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Silk Route Project Craig and Simon are currently travelling from India to Istanbul with the fantastic support of World Nomads. On behalf of Footprints, World Nomad's charity, they will be visiting of a number of projects along the route to deliver supplies of essential medicines to impoverished children.

The Savage Bliss of Uzbek Massage

UZBEKISTAN | Tuesday, 26 September 2006 | Views [9921] | Comments [4]

It was with genuine excitement that I found out there were traditional bath houses in the ancient Uzbek city of Bukhara. Communal sauna and baths had been introduced to parts of Asia a couple of millennium ago by the hygiene obsessed Romans; they fell into decline when the Romans left but then came back into fashion when the prophet Mohammed  started preaching cleanliness. For US$8 the bath house offered a session in the sauna and a massage – just the thing for an aching traveling body. I had never heard of Uzbek massage before but I was keen to give it a try. Some parts of me now wish that I had retained my ignorance.

In the centre of the old town, the bath house was a beautiful old stone building, designed to the traditional Roman design. The sign out front advertised ‘Ancient Bath House, Sauna and Extra Special Massage’. I hoped that the Extra Special Massage was the type that I regularly got offered in Thailand.

After a terse greeting by the officious boy on the front door I was told to get naked, wrap a small sheet around my waist and go wait in the sauna for my masseur. I ducked my head under the low doorway and let my eyes adjust to the light. In front of me was a small circular room with a number of even smaller chambers coming off. It was built entirely of stone and lighting came only from a small hole in the roof. The air was a humid fug of about 50 degrees and was pleasant till I had to breathe.

It was after twenty minutes of sweating like a sprinkler that I met my masseur, Mahmood. Now, some people might get excited by the prospect of being massaged by a hairy, middle-aged man with a paunch, wearing only a pair of skin-tight, yellow hot pants however I was not. With a grin that seemed a little bit keen, he poured a bucket of warm water over me and gestured for me to lie face down on the stone floor.

It is at this stage that I have to let everyone know that my profession, when I am not being a traveling hobo, is a chiropractor and I couldn’t help but critique. It was a wet massage – I was covered in a lather of soap, which is apparently a special herb infused blend but smelled remarkably like Dove. In big sweeping movements he started digging into my muscles and it was pure bliss, the last couple of months of bad roads and bad beds had made my body as tight as a drum.

It was when he began to walk on my back that I started getting wary. I’ve had this done before but usually by very small people. Mahmood was clearly fond of his food and, not being much under ninety kilos, I have to report that the therapeutic results of this practice was, in this instance, very very limited.

He then squatted with his knees on my pelvis and pulled my arms back over my head, much like what is done in Thai massage except dear Mahmood wasn’t blessed with much grace or subtlety of movement. It became apparent that the object was to make my back crack as much as possible, and when this wasn’t forthcoming he continued to lean back further and pull on my arms with increasing ferocity. He must have looked like he was riding a sleigh. I felt like I was close to being snapped in half.

And then he continued with the rest of my body. As a chiropractor I have spent a substantial part of my life investigating the limitations of joints but I was amazed by my masseur's meticulous attention to detail – nothing was left uncracked. Fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, ankles, toes … everything. He even gave my ears a tug.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been too shocked, mass joint manipulation like this is common in primitive types of physical therapies. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was recorded to have been a regular user. And while I’m sure it can do some good, I much prefer it to be administered by some one a lot more experienced. I left the bath house feeling clean, loose and limber yet somehow … violated.

Tags: Doctors, hospitals & health



As a chiropractor, i thought you would have approached this with far more tripidation. I wouldn;t be letting some hairy, hot-panted bloke crack my neck!

On another note, you guys are really on a 'Stan journey here - great to see as this is a part of the world i know nothing about. If you're heading into Khazakstan soon, maybe you could give us a report or two about the real state of the nation. It seems that the Khazak govt and Borat are duelling for the nation's pride... http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/09/26/1159036513292.html

  crustyadventures Sep 26, 2006 12:52 PM


My dear, inflexible brother... why all that cracking must have made you wish you had Ehlers Danlos Syndrome!
I hope Dr Craig put everything back in its right place for you. Or read your palm to ensure it didn't happen again.

  christabella Sep 28, 2006 12:14 PM


everybody has a monday. so do masseur haha
tip: dont try ıt in khıva -> worst */:-)

  nicole (tash rabat) Oct 1, 2006 5:46 PM


everybody has a monday. so do masseur haha
tip: dont try ıt in khıva -> worst */:-)

  nicole (tash rabat) Oct 1, 2006 5:46 PM

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