azur art spa essaouira morocco

Breaking Mad: A Hammam and Gommage at Azur Spa

We’ve got an appointment at 3pm at Azur Art and Spa, it will be Maddy’s first hammam and non-sports massage so I try to prep him for what the experience will be like. Deep down I know it’s going to be lightweight torture for him, but I know he’s going to like it at the end… right?

I tell him all the steps that are going to happen but I may have left out that the steam in the hammam hits you like a brick wall and the scrubbing procedure is less enjoyable than it is an exercise in not whimpering.

When we arrive to the hammam we change in our separate dressing rooms and meet in the hammam where we are washed with the traditional black olive soap. The room is a warm -okay hot – marble sauna in the typical dome shape.

hammam azur spa essaouira morocco

While her hand slicks over my skin I look behind her to see Maddy is already wilting. Uh oh. She asks me if we’d like steam and I just a little bit since I don’t want to overwhelm Maddy who is sensitive to extreme heat. Too late. Before she’s even shut the glass door to the hammam he is protesting that it’s too hot.

Well yes, it’s a heated marble room with a giant fire underneath, Maddy.

But it’s so hot, I feel like I can’t breathe.

Of course you can breathe, just try.

No, I can’t. There’s no air in here.

Okay, I’ll have her turn the steam down.

I walk out in my disposable string underwear and ask her to please turn the steam off, but it’s already too late, Maddy is out and not coming back in citing their obvious attempt on our life with all this heat and steam.

Round Two, the Scrubbing Starts

He’s taken to the scrubbing room, and I can only imagine his upcoming reaction when he learns this means having at least a few layers of skin sloughed off by rough strokes from a very strong woman sporting a glove which resembles the texture of lightweight sandpaper. Maybe I forgot to warn him about that part…

Laughing, I go back in the room and lay face down on the marble bench, taking in as much of the heat as I can. Maybe it’s the masochist in me but I can’t get enough of these steam rooms. Even when I feel close to the brink of passing out I breathe in deeper and purposefully exhale out the pain and toxins which accumulate in us all.

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Pushing past that initial stage of discomfort there comes an ocean of relief and pleasure.

The sweat rolls down my body and I breathe easier. I sip a little water and close my eyes. Soon the steam has become billowing clouds of marshmallows and I am deep in a state of bliss when the lady comes in, takes me by the hand and guides me to the next room where I will experience the traditional gommage which is the scrubbing you’ve just learned about.

Since this is not my first time I am not surprised when she begins the rough scrubbing of my legs, though I can’t shake the idea that this must be what a giant cat tongue feels like.

As she moves up my body I feel more skin coming off and I make a mental note that I need to spend a few months in Morocco simply sloughing off the last few years. She flips me over and begins work on the front of my body and I gently give up the fight of being alert and surrender to the motions. Her fingers work their way through my hair, scrubbing gently, and she washes the mitt and scrubs my face — yes please. I love the sting that signals new skin coming through. As she rinses me from head to toe with steaming hot water I am pretty sure that I hear Maddy whining in the next room.

Led into a room with mint tea, a fireplace full of candles, and padded recliners we’re left to relax and recap for a few moments before our massages.

relaxing hammam in essaouira

So, how was it? I ask him.

Torture. Did you know she was scrubbing me with this thing and it was rubbing my hairs everywhere and it hurts so much?

I suppress a giggle since I knew he wasn’t cut out for the hard work of relaxation in a hammam.

Little does he know the massages are going to be deep tissue…

Right then his masseuse came and swept him away for 90 minutes of what I guessed would be his mini-hell. Gotta take a little pain to get to the pleasure, right?

Azur Spa Essaouira Morocco

Moments later my masseuse came and led me down a candlelit hallway to the massage room where relaxing classical music was playing. I lay face down and she begins on my calves. Her hands are strong and know what they’re doing. She finds my pain points easily and works deeply on the tension in my legs that I still have from the motorcycle accident in Thailand last year.

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All of a sudden she leaves the room for a moment and when she comes back in I hear the “click” of scissors and she pulls my underwear off. Damn, that’s a trick I’ll have to remember — I’ve never had my underwear cut off me in a spa before.

Here she comes with the massage again and at some points I want to cry the pain is so intense but I know there’s healing around the corner, so I suck it up and zone out. Before I know it it’s time to flip – has it been 45 minutes already? Time flies when you’re being played with like silly putty.

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At the end of the massage she gives me what I’ve been waiting for : a cranial massage. Ahhhh. I should have ordered 90 minutes of just this. Blissed out of my mind, she leaves me to rest for a few moments before guiding me back to the rest and relaxation room where I find Maddy curled up in a ball on his lounger. The smile across his face can’t be fake — he is in heaven.

Did you enjoy your massage? I ask him.

Mmmmm. He’s too catatonic to even respond.

Did it make up for the steaming and scrubbing?

Mhmm.

We lay in peace and stillness for a few minutes while sipping on fresh, hot tea to bring us back to reality. 

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When Maddy finally is able to talk it’s still undecipherable but I can tell he’s had a wonderful massage and is renewed again and had already forgot about the hammam and gommage — in fact, he doesn’t want to leave so we spend a few more minutes soaking up this bliss before heading back to the beautiful Madada Mogador.

We were the guests of Azur Art and Spa for this review, but it seems to be the easy favorite for all hotels in Essaouira and I can see why – their prices are reasonable, the staff is well-trained, and the location is perfect!


Brandy Bell loves adventuring around the world. She’s been a solo female traveler since 2006 and has visited over 25 countries, made countless international friends, and now writes to inspire you to travel in a sustainable and responsible way.


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