Giddily I spin round and round until I’m dizzy, the room reduced to a blur of faces and the sound of clapping ringing in my ears. I’m dripping in sweat and gasping for breath.
But this is no techno-charged clubland rave. If only.
I’m in Morocco. Fez, to be precise. A backstreet Hamman to be even more pedantic.
And I’m dancing naked in a steam-filled sauna in front of a dozen mad Berber women who are trilling and shrieking their encouragement. How the hell did this happen?
Fez is fab. All tiny labyrinthine alleyways, exotic odours (both foul and fair) and beckoning doorways promising mystery and magic (well, carpets at the very least).
This medieval citadel has no new-fangled transportation methods, relying on the good, old-fashioned beast of burden to lug stuff around.
It’s the world’s biggest donkey derby but beware the tourist who fails to heed the complex road rules of donkeyville – they stop for no man.
Clutching my bag tightly in the seething crowd, the boyfriend clutches me.
Not for protection mind, only so I don’t keep wandering off into carpet or shoe shops. It proves to be a fruitless exercise.
Carpets in Fez are ubiquitous and a good haggle over a kilim or two is all part of the fun.
Eventually the BF succeeded in dragging me away to the main touristy site – a rooftop view of the ancient tannery.
Below us, fathers and sons toiled over hundreds of vats of coloured dye.
Back in the intestines of the souk, we wound our way up and down cobbled alleyways for hours, small children forever tugging at our hands, donkeys forever braying loudly at our backs.
Maps are pointless in here. A compass is the only possible way of finding your bearings.
After a gruelling day, I wanted to try out a Moroccan Hamman – a public bath where the locals go to give themselves, their kids and their laundry a good scrub.
I coughed up my cash for “the works”, whatever the hell that was.
I was handed two plastic buckets and a locker key. I inched my way into the hazy, steam-filled Hamman, gripping my Aveda shampoo like my life depended on it.
As the mists cleared I could see that the place was filled with chattering women carrying buckets of water and children sliding around on the wet floor. It was like a surreal wedding reception.
I gazed around the room wondering what I was supposed to do.
My fate was decided by the arrival of a small, toothless, Berber lady wearing nought but a headscarf and a pair of knickers.
After making me lie prostrate on the tiled floor, she proceeded to don a pair of sandpaper-like mitts and scrub about 10 layers of skin off my body whilst singing a medley of Berber party favourites.
Morocco’s answer to Kylie? I think not. I had to lie there, open-mouthed at the indignity of the whole thing and watch my “suntan” disappear down the plughole.
Meanwhile, “Kylie,” with an evil glint in her eye, filled bucket after bucket with freezing cold water.
ARRRGGGGHHH! My squeals of agony elicited no sympathy but much laughing and pointing from the regulars, all of whom where enthralled by the sight of the screaming white girl.
When the last bucket had been emptied over my shivering form, it was time for one final humiliation.
Gathering her mates in a circle, “Kylie” gestured for me to dance and, after seeing what she’s prepared to do with a loofah, I wasn’t going to argue.
I emerged into the changing room like a shiny pink doll.
Seriously, you‘ve never been clean until you’ve been scrubbed senseless by a saggy-titted Berber bird. They’d pay a fortune for that in LA.
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