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  • Yab Yum: from brothel to museum


    While strolling around wonderful Amsterdam and admiring the sights, you may wonder at a long line of mostly older men, many in rather shabby coats, queuing on the steps to go up to a 17th-century canal brick house on the Singel. Then you notice the building’s unusual name of Yab Yum, that you may remember from your reading as meaning “father and mother” in Tibetan, and usually seen illustrated with a couple in blissful sexual union.

    Even more intrigued now, you approach to find that this former exclusive brothel has just in September been conveniently reopened as a brothel museum, for those who have not had the pleasure or the courage to visit a real one. It may also seem appropriate that the liberal and enlightened Amsterdam may be one the few cities in the world with a sex-trade museum.

    The former Yab Yum clients used to easily stroll into the luxurious brothel to pay the €70 entry fee, that also included a drink, and €300 more for one sensual hour with the gorgeous and willing ladies working there. But visitors now pay €12.50 to go into the Yab Yum Museum. A welcome drink is not included with that but you are taken on a short tour of the reception desk, the corridors, the bar where guests met the ladies and the rooms where couples quietly retired to afterwards.

    Former owner Theo Heuft boasted the brothel’s biggest single night earning of €40,000 in 1985, after the Dutch football team beat Cyprus in Amsterdam, but also complained of the chaos of that night. No doubt for his hard-working ladies did too. One sex worker reported earning up to $10,000 in a month in the 1990s.

    “This is not a porn or sex museum. The museum gives an insight into the mystery Yab Yum,” says spokesman for the museum, Arjen van Kesteren. The canal-side museum comes with its share of juicy history. The well-known brothel became a target of Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen’s campaign to remove the number of sex businesses that were thriving in the city centre. He used the Bibob act that allowed the city to close any of the Red district joints without requiring proof of criminal connection but only based on substantial indications of such.

    The brothel has been linked to the Mafia elements and the Dutch Hell’s Angels. In the late 1990s, there were two murders of major drug-traffickers after they had fought at the house. There were also charges that the owners were using the brothel for money-laundering. Mayor Cohen finally had his way when the city of Amsterdam in January 2008 permanently closed the brothel and revoked its licence, alleging that the place was being used for criminal activity.

    Image: volkskrant.nl

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