I mean, it's not often one gets to read a story in the mainstream Oman media that contains things like: Muscat, scantily-clad women, seduction, sexually transmitted diseases, physical needs, sleazy joints and youngsters. OK, they didn't use the words 'happy ending', sex, prostitute, or John, but all in all, a pretty straight story.
I just wish I'd seen some photos.
Photo: Apparently this is not the only pussy that's available in Muscat's 'health clubs'
While TOO's sage advice for people to "verify the credentials of the health club, or you just might encounter something entirely different [than a normal massage]" was, I'm sure, well meaning, I'm now getting even more search requests than normal from hopeful customers in the Sultanate looking especially for those small-time sleazy health clubs /
As such, instead of a mock 'shock horror' story about what is 'a fact of life', a decent independent review of the various establishments might have proved more worthwhile. Prices, services, quality, decor, how warm the hands were, interviews with customers and perhaps the businesses' owners and Omani sponsors, that sort of thing. Just a suggestion. Perhaps Y or the week can do a decent follow-up?
Good to see too that Muscat Municipality, in a rare expression of LGBT friendliness, intends to keep open sleazy massage parlors in the long term, but only for homosexuals and lesbians, as "...workers in a club should be of the same sex as the customer..."
And they say Muscat's a quiet town...
Sleazy massage parlours face closure
FAHAD AL MUKRASHI
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
MUSCAT | A relaxing massage at the end of a hard day can work wonders for that sore back or ease the stiffness in your neck. But what if you walk into an innocuous looking health club and find scantily-clad women offering you something entirely different?
That is exactly what is happening around the city, with sleazy massage parlours in the guise of health clubs mushrooming in and around Muscat. But come May, and the Muscat Municipality is all set to introduce regulations governing health clubs in the Sultanate.
“These health clubs are suddenly as common as grocery stores. There is a sudden fad for getting a ‘massage’,” observes Huzeim Almanei.
Nasir Al Zidi, a teacher, was in for a rude shock when he went to a health club seeking relief from a sore back.
“I saw scantily-clad foreigners passing off as therapists. One of them even tried to seduce me. The entire atmosphere was sleazy and what was on offer was anything other than a therapeutic massage,” he says.
Yusuf Al Hatami a government employee avers: “These massage centres have an adverse effect on the youth, and destroy the very fabric of our society.
It is also a fertile ground for spreading sexually transmitted diseases.”
What is more disturbing is the trend of these centres often coming up near residential areas.
Khalil Al Saadi, an engineer, was dismayed to see a teenager trying to sneak into one of these seedy joints. “It’s tough for youngsters to resist the pull of these health clubs. There need to be some sort of monitoring to prevent young people from such activities.”
These special services don’t come cheap either. “Youngsters come and spend a lot of money to avail these services. It’s a vicious circle that they find difficult to break free from,” feels Abdul Rahim Al Balushi, a college student.
There are many health centres with certified professionals that offer genuine services. But many of these centres are getting a bad name thanks to the activities of other centres that are not quite the real thing.
There is another side to the story, however. A fact of life in Oman, in fact!
One person who frequents such sleazy joints confessed to me: “I sometimes sneak into these massage parlours because I am a man and have some physical needs. With the dowry amount skyrocketing, I can’t even imagine ever getting married. The cost of living has also soared. So where is the question of saving to make dowry money? I can’t afford feeding a family and paying the flat rent with my low income.” So what do people like me do?
Sahar, a trained therapist at a health centre points out the health benefits of a proper massage.
“It soothes the body and helps blood circulation. It could even help ease one’s blood pressure. But it is unfortunate that some small-time players are giving us all a bad name.”
Naif Al Shandodi and Saif Al Washahi echoed similar sentiments.
“It’s not fair to label all health clubs shady. There are many certified centres with fully qualified health professionals. However, those that are not should be dealt with severely by the authorities,” he adds.
The authorities are aware of the situation, hence the stricter regime from the month of May. The municipality is all set to introduce stringent regulations to monitor these health clubs.
According to estimates there are more than 230 health clubs in Muscat governorate alone.
A source in the Muscat Municipality says, “We have set a time limit of up to 6 months for these health clubs to modify their conditions consistent with the new regulations, which include separate health clubs for men and women.
He adds: “The new regulation stipulates that workers in a club should be of the same sex as the customer in order to avoid abuse. Also, the workers of these centres need to be certified professionals with genuine diplomas from recognised government-approved centres.”
The municipality has received several complaints from residents living near these health centres about youngsters sneaking into these parlours.
“We are taking these complaints very seriously, and those found violating the existing norms will have punitive measures coming down on them.”
So the next time you step out for a relaxing back rub, do verify the credentials of the health club, or you just might encounter something entirely different.
Guidelines for health clubs:
The masseurs should be qualified, possess diplomas from recognised bodies; the therapists should be of the same sex; there should be separate health clubs for men and women; any complaints from residents in the vicinity will be dealt with severely. — firstname.lastname@example.org