Cleanliness is next to godliness is a quote my mother says sometimes and then ignores completely when it comes to her horde of craft supplies.
In Morocco, like in the rest of the Muslim world – it is exactly that when it comes to ritual cleanliness. However in Morocco due to culture.. tradition.. bathing or showering in the way we do in America – which for us means – every day or every other day isn’t true here for the majority of individuals.
Now this isn’t to say Moroccan’s are not clean – in fact they love a trip to the Hamaam – aka the bath house but I have found most Moroccan’s on average shower or bath once a week. Generally most Moroccans are a sharply dressed- good smelling bunch although in the summer months – the lack of deodorant use means body odor issues.
Mostly more well to do homes and families have western showers but even more well to do families may just stick with a bucket bath.
Just what is a bucket bath anyways? See exhibit A-
Yes its a bucket with ladle that you pour the water over yourself with. This is your new shower – welcome to Morocco.
Now some PCV’s have had it better – with a full on western shower in their host house – other were given a tea kettle of water to wash the important bits with daily and wait till the weekend or Friday to take a full bucket bath or go to the Hammam.
So how to make the bucket bath experience the most pleasant it can be for you.
1. Bring your clothes that are clean with you into the bathing area and hang them up and out of the way of the potential water spray – which there will be because shower curtains haven’t become fashionable in Morocco yet.
2. If you can just walk naked into the bathing area awesome – in a towel better – or like me in an abaya minus clothing – I would then just leave my clothes in my room and wear the abaya back to my room and change- just so you don’t soak your dirty clothes and are left needing to line dry them after your bath.
3. If your tall like me – avoid the midget stool! There is always this super low stool your suppose to squat/ sit on as you scrub your self – which is hella awkward to get down to let alone up from butt naked and wet. Say no to the midget stool and potential slips and/or falls in the bathing area.
4. Wear your flip flops. Yes the floor was probably just squeejeed that day but bleach hasn’t made it to a #1 product for household cleaning yet here – so avoid Jungle rot – warts and other foot fungus by wearing your flip flops. You can wash your feet one by one and then put your flip flop back on.
5.Have a bath bag – just like you had one for high school gym class – now you have one for your host families house – shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor etc… all in one bag that you can hang up and grab what you need when you need it and not have it touch the floor.
6. Don’t forget your towel. I know some PCV’s didn’t pack a towel – big mistake since a nice towel is expensive here in Morocco. I purchased a REI travel towel and I brought a super absorbent hair towel – seriously one of the best things I did.
In Morocco – many individuals but not all view walking around with wet hair as a woman outside the house = prostitute. My host families were also very concerned I would get sick with a head full of wet hair – rightfully so as it was winter – but they will still say that in the middle of summer – also in some rural sites – they think walking around with wet hair will make you barren. Goes to show crazy housewife tales come from every culture!
7. When bathing – soap up first , scrub and then rinse off the soap being careful not to get soap in your big bucket of water – otherwise you won’t get a clean rinse.
8. If your shaving body hair – do so at the end of the bath – so you don’t have to worry about rinsing with hair filled water from rinsing your razor.
9. In Moroccan families its not uncommon for same sex family members to help scrub each other down – but feel ok to say no if someone offers as that would be a BAD sign unless you at the Hammam although even then – feel free to say no.
10. Enjoy the hot water – for some of us PCV’s this is one of the only times we felt warm fully through our whole body during the cold winter months.
So.. now its time for you to find yourself a bucket and get your bath on! Enjoy.