Sustainably scrubbing

Renewable energies produce hammam´s steam

Martha Dudzinski & Elia Ghorbiah

“Come in, come in” cries the half-naked women in her mid-50s to the fully clothed intruders who simply want to “take a look”. She happily pours plastic buckets of steaming water over her naked breasts. She and her friends chat, laugh and are evidently on top of the world – there is no trace of shame or violated privacy here. Huge white cotton knickers, tiny squeaky colourful plastic stools, resounding laughter: The mood in the traditional Moroccan hammam is more reminiscent of a party than an intimate washing ritual.

Ninety-five per cent of Moroccans regularly visit a hammam.

Source: NGO EnSEn

The traditional bathing house can be traced back to antiquity. While the hammam has become less important in Turkey and the majority of Arab countries, 95 per cent of Moroccans still regularly scrub at the hammam together. With drastic consequences for environmental protection and the climate:

A traditional hammam burns an average of 1.5 tonnes of firewood to warm up the bathing rooms and the water. This results in the disappearance of 30,000 hectares of forest in Morocco each year – an area as large as Munich.

Non-governmental organisations are attempting to counteract deforestation: They financially support operators of traditional Hammams when transferring from wood ovens to biomass such as olive stones.

Hammams are responsible for nine per cent of Morocco´s CO2 emissions

Source: NGO EnSEn

During burning, they emit just as much carbon dioxide as wood (390 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt per hour). But this means clearing fewer forests, which instead continue to convert carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen. And working with the stove is also becoming much more bearable – the 31-year old Abdelati Ainbenjilali was on the verge of quitting his job as “Mul Fernachi”, as the stokers are called here:


The bathing rooms of traditional hammams bear little connection to wellness temples. Instead of massages and mosaic, the furnishing and atmosphere evoke the image of swimming lessons: It is like the group showers. When the upper middle class go to the hammam at Hanane Khebbou, it is more in line with European ideas. What Khebbou also does differently to the owners of traditional hammams: It heats with gas. That only emits half as much carbon dioxide when burned as wood or biomass – namely 200 grammes per kilowatt hour. A gas cartridge only lasts for eight to ten customers, however. “Traditional hammams cannot afford that if guests pay an entry fee of less than one Euro.” Khebbous´ customers have to pay at least ten to 20 Euro for a pampering programme with massage and manicure.

Behind the scenes: Wood, gas or biomass have to burn in the cellar in order for it to get steamy in the hammams.

Whether wood, gas or biomass – hammams would need less of it all if they could reduce their water consumption. Yet customers expect a water flat rate for bathing, which is why each hammam consumes 30,000 litres of water daily. The population has a lack of awareness about using water economically – someone ought to go full steam ahead with it.

Source: Energy Procedia


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