The Middle East: Spa of the east

Image credit: Fairmont The Palm Steer spa-seekers towards some of the world's most soothing getaways.

Image credit: Fairmont The Palm

Steer spa-seekers towards some of the world's most soothing getaways. Katie McGonagle reports

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Take a handful of olives, dates, almonds and honey, sprinkle in some salt and rosemary, add a splash of Turkish coffee or chamomile tea, and what do you get?

Not a treat for the taste buds, but an indulgent treat for the rest of the body instead. These are just a handful of the local ingredients that make their way on to some of the most exclusive hotel spa menus across the Middle East, affirming its reputation for relaxing escapes.

Whether clients want dedicated pampering, a quick spa stopover on the way to the Indian Ocean, or an afternoon’s escape from the sun during a beach break, this selection of soothing spas is bound to have the answer.

Dubai’s range of high-end hotels is hard to beat, and with top-notch properties comes top-notch pampering. One of the most impressive is the Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, which combines the best of Turkish tradition in its majestic marble hammam, with treatments from around the world and a dash of decadence for good measure.

At any one time, its 42 treatment rooms could see therapists providing Thai, Balinese and Moroccan massages, Chinese-inspired reflexology, Himalayan salt scrubs, and even a gold body mask and men’s black diamond-dust facial. A two-hour Selection of Arabia package, comprising an hour-long aromatic Sultan’s massage and either a date-based facial or desert sand body scrub, costs about £150.

Just a stone’s throw away, One&Only The Palm has a choice of treatments or three and five-day themed packages focusing on energy, detox or anti-stress. Even those without the budget to stay can enjoy the facilities with a day package: The Palm Escape costs £275 for use of the rhassoul suite plus a one-hour treatment and lunch, while The Palm Indulgence adds an extra hour’s treatment for £422. Add time admiring the magnificent Dubai skyline from the beach and clients will be well and truly chilled-out.

Over on the trunk of The Palm, Fairmont The Palm opened its signature Willow Stream Spa this year, with day passes from £34 for adults and £25 for children on weekdays, £42/£25 at weekends.

Also adding something to the Dubai spa scene is Funway Holidays’ best-selling spa hotel in the region, JA Resorts’ Palm Tree Court & Spa Dubai, which reopened last year after upgrading its facilities. Malcolm Davies, Funway product administration manager, says: “The first-class spa occupies a prime position overlooking the Arabian Gulf, and features a specialised hammam scrub room and an extensive wet area with Jacuzzi, steam rooms, saunas and showers.”

The most popular treatment is the Spa Signature Ritual, comprising a massage, Elemis facial and frangipani nourishing wrap (four hours, £166) but the all-inclusive package also includes a daily 30-minute treatment.

With its guaranteed sunshine, ease of airlift and slightly quieter atmosphere than Dubai, neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi is on the rise. Its recent spurt of hotel development includes the 377-room St Regis Saadiyat Island, which opened in 2011.

Sara Ellen, luxury team leader at Travel 2, says: “St Regis is a beautiful resort set on a five-mile stretch of pristine white beach on Saadiyat Island. There is an 18-hole Gary Player golf course on the island, so the spa is the perfect retreat for ladies who need some quiet pamper time.

“Guests looking for a more intimate and exclusive experience can choose to stay in a spa suite – individually themed as Moroccan, Thai and Contemporary – where they can unwind with a 60-minute massage per day within the accommodation cost.”

Getting back to nature is relaxing in itself, so imagine how soothing it would be to enjoy a massage while overlooking undulating sand dunes. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is a serious slice of luxury in the midst of the Liwa Desert, with a spa offering traditional Ayurvedic rituals and hammam baths plus a tranquil escape from city life.

Of course, some travellers get shivers at the thought of venturing so far from the buzz, so sister Anantara property Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa is more of an urban oasis. Its signature 90-minute massage includes a blend of aromatic oils plus a floral foot ritual.

Look out, too, for the spa opening early next year at the new Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, featuring 15 treatment rooms, outdoor plunge pools and a private beach.

Paragliding James Bond-style into a resort might not sound like a classic start for a spa break, but this is just one of many options Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman offers as a total escape from everyday stress.

So your client thinks she’s the Queen of Sheba? She can be, with a goat’s milk and rosewater bath, followed by a date, jasmine and honey scrub, then a traditional rasul and rose oil massage.

That’s just one of the local twists given to the classic Six Senses Spa, although if a milky bath doesn’t appeal, try one with sea salt and fresh mint, followed by a coffee scrub and frankincense oil massage.

It’s the Private Travel Company’s top choice in the region, especially for its spa pool villas which have a private therapy room for inclusive daily treatments – Swedish or oriental massage, Indian head massage and foot acupressure are among the choices – plus a foot massage and bath ritual on the day of arrival, and 20% off other spa treatments.

The Omani capital has its share of spa options too. Go hot and cold at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, where the herbal steam room and tropical showers are matched by ‘tundra’ showers and an ice fountain, and Philippine hilot therapists offer a deep pressure massage guaranteed to ease tension away (about £90 for an hour).

But the largest spa is at the Chedi Muscat, with 13 spa suites and an ocean-view relaxation room. Have your body buffed with pink Himalayan salts or mineral-rich seaweed; bathe with colourful frangipani and orange blossom, or aromatic lemongrass, ginger and lime; or try the signature Chedi Jade Massage where two therapists combine shiatsu, Thai, Balinese, Swedish and Hawaiian massage styles (£114 for an hour).


Image credit: Six Senses Zighy Bay

Have a peek in most people’s bathrooms, male or female, and chances are you’ll find something proclaiming to be from the Dead Sea; whether it’s mud in a body scrub or minerals in a moisturiser, the place is a byword for health and wellbeing.

Neighbouring Dead Sea Spa Hotel and Movenpick Resort & Spa sit near the shores, with the latter also offering day passes from £53 for non-guests who want to enjoy its hydro pools, caldarium (steam room) and laconium (hot and dry room with heated beds), and an infinity pool overlooking the Dead Sea.

Sister to the Six Senses brand, the nearby Evason Ma’In Hot Springs enhances its setting even further by capturing the warm water falling from a natural hot spring in its spa pool, and integrating a natural steam cave into the facilities.

Unsurprisingly, many of its treatments also make use of local ingredients, such as the Hammam Ma’In Signature Journey, which comprises Dead Sea salts, steam, a mud wrap and a private bath, followed by a scalp, face and body massage.