So, I let a woman scrub my naked body publicly today.
I feel like this needs some context, but in true Moroccan style, I will let that sentence sit with you while I go on a completely different tangent for a while here.
Getting outside; what a process, am I right?
I am still trying to figure out how is the best way to get outside for some TLN (tough love for nature) here in the middle of Morocco. The best way I’ve found is to take a bus to somewhere near the ocean and haphazardly jump in.
I have done this twice so far.
Sometimes it is hard to get outside here, it requires some tough love. Like two weeks ago, when I took a bus six hours (one way) to Tetouan, a spot on the Alboran Sea to swim for a bit. From our hostel in the medina, we then walked another six miles to the actual beach. And it was 100% worth it! So thus, tough love for nature.
We stripped down to our swimsuits, put on running shorts and tee-shirts and immediately felt as naked as the day we came out of our mommas. After swimming around for a few minutes, we deemed our six-mile walk worthy and found a spot for lunch.
After time in Tetouan, I was yearning for some more active time in nature, and the best bet was the ocean once again since the mountains often require a guide and fairly large group.
This time, I found a surf hostel in the medina of Rabat and signed up for some lessons. Contrary to the first beach trip, this time I had seven companions and only a two-hour train ride. In Rabat, we decided to cook our own food in the hostel, surf as much as possible, and soak up the sunshine.
And this is exactly what we did, along with chat with friends from all over the world (or at least the world near us) in muddled conversations in Spanish, Arabic, and Italian.
So yes, I’ve been working on getting outside. In between the two beach trips, ISA organized a trip to Ifrane for a hike where I almost bouldered up the trunk of a tree. Almost is the key word here, because after a while my group got tired of watching me attempt the send, grabbed my ankles and hoisted me up onto the first branch. After the bouldering session, we met up with some monkeys and hiked to a viewpoint above the town, which proved to be worthy of the effort of the group.
On being publicly naked
I did promise I would come back to the topic. Let me introduce the idea of the hammam, the public baths of Morocco. Similar to the ideas of public baths in many countries, these are an ancient tradition for many people, segregated by gender. The idea is that these were the most convenient way to get clean before in-house showers and baths got popular, but are still in use today.
Peek into my experience: I went for the first time with my study abroad program, which in itself made me a little nervous. Nine Western women in the hammam for the first time, how chatty should we be? Is it okay to look around? Do sauna rules apply here?
And to all of those, the answer was, whatever. We sat on the ground and bathed ourselves with the faucets that lined the walls. This is a bi-weekly ritual for the women of Meknes, there was no care in the world for how we acted as long as it was respectful. So we got to work scrubbing down our bodies and faces with henna until we looked like pigs out of a mud pit, as one of my roommates put it. Once the henna was rinsed off, we nervously meandered over to a woman with an exfoliating glove who laid us down every which way to give the roughest scrub down possible. Legs were flailing, arms lifted every way possible to reach each hidden spot on our bodies.
Eventually, we emerged from the sauna rooms, faces red, smiles big, bodies clean for the first time in what felt like our entire lives.
So, boom. I swam in the Alboran Sea, hiked with some monkeys, surfed in the Atlantic and had my body scrubbed down by a woman in a sauna, surrounded by approximately 20 other women. So amidst the heavy class load, putting in that TLN for some joy.