Ancient Medical Tourism

There is a misconception as to when medical tourism has begun; people have been traveling thousands of years ago for very long distances in order to receive medical aid and to seek cure for their illnesses. These ancient people were in fact health pilgrims in what we call today medical tourists.

In our era, medical tourism has been increasing immensely, it is not a phenomenon of the rich and wealthy only but for millions of people who can receive good quality of healthcare with attractive costs; healthcare which they cannot afford at their country of origin.

People have been traveling for health reasons from ancient history to modern times. Evidence shows that people used to travel to spas and thermal springs because they believed that the waters will cure their illnesses. Remote retreats with fresh air and water were popular among the wealthy people who had tuberculosis for example and other illnesses related to the lungs and heart.

Ancient cultures depict a link between healthcare and religion, many temples have been built near hot springs worshiping gods and performing rituals for the health of the individuals.

The Sumerians around 4000 BC established a health complex which has been built around hot springs, they built temples around the thermal springs for the health pilgrims to use.

Ancient Mesopotamians traveled by camels to Tell Brak in Syria around 3000 BC to find a cure for eye disorders. Tell Brak’s Temple was excavated in 1937. The temple is believed to be a home of a healing god or goddess in what was believed to cure illnesses. It is known as the Eye Temple named for the hundreds of small eye idol figurines.

Hilly tribes in what is known to be St. Moritz in Switzerland today saw the advantage of iron-rich mineral springs, many pilgrims used to come to these thermal springs to bath in the waters which were rich with iron.

India also has had medical travelers swarming into the country in ancient times seeking Ayuverdic medicine and types of yoga brought many people who sought the benefits of these alternative healing methods.

In Ancient Greece era, Epidaurus boasts the most famous shrine for the god of medicine Asklepios, around 300BC. The Sanctuary of Epidaurus was in fact a comprehensive medical tourism network and bears exceptional testimony of the healing methods. There were other temple spas scattered in Greece where health pilgrims (medical tourists) came from all over.

The Mansuri Hospital in Cairo has accommodated around 8000 people and became a healthcare destination for foreigners. People were treated in Mansuri hospital with no connection of their ethnic origin. It was established in 1248 AD and served thousands of ill people from all over the region. The treatments consisted of praying to gods but also have practiced medicine.

If you’ve been to England, a good opportunity is to visit the city of Bath which was founded by the Romans. European Aristocrats went to Bath for healing purposes. Bath has become so popular in Roman Times that it was ahead of London in many ways, including a modern sewage system. Roads have been paved and lodges have been built due to flourishing medical tourism of the wealthy Europeans.

Asia in general was also a prominent place for medical travelers in ancient times. When the Roman Empire had begun to decline, Asia became a prime source of medical tourists who came for medical treatment. The temples around the many thermal springs became hospitals and took care of the travelers who sought to be healed.

The desire of people to seek the best medical service hasn’t changed for thousands of years. One can say that medical tourism is as old as medicine itself. Living in modern times is a great advantage for the medical traveler to find the best location for medical treatment with fast access to health destinations with affordable prices.


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Medical Tourism Speaker and Consultant.

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