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26.11.06

Marrakech: the hammam

posted by Jamila

Marrakesh is a mysterious city. It's also a fairly dirty city, and some of the innominate doorways in the medina lead to an oasis for the very purpose of cleansing. It was into one of those covert doorways I entered one evening.

Here I undressed amongst many Moroccan women and girls. I could feel their eyes curiously noting the blanched creature in their midst; my tan lines exposed a contrastingly white figure in the darkened bath. My friend had paid the woman at the door and informed her in Arabic (as I stood speechless) of what I needed. Another woman came to my assistance and supplied me with a bucket of warm water. I spoke the little French I knew but pretty much settled for body language. There on the hammam floor I sprawled on my matt, naked and vulnerable, and let her scrub my body.

Like a cat.

Around me women bathed and cast occasional glances at the white cat in the corner as she lifted limbs for her assistant to attend with the sponge. Her skin was creamy, like goat's milk, though her eyes were dark and somewhat familiar. Her whiteness centered around her breasts and rear, highlighting her rosy areoles. Obedient and indulgent, she spoke little, instead moving gently into various positions of lax to the company of her stroking companion.

I speak not in first person because I never felt so full of my own identity before.

After twenty or so minutes she rose, padded out of the steamy wash room and settled back into her sandals and chemise. There she sat, as more women arrived, derobed, or reapplied their garments as they shared the gossip of their world, so foreign to this white feline. She resolved they must be probing the topic of her existence in their coveted hammam; she sat perched, calm, conclusive with this knowledge.

It was an exchange of vulnerabilities: the sharing of her blanched coat was her key into the only place in Marrakesh devoted to the female body.

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