The picture painted of massage parlours in popular media is that of a place where clients can experience a ‘happy ending’ apart from just a body massage.
Beautiful, skimpily dressed masseuses are depicted rubbing massage oil on a client lying nude on a table and only covered with a towel.
Eager to unravel the mystery surrounding this type of business, this writer visited one of these massage parlours, otherwise known as massage spas, on Muindi Mbingu Street.
It all started with a phone call on Friday, which was picked by a woman who introduced herself as Anne.
Posing as a customer, the writer inquired about the various massage services on offer and the pricing.
“We provide full body massage at Sh3,000. We also have Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, reflexology, face scrub and back rubs,” Anne said.
Having inquired about the location of the parlour and whether to book an appointment beforehand, the writer promised to call again in the course of the weekend.
For comparative purposes, the writer decided to make a second call to a different massage parlour.
In less than a minute, the call was picked by a woman who introduced herself as Vera, who proceeded to explain the services on offer.
“We have different kinds of masseuses from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia and even Kenya. You can choose your preferred nationality, who will then accompany you to your room,” Vera said.
What about happy endings? This was the elephant in the room that needed facing head-on.
“Yes, there are happy endings if you so wish, although it comes at an extra fee. But there is no sex between the client and the masseuse,” she said.
This implies that the furthest one’s sexual fantasies can be indulged is with a handjob until you ejaculate. Reports indicate, though, that some brothels use the label of massage parlours to escape scrutiny, so it is not easy to tell which is which.
Having analysed the two options, the writer decided to visit the first parlour, located opposite Jevanjee Gardens, to explore the happenings within these joints that are increasingly popping up all over Nairobi.
At 5pm on Saturday, the writer was ascending a flight of marble-covered stairs, leading to an elegantly furnished room.
The air quality inside the building is in stark contrast to the one outside, where one has to contend with exhaust fumes, dust and the stinking garbage pile-up that are synonymous with Nairobi.
As you near the reception area, a sweet fragrance hits your nostrils, while soft jazz music rings subtly all through to the stairs.
The reception is immaculately designed, with chandeliers above providing the room with a golden yellow hue.
There is a leather sofa for prospective clients to relax on as they await their turn, whereas a glass coffee table is littered with various fashion magazines.
Seated behind a mahogany table at the reception is a light-skinned receptionist – dressed in a tight-fitting black mini-dress – who immediately flashes a wide smile as soon as the writer enters the room.
“Welcome, sir. Are you here for the full body massage?” she promptly inquires.
From her voice, it is easy to tell that this is Anne, who the writer had conversed with a day earlier.
Upon request, she agrees to provide a tour of the facility and explain how the massaging process occurs.
“Right this way, although there are rooms that are currently occupied,” she says as she ushers the writer through an entrance with the sign ‘Rooms’ above it.
The entrance leads to a passageway comprising various rooms on both sides.
One masseuse comes out of the rooms to reveal a customer inside who is lying prostrate on a massage table.
Clearly surprised, the petite lady, in a tight-fitting white mini-dress, quickly retreats into the room, shutting the door firmly shut.
Soon, Anne ushers the writer into one of the empty rooms that is reminiscent of the romantic layout of a bedroom as portrayed in countless romantic movies.
Measuring approximately the size of a cubicle, the room consists of a massage table dressed in a sparkling white sheet.
Sprinkled all over the massage table are red rose petals.
“The flowers are part of the VIP treatment we give to our customers. It helps you relax and feel at home because some people often feel tense,” Anne says.
At the corner of the room is a bathroom separated from the rest of the room by a sliding door.
“When you come, you can choose to have a warm shower before the massage or afterwards,” Anne says.
Hanging on the sliding door is a white towel and robe as well as a pair of slippers at the entrance to the bathroom.
“First, you take your clothes off and hang them there. Then you put on that robe or tie the towel around your waist and just lie on the table,” Anne responds when asked by the writer about what every client is expected to do.
The sweet fragrance that had ushered the writer into the building still saturates the air within this room.
Although the room has a large window that allows in as much sunlight as possible, a red bulb hanging overhead gives the room a cool ambience designed to create a serene feeling.
The idea of lying on a table in a birthday suit and at the mercy of beautiful lass is something that is admittedly nervy for this writer, who shares this anxiety with Anne.
“In here, there is nothing to be afraid of. You will be provided with quality services and you will leave here feeling relaxed,” she assures the writer.
With this assurance accompanied by a lovely smile, the writer promises to call during the week and set up a proper appointment.
Stepping into the reception area, there is a couple waiting for Anne with their eyes darting from corner to corner, surveying the features of the room.
On the other hand, the writer steps out into the streets to once again encounter the all-too-familiar poor air quality and shoulder-bump with other pedestrians.
This uncomfortable experience only makes the heart yearn for the serenity and hormonal excitement stirred by being inside a massage parlour like the one this writer visited.
OMONDI ONYATTA/The Star