Hammam

Weaving through the maze of the medina, beads of sweat form on the woman’s tan forehead as the sun blazes above the streets.  The stifling, dry air carries smells of exotic spices and meat being roasted over an open flame, causing her stomach to rumble. She pauses to remember the last time she has eaten.  A multitude of sounds berate her ears: roaring motorbikes, children laughing and screaming, and vendors haggling in multiple languages.  Suddenly, she comes to a large, wooden door.  She enters, and as the door closes behind her, she is transported into a different world.  In sharp contrast to the hustle of the medina, the room is dim, quiet and still. She is lead into a room, instructed to remove all of her clothing and replace them with a robe.  Placing the robe on her weary body, she notices the weight of the fabric and lets her shoulders relax under the weight.  She is lead to another room by an exotic woman with creamy skin the color of cinnamon, the robe is removed, and she relaxes onto the hard bench, noticing the beautiful tile covering the walls and floor.  The light in the room is faint, lit only by candles, but the air is heavy with humidity.  A silver bucket is filled with water and dumped over her head and body repeatedly.  She feels the filth of the outside world washing away with every splash of water.  Soap smelling strongly of eucalyptus is rubbed over her body; her feet placed into a large wooden barrel filled with water and rose petals.  She is left alone to breathe, allowing the smell to calm her spirit with each inhale of breath.  A small smile involuntarily forms on her face as she sinks into relaxation. The woman with the cinnamon skin returns with gloves made of a rough, abrasive material, scrubbing and scraping away at the woman’s body.  The silver bucket is again refilled, but pouring out of it over the woman’s head is not only fresh, clean water, but also a renewal of spirit. The robe is replaced on her fresh, clean body and she is lead to another room where she is instructed to lay down.  Her body is then massaged by soft, skilled hands that cover her fresh, smooth skin with slippery argan oil.  Suddenly, she is overwhelmed by a sudden surge of love for the beauty of her body. She has spent years critiquing her appearance with a sharp eye, never giving in to appreciate the loveliness.  Even though she is soft with months of overindulgence, she finds herself reveling in every curve, every flaw, every inch of skin.  She smiles knowing that the hammam has washed away the hate, self-loathing, and sadness, replacing it with beauty, adoration, and acceptance.  She redresses with sadness, knowing that this feeling will fade, but with a renewal of spirit she walks confidently back into the medina, ready for her next experience in life.

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