In a city which has a reputation for a work hard, play hard approach to life, it seems only reasonable that we should spa hard as well. By hard we obviously mean wrapping yourself in a plush lavender-scented towel, sauntering around a candlelit room and perhaps sinking into a Jacuzzi for a while before somebody delicately massages diamond dust into your shoulders.
According to figures released for the 2016 Leisure Show (September 17-19 in Dubai) the UAE’s spa market is valued at Dhs1.6 billion and will grow a further 20 percent by 2019. That’s an awful lot of argan oil and a heck of a lot of lazy afternoons sipping smoothies by the plunge pool.
If you are on a quest for ultimate pampering, Time Out Abu Dhabi has 20 of the most luxurious spa journeys in the city.
Mystic Moroccan Hammam at Emirates Palace Spa
Couple’s rooms, an ice cave and heated marble chamber (overleaf) all feature, but it is the traditional Moroccan hammam that is the heart of this 1,500 square metre spa. A 150-minute treatment that starts with a gold eucalyptus soap and ends with a diamond oil massage ticks the indulgence box, while a traditional kassa glove exfoliation and clay body wrap in between offers rejuvenation.
Dhs1,620. Daily 10am-11pm. Emirates Palace Spa, Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, www.kempinski.com (02 690 7978).
Remède sanctuary at Remède Spa
Some 3,200m of sea-facing spa space and a café dishing out gourmet healthy grub are obviously impressive when delivered to St. Regis standards. It is the sheer duration of this total body cleanse that sets it out as an option for hardcore spa folk. Over the course of four-and-a-half hours you will be given a custom body polish, massage and facial plus take on a relaxation ritual. After those four treatments, in which your skin type, needs and body type will be individually calibrated you will deserve the inclusive light lunch.
Dhs1,450. Daily 9am-10pm. Remède Spa, St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Tower, Corniche, www.remedespaabudhabi.com (02 694 4100).
Ayurvedic time ritual at Iridium Spa
Saadiyat, should you have forgotten, means “happiness” in Arabic. It is an emotion we associate with this swish seaside St. Regis spa. Much is made of time and treating yourself at Iridium and this Ayurvedic ritual is the most personalised on offer. Dosha blended oils are used to release toxins to combat stress, anxiety and poor sleep in a three-hour session which includes separate body exfoliation, body wrap, facial, scalp and full body massages.
Dhs1,350. Daily 9am-10pm. Iridium Spa, St. Regis Saadiyat Island, Saadiyat Island, www.iridiumspaabudhabi.com (02 498 8996).
Arabian Rose Ritual at Anantara Spa
It is hard to think of a series of treatments with a greater sense of place. Way out in the desert and on the fringes of the Empty Quarter your treatment will overlook the beautiful dunes and mystical sands surrounding the Qasr Al Sarab resort. While Thai rituals are a speciality here, this combination of five treatments and a light lunch are a celebration of the Arabian rose using Shiffa products. Over four-and-a-half hours you will have a sugar body polish, 1,001 roses milk bath, rejuvenating rose body mask wrap, rose bliss body massage and a rose facial. No news on whether the lunch contains roses, though.
Dhs1,945. Daily 10am-10pm. Anantara Spa, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, Qasr Al Sarab Road, www.qasralsarab.anantara.com (02 886 2088).
Desert sand body scrub at Anantara Spa
The tranquil waterways of the Abu Dhabi mangroves elevate the relaxation levels of any spa therapy and with 15 treatment rooms, a Turkish hammam and a general Thai-inspired approach to spas, this place hits the spot. The Vichy shower rooms are perhaps the most intriguing. While lying flat on a heated marble slab a Vichy treatment means being showered from above to exfoliate and soothe in a treatment which also includes a vigorous scrub with desert sand to remove dead skin and an application of argan oil. That is a lot of rubbing over the course of an hour-and-a-half.
Dhs720. Daily 10am-11pm. Anantara Spa, Eastern Mangroves Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Street, www.abu-dhabi.anantara.com (02 656 1146).
Four-handed massage at Espa
What could be better than a trained Ritz-Carlton therapist kneading your body and applying volcanic hot stones and warm oil to an aching body? Well, how about two people doing it? This signature four-hand massage uses long sweeping movements and synchronised motions. A tailor-made facial exfoliation and steam are also included, along with a treatment specific mask. If you are squeamish about massages then maybe avoid this three-hour ritual, everybody else form an orderly queue.
