New Spas in Dubai by Penny McCormick
As a longtime resident of Dubai – I lived there for almost 14 years - I’ve seen the spa scene in the emirates grow exponentially.
Images: Courtesy reviewed hotels
Back in the day, there were two main spas everyone tried to get into as bookings were fierce. Cleopatra’s at the Pyramids, Wafi City was one. Their Elemis treatments, Jacuzzis and relaxation areas were the ultimate in decadence, while the One &Only Royal Mirage’s Hammam was where you went for the combination of beautiful surroundings and a totally authentic Moroccan bath. (The hotel’s Givenchy Spa was worth a visit too). In fact all three have retained their status and popularity.
Since those early days, when a myriad of beauty ‘parlours’ also offered spa-style menus of facials, massages and body treatments, the city has boomed as has its hotel scene. Now it’s unusual to find a hotel without a spa, or indeed a spa without a signature treatment drawing inspiration from the desert or old Arabia for names and ingredients.
However, what unites all Dubai spas, whether old or new, is invariably their level of service and expertise. This, of course, is part of the legendary Arabian hospitality. The beauty heritage of the Middle East has sometimes been overlooked too, but it is a rich blend of inherited knowledge, organic, oil-based treatments and a level of grooming that is possibly not matched anywhere; even in New York. The other plus is that most spas offer ‘monthly specials’ which are incredible value. Most Dubai residents make an afternoon or day out to the spa as part of their monthly, if not weekly, routine – depending on their budget or stress levels!
Having left Dubai almost four years ago, I’ve been back twice to catch up with friends and also check out the spa scene. The spas I’ve reviewed here are my Top Three choices of new spas. They’re also strategically selected because of their locations. Dubai is an ever-growing city, so a stay should be thought through carefully as traffic can be intense, and if you’re travelling by taxi can add quite a bit to your final holiday expenditure.
I’ve tried to cover the areas known as the old Dubai (Jumeirah Creekside Hotel), the new Dubai (The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC) and of course The Palm, Jumeirah (Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort).
The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dubai International Financial Centre
Check in to the The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre and you’ll find yourself in the heart of what’s known as downtown or new Dubai. A thriving business hub with a burgeoning arts scene, the opulent hotel is well placed for those who want to concentrate on what I call the 3 Ss – shopping, spa-ing and sightseeing.
The Burj Khalifa is a stone’s throw from your hotel room as is The Dubai Mall with all its attractions from the aquarium, the synchronized waterfalls to the designer boutiques (the new shoe district is a destination for fashionistas in itself). In fact the hotel has recently partnered with Bloomingdale’s at The Dubai Mall to offer special ‘shopping packages’ for guests staying in their suites.
Packages include savings on purchases, a personal shopper and a ‘Soul to Sole’ foot massage. As for the suites – think Art Deco design touches with separate living and sleeping areas, huge bathrooms with large marble tubs and stand- alone showers. Did I mention the Asprey Purple Rain products too? Everything about The Ritz Carlton shouts discreet luxury as well as intuitive service. (As an example, I was quite ill when I checked in but said nothing. After settling in my room I received a knock on the door. A tray of ginger and lemon tea was provided to help me get better soon; it was a lovely touch which did the trick!).
But I digress, for the culture vultures there’s a new design district close by and the assorted art galleries and accompanying cafes (The Ritz Carlton boosts some impressive art works of its own which guests can enjoy on a short stay). In fact the restaurant scene is impeccable in this district. You don’t have to go too far if you’re staying at The Ritz Carlton – try their newly opened Café Belge for some authentic brasserie style cuisine or alternately go to la Petite Maison and Zuma where Dubai society hangs out. What’s more it’s all within walking distance of the hotel something which is relatively unheard of in Dubai where taking a car or taxi is de rigueur.- even if for only five minutes
However, to ensure you’re in tip top form for these assorted delights, it’s best to orient your body to the new time zone and also recover from any flight stress. I opted for a Lomi-Juma massage which is part of their new spa menu “created with the global traveler in mind.” Divided into massage therapy, face care and body care, the new treatments use products from Natura Bissé and Aromatherapy Associates. Additionally, a series of express treatments can be selected individually or added to another treatment, or guests can enjoy a series of spa packages to indulge the senses. (For male travelers, the Refinery Facial for Men is a must do– using products packed with aromatic oils to soothe, calm and protect the skin from the extremes of temperature often encountered in the emirates).
But back to my massage; I’d never tried a Lomi-Juma massage – being a fusion of Mediterranean and Pacific massage techniques using the arms and forearms to ease stress and relieve tension. I wanted to see how this compared with the traditional hot stone or normal array of massages.
Firstly, I was impressed with the treatment bed – which of course is in keeping with the famed Ritz Carlton mattresses. Heated, deceptively deep and very comfortable, it was impossible not to slip in and out of a snooze as the treatment took place. The therapist’s elbows and forearms were very good at unravelling the series of shoulder and upper back ‘knots’ which seem a by-product of those of us who are tied to computers or laptops.
I was unaware of any difference in efficacy between using forearms rather than hands, other than it felt at some points like a rolling pin was being used over my body! The massage oil was lightly scented and not at all cloying and the result was very much as was described on the menu. I felt rejuvenated and ready to face the shops. After the treatment I had herbal tea in the relaxation lounge, before browsing the spa boutique.
The spa features eleven single treatment rooms with natural daylig
As I perused the menu of treatments again (already deciding on a follow up), I was spoiled for choice. In keeping with the discreet luxury of the hotel brand and its impeccable service, it’s hard not to acknowledge that they are masters and mistresses of excellence.
Need to know:
• Spa facilities are open daily from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and treatment times are 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.
• For reservations or advice from a therapist, contact The Ritz-Carlton Spa, DIFC