What We’re Talking About
Having booked 24 hours of luxury at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, it would have been silly not to try out their spa for a treatment or two. The Anantara Spa is a relaxing little sanctuary set within a picturesque desert environment that offers an extensive menu of treatments that are inspired by the traditions of Arabian culture and Thai hospitality. Couples are well-taken care of here, with four suites dedicated just to them. I have to say, if I were here celebrating a special occasion (or maybe on a “just because” romantic getaway), this would be one of the first things I’d want to splurge on—the atmosphere is intimate and luxurious and it would create quite the memory!
(A desert escape)
But this time around, I opted for the 90-minute Traditional Rose Hammam by Shiffa. Despite being more of a massage-type of girl and never a great fan of the hammam, after reading about the amazing-sounding Shiffa treatment, I decided to give it a whirl. After all, a few late nights and a few too many glasses of Sav Blanc had started to take their toll on the temple—it was time for a cleanse from the inside out.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the hammam ritual, it’s basically a journey of deep cleansing for the body and senses that originated in ancient Arabia. Back in those days, hammams were used instead of bathing. (Personally, I’d rather do both!)
At The Spa
Our arrival at Anantara Spa was met with a calm and clearly highly organized reception who gave us the standard Anantara greeting accompanied by gleaming smiles. Already, it was easy to see why the spa had won the “World’s Best Desert Spa” award at the 2015 World Spa Awards.
We were then shown to the seating area to fill out a simple form that only asked for basic information. What a refreshing change from the reams of questions asked by other spas. After all, it’s a therapy treatment, not a criminal records disclosure! My therapist arrived and, after introducing herself, took me through to my sprawling changing room where I could undress and pop on suitable knickers and bra top. Huge brownie points right here! I’d previously had a hammam at a well-known Dubai haunt which necessitated knickers but left me with my top half on full show. I am in no way a prude but having them provided for me certainly put me at ease.
When I entered the hammam, I was pleasantly surprised, even if it was smaller than expected and maybe not as bling as I’ve seen in the past (they really could have made an amazing feature out of the ceiling dome). It was incredibly cozy, quiet, and best of all—all mine! Although I didn’t get the chance to look inside the luxurious couple’s suite, I’ve no doubt that the “Couple’s Desert Romance” treatment (where you get to indulge in a foot bath and scrub followed by a full body massage with frangipani oil) is lovely and a popular choice for honeymooners and couples.
My therapist explained the process relatively well. The one thing I wish my therapist could have mentioned, however, was that the rose cream they use naturally heats up when applied to your skin! The last thing you want is to spend half of your treatment silently panicking that you’ve had an allergic reaction to the products because your body feels like it’s on fire!
The hammam started off with a gentle wash with traditional black olive soap that has a deliciously strong eucalyptus scent to really invigorate the senses. This was followed by slipping and sliding across to the warm marble slab to be scrubbed down (and then more slipping and sliding as I tried to maneuver myself onto said slab). If you’re with your partner, I suppose you might be able to help each other out but it’s not particularly romantic to look like dog on a tiled floor when you’re trying to enjoy this relaxing and intimate spa experience, is it!!
Whilst I had some support from my therapist, perhaps some simple transparent grip flooring and a muslin cloth on the hammam could resolve the issue.
From here, I was given a vigorous full body exfoliation. Although it may not sound like it, it was highly relaxing and there was something reassuring and therapeutic about being scrubbed clean top to toe. Perhaps it was the guilt of indulging a bit too much the previous week! Whilst I enjoyed the tranquility, some light classical music would have been ideal to truly send me into that teeny, tiny area of nothingness in the corner of my mind.
Once I’d been scrubbed free of my stress and sin, I entered the steam room. Armed with ice cold water and a towel, I proceeded to steam every drop of toxicity and negativity out of me (probably 5 minutes too long!), before returning for more washing coupled with the most amazing scalp massage and mini Shiffa facial.
Feeling thoroughly relaxed, I then jumped (or should I say hobbled) into a cozy jacuzzi. The only thing missing was having the beautiful candles lit prior to my arrival, which would have made it truly special. Imagine walking into the tranquil glow of flickering candlelight!
And then just as I was starting to completely unwind, it was time for the moment I both lived for and dreaded…The Ice Room!!!
Now after being scrubbed, steamed, and jacuzzied, you’d think having ice rubbed all over you would be a rather welcome sensation, yes? Well, it certainly was a refreshing wake up! Any coldness was soon forgotten as the session finished with a glorious oil massage, leaving my skin feeling nourished, radiant, and silky. It burst the spa-zen-bubble but in a positive way. You know that point where you finish a treatment and just want to sleep but know you have to get up! The culmination of this amazing treatment brought me back into the real world but also made my skin feel alive.
(Tranquility at your fingertips!)
So was the experience worthwhile? Absolutely!! It really is on the to-do list if you haven’t experienced it before. It’s also the perfect treatment after a long-haul flight or crazy week with about 60 minutes of hand work and 30 minutes of being steamed, bubbled, and frozen. You really do sweat out all of your toxins and stress, and walk away feeling pleasantly relaxed yet refreshed!
The Anantara Spa made my 90 minutes a blissful pleasure. Besides, how can you not be relaxed when you’re in an oasis 320 kilometers away from the dazzling lights of Dubai?
The spa has:
- Four luxurious couple treatment suites
- Spa villa
- One Vichy room
- Traditional Moroccan hammam
- Ice room