Dhs1,860. Daily 10am-10pm. ESPA, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, Al Maqta, www.ritzcarlton.com (02 818 8051).
Dahlia Spa Experience at Dahlia Spa
Shake off thoughts of a tranquil beachside escape as this is very much an urban spa. Chic, inner city and so stylish you should smuggle yourself inside in a diamond-studded velvet bag, it is a day spa for the image-conscious. The three-hour spa experience begins by luxuriating the feet, passes through a full body exfoliation and a relaxing treatment and facial. Upgrade to a quartz sand table and you will enjoy a psammotherapy massage. That, for those of us who have not studied ancient Greek, means lying on heated alpha quartz sand.
Dhs1,550. Daily 9am-9pm. Dahlia Spa, Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island, www.fourseasons.com (02 333 2222).
Jewel of Arabia at Sense Spa
We can’t explain how much we love the spa mezze offered at Sense in the Rosewood Abu Dhabi, a selection of small pampering add-ons that make for interesting spa combos. Like treatment tapas, if you will. These morsels are appealing, but there is no alternative to
a four-and-a-half-hour Jewel of Arabia session for ultimate regal indulgence. To merely list the enchanting journey would be clinical and fail to capture the sheer joy. But a snapshot includes a diamond facial, argan oil scalp massage, rhassoul clay body wrap and citrus body scrub.
Dhs2,470. Daily 10am-11pm. Sense, Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island, www.rosewoodhotels.com (02 813 5537).
Exceptional ritual at Talise Spa
You can do a lot in five hours. Run a couple of marathons. Watch the Toy Story trilogy. Fly to the Maldives. Nothing, however, is likely to be as indulgent as this truly epic five-hour ritual. Chances of dozing off along the way are high so don’t be surprised to wake up during a floral bath, green tea and sea salt exfoliation, seaweed and algae face mask or a highly-personalised massage and facial. There is a light lunch half way through. It’s probably best if you don’t sleep through that.
Dhs2,275 (for two people). Daily 9am-10pm. Talise Spa, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche, www.jumeirah.com (02 811 5858).
Hammam ritual at Espa
The word hammam, as avid spa watchers know, translates as “warming” and it is usually described in terms of tradition and Arabian ritual. Nothing could be less old-fashioned than the Yas Viceroy hotel and, as with every other experience at the hotel above a Grand Prix racing track, this is like an experimental flight in an alien space ship – in a good way. The ultra-modern hotel treats ESPA guests to 90 minutes of black soap washing, heated baths and Kese mitt scrubbing in an incredible environment. There is even a presidential treatment suite and relaxation lounge looking directly down on the track.
Dhs545. Daily 9am-9pm. ESPA, Yas Viceroy, Yas Island, www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com (02 656 0862).
Polynesia at Thalgo Spa
The VIP suites at the swish Abu Dhabi Country Club spa were always going to be special. Private Jacuzzi and steam rooms aside, we’re also pleased by the innovation here. This 90-minute spa journey is by no means the longest in town but the spiritual trek may just be, as a Pacific tour makes imaginary stops at Tahaa, Raiatea and Bora-Bora. What it means is a sand scrub, a Polynesian oil treatment and a Mahana massage with Monoi oil.
Dhs650. Daily 10am-10pm. Thalgo Spa, Abu Dhabi Country Club, Shakbout Bin Sultan Street, Al Mushrif, www.adcountryclub.com (02 657 7777).
Opulence of Atarmia at Atarmia Spa
The ingredients alone sound like a VIP shopping list with gemstones, diamond dust, caviar, honey and, er, olive oil. The combination of the above, combined with chakra-balancing body polish, mineral whirlpool and hot stone massage, makes this one of the most indulgent spa treatments in the land. All things considered, the Park Hyatt goes a long way towards fulfilling the philosophical promise to deliver on opulence, brilliance and majesty at the spa.
Dhs2,030. Daily 8.30am-10.30pm. Atarmia Spa, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, www.hyatt.com (02 407 1170).
Wish at Heavenly Spa
The Westin’s aspirational and charming spa won’t burden you with mysticism and other-worldliness. It is just a serene and welcoming environment offering health-enhancing relaxation within a pleasant garden setting. Spa packages include Hope, Dream and Joy, but for supreme rejuvenation make a Wish. This 150-minute session uses aromatic products in an energising scrub, massage and renewal ritual to give you the sort of glow that normally requires Instagram filters and some photographic retouching.
Dhs645. Daily 10am-10pm. Heavenly Spa, Westin Abu Dhabi, Sas Al Nakhl, www.heavenlyspaabudhabi.com (02 616 9770).
Traveller’s retreat at Chi, The Spa
Shangri-La meets chi is, in linguistic terms at least, a meeting of philosophies. It is a mystical, harmonious valley combining with the life force or energy flow. In a more practical sense it is an indulgent relaxation hub in the Qaryat Al Beri complex. This two-and-a-half-hour journey is designed to overcome weariness and is particularly helpful if you have jet lag. Who knew an aromatic bath, revitalising body wrap and vitality massage could be so mentally stimulating?
Dhs1,050. Daily 10am-midnight. Chi, The Spa, Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Khor Al Maqta, www.shangri-la.com (02 509 8900).
Ultimate Namm Spa journey at Namm Spa
Unsurprisingly for the Dusit chain of hotels, the majority of treatments here conform to Thai concepts of relaxation. Rather more intriguing is the fact that this signature three-and-a-half hour treatment concludes with a cryotherapy ice cube facial. The idea is that it will contour and firm your skin. Just what you need after a toe-to-head workover that soothes with a sea salt polish, pink kaolin clay rehydration wrap and Thai massage.
Dhs1,650. Daily 11am-10pm. Namm Spa, Dusit Thani, Muroor Street, www.dusit.com (02 698 8888).
Total body detox at Eden Spa
We’re not exactly sure what you could have been doing to get so many toxins in the body that you might need this 150-minute spa package. If the daily grind is getting to you and you feel as though your body is on the verge of going on strike, then banish the badness (mental and physical) with an invigorating scrub, nourishing wrap and comprehensive massage. Look out for Ayurveda-inspired techniques and circulation-enhancing techniques to further boost your body's natural defences.
Dhs1,030. Daily 9am-11pm. Eden Spa at Le Méridien Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Street, Tourist Club Area, www.edenspaabudhabi.com (02 697 4354).
Dead Sea mineralogy at Rayana Spa
The restorative properties of Jordan’s Dead Sea are well-documented and although it is only a short flight away, the chances to experience it first-hand may be limited. The next best thing is this four-hour spa package which includes a Dead Sea bath and scrub, an anti-ageing mud bath and a purifying massage. If that doesn’t revitalise you then you might need to check your pulse.
Dhs1,575. Daily 11am-9pm. Rayana Spa, Hyatt Capital Gate, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street, www.hyatt.com (02 596 1380).
Deep tissue muscle massage at Mizan Spa
The proximity to Zayed Sport City means we’re usually expecting to see athletic types jogging around near the Hilton Capital Grand. That is a feeling which transcends over to the Mizan Spa where massages feel performance-enhancing as much as they do relaxing. Of course, you can get your fair share of algae wraps and Moroccan hammam treatments, but there are some sporty options too. A 90-minute deep tissue muscle massage won’t have an immediate effect, but within hours your inner Olympian will be surging through your body and ready to flex.
Dhs520. Daily 10am-midnight. Mizan Spa, Hilton Capital Grand, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street, www.hilton.com (02 617 0014).
Aquamedic serenity at Body & Soul
So many spa treatments boast of relaxation and indulgence it is nice to find some which offer medical benefits as well. This two-hour session promises to help insomnia sufferers and spa-dwellers seeking a deep sense of tranquillity. The Aquamedic pool is heated to 30 degrees and has a water station massage as well as jets to massage your feet, back and shoulders. A pounding waterfall massage will further work the upper body and if you’re in the mood for some pampering then pink grapefruit and juniper berry body scrubs will give an aromatic finish.
Dhs730. Daily. 10am-10pm. Body & Soul, Al Raha Beach Hotel, www.danathotels.com (02 508 0555).
Zayan well-being massage at Nurai Island
Nothing says wow factor like a ten-minute private speedboat ride to arrive at one of the world’s most amazing private island resorts. We’ve spoken of our love for this gorgeous island resort before and are happy to place it on any list of must-see locations in the Middle East. The spa menu isn’t the biggest in the city and nor does it need to be. The biggest struggle of this two-hour tailored treatment will be to keep the grin of your face as the masseuse kneads oil into your suntanned back and shoulders.
Dhs895. Daily 9am-8pm. Zaya Spa, Nurai Island, www.zayanuraiisland.com (02 506 6212).