Monday, September 14, 2009

A Weekend of Firsts

It's been quite an experiential weekend here in Fes.

My homestay roommate and I got to experience a traditional Moroccan hammam or bath. Conveniently located almost directly below our host family's apartment, and for the low price of 37 dirhams apiece we were promised a cleansing, relaxing and rejuvenating experience. This hammam, the hammam ziat, was probably built a few hundred years ago and certainly looked it. Descending the narrow winding stairs, we entered a changing room lit by dim flourescent lights where we stripped down to our underwear, before entering the bathing room. Sitting on an ancient tile floor we were handed bucket after bucket of steaming hot water with which to rinse ourselves. This lasted only a few minutes after which the hammam attendant motioned for us to lie on the floor for a rub down with a mysterious brown grease. This was followed by an extensive "massage" session in which I was less massaged and more twisted, streched and realigned by our faithful attendant. Having had every joint in my body prodded, pulled and popped, our attendant proceeded to the next stage which entailed vigourously rubbing every surface of my body with what felt like sandpaper. It's difficult to describe what goes through your mind lying next to naked on a dirty tile floor in a dim, subterranean, steaming hot room while a strange man speaking a foreign language literally scrapes off the top layer of your skin. All in all the hammam did actually deliver, I left feeling cleansed, rejuvenated, lightheaded from the heat and richer for the experience.

Another personal first for me has been fasting for Ramadan. I got up at 3:30 this morning to join my host family for iftar, the pre-sunrise dinner, which consisted of homemade yogurt, a soft cheese, jam, nutella, eggs and bread. So far fasting has gone well although it has made concentrating in class a tad bit harder.

The final first of this post gets a little grittier so those of you with daintier constitutions may want to skim over this last portion. I have had my first encounter with foreign gastrointestinal parasites and the experience has not been beneficial. There is something deep and poignant about the moment when look down into the hole you are squatting over and notice that, yes, indeed, you are defecating your own blood. Perhaps it is the full realization of your own individual humanity, or a reminder of your own physicality. Anyway, stay posted for other details of my bowel activity.

In case anyone had forgotten today also happens to be the end of my teenage years. It is my birthday and perhaps there was a larger meaning in the fact that I ended my second decade of existence evacuating my own essence. I, for one plan to ruminate on such while continuing my daylong fast.


  1. Toshi
    Thanks for the snapshot of your experiences including the hammam- loofah and all.


  2. Toshi
    Thanks for the slice of life and adventure in Fes.


  3. Mabruk! Happy Birthday!