I was accosted by a large woman with enormous breasts down to her belly button (I kid you not) spouting Arabic at me. Not a sight I’m used to I must confess. Her role, it transpired, was to wash our hair and scrub us down. And so I found myself sitting between her legs and my back pressed firmly up against her bazoomas. I should think the last time I found myself in such proximity to someone else’s knockers was when I was new born baby and my mother was breast-feeding me. However, there was tragically nothing maternal about this woman’s attitude, which was very much brisk shampooing and a tug through with a hair brush. To be honest I was too distracted by her bulging mammary glands to notice much else…

My first knowledge of baths such as these was during Latin lessons aged eleven, and I have a sneaky suspicion that methods used in ancient Rome and in this Moroccan Hamman are pretty similar. This was not the standard tourist-sucking-in type of place, this was an untainted chunk of culture experienced first-hand, and thus probably something of a once in a lifetime experience. Not, however, that such a thought saddens me. Yes, it was a most interesting experience but not particularly one I crave to be repeated. Needless to say it certainly highlighted the differences between Moroccan culture and western culture.

My time in Morocco sometimes felt like an endless voyage of discovery in ways Morocco (unsurprisingly) differed from France and England. It is a place where seat belts are actively discouraged and purposely trapped behind the seats in taxis, where women are banned from the majority of bars, where smoking is permitted inside and where alcohol is to be very rarely found. Imagine if Durham morphed into this tomorrow… I should imagine the university experience would be very different! Plus, considering my average morning get-up time is currently anything between 11am and 3pm, I’m not sure I could quite hack getting up in time for the 5am call to prayer…

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