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Khoja Ob-i Garm

Obi Garm sanatoriumAt 42km from Dushanbe, there is a bridge across to the right bank and a good tarmac road winds 6km up to Khoja Ob-i Garm, an enormous complex built for people to enjoy the delights of a spa. There is radon in the water, and it is claimed to have many beneficial properties. The complex is at 2,000m, with great views over the mountains. Built in 1983, it has 700 rooms, mostly in a seven-storey block. There is a large central area, which has a pool, restaurant and massage treatment facilities. The whole place is now scruffy and rundown, but remains popular. The cost for the complete package is 250 somoni for 12 days (about US$70) or 250 somoni for 25 days.

There is a charge of 3 somoni per vehicle at the entrance gate. Near the complex are some private facilities, which are upmarket with quite luxurious facilities, but charging much more.

It is worth sampling the facilities for a day, particularly to escape the heat of Dushanbe in summer. There are good walks to be had in the hills above the spa.

The site was once an important shrine. Soviet spa complexes often masked something more interesting. It was the Soviet way of de-spiritualising a place without closing it down.