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Nude in Casablanca

MOROCCO | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [2684] | Scholarship Entry

It was at least a 9-hour journey from our super-chilled hostel in Essaouria on Morocco’s coast. I’d selected the seat directly atop the warm bus engine for the stifling trip, minus air conditioning. Elliot, a delightful British philosophy student and my now ‘husband’, sat beside me in silent, wilted camaraderie. We'd met the day before, and were travel companions in an instant, and by default; lured by the fabled city of Casablanca.

Having caught the rural service outside of the Medina in the night, we travelled over 400kms, bumping into every village along the way. We unstuck butts-from-seats, just after dawn to discover an empty city, deserted for miles around. Deciding to stay just until the next bus arrived for Asilah, we had six hours to kill. It was an orange dusty morning, and hunger pushed us towards the sleeping city, which part of it exactly we’ll never know.

With an out-of-date travel guide, we wandered into town searching for one of the hammams I had circled in the guide. Hammams are traditional steam rooms, similar to a Turkish bath – luxurious sounding places.

Lost, in a suburban tourist no-go part of town. Local men eyed us intensely. Elliot presented our map to a group of silent coffee drinkers. We were nowhere useful. ‘Hammam’ however was understood, and after some showering/scrubbing mime-action, we realised there were two in the very square we had discovered. Jackpot!
They have separate bathhouses for men and women, so I was sent to one side of the town square.

With a mixture of apprehension and excitement, I pushed the wooden door open. A misty echo of female voices travelled down the stairs - I followed. Stunned silence greeted my entrance into the washrooms. After the initial shock and stares, a pretty young woman met my eyes and smiled. There is something to be said about the instant connection and recognition between women! We both spoke a little French. In this way she kindly guided me to put my things away, and understood that unprepared, I would pay for someone for a scrub session.

Friends, I won’t go into detail. But I will say that my lady scrubber was well over 60, rough and not at all moved by my apologetic nature. She was also half naked, used steel wool, and scrubbed me with bits of different cheap soap stuck together.

Lying naked on those wet floor tiles, surrounded by these local women is one of the most rustic, ridiculous, authentic and humbling experiences of my life.

She scrubbed me clean. She rubbed me raw.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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