In Marrakesh, most locals go to a hammam at least weekly to cleanse themselves and wash their cares away. If this appeals to you, you might want to try Les Bains de l’Orient that recently opened in northeast Nice. But hammam-ateurs beware. If you’re expecting rose petals and green tea in fluffy robes, think again. Surrounded by women in all their naked lumpiness, this is a very authentic, grass-roots experience.
PART I: The sweaty, oily bit
When you arrive you are given a hammam care package; a small bowl, runny black soap made from olive oil resin and a pair of plastic slippers. Then you trot off excitedly to the changing room where you strip down to your bikini – or in my case you go half naked because you forgot to pack your bikini top. A lovely Algerian lady then lathers you all over—and I mean, all over—with the gooey savon noir. Then it’s off to the hammam for an oily, drippy 15 minutes, or however long you can bathe in your own sweat.
And this is when the fun begins.
PART II: The Scrub
The lovely Algerian lady then reappears with a loofah glove and before you know it you’re lying on a metal table being aggressively sandpapered from head to toe. Think your nipples get let off? Think again. As you’re checking to see if your nipples are still there, she turns you over, gives you a wedgie and gets to work on your butt cheeks. Then you get sloshed with a bucket and sent to the shower like a peeled potato to rinse off the mass of dead skin.
PART III: The Massage
If after being roughed up you’re expecting a little comfort, forget it. Remember – authentic, authentic. No whale music, no hole for your head, no hot pebbles – just a cold, lit room and the sound of your pummelled butt cheeks rubbing against each other as you’re massaged with argan oil.
PART IIII: The Recovery
This is where you sit with your girlfriends basking in the glow of your revitalised skin and exchange massage stories over delicious, authentic mint tea.
So there you go. Expect close encounters with swinging breasts, and expect to feel lighter after having shed 50% of your skin.
60€ includes oiling, hammam-ing, scrubbing and massaging. Scrubbing mitt extra.
Les Bains de l’Orient, 53 bd Virgile Barel, 06300 Nice
Tramstop Virgile Barel
Females only. Male annexe to be added soon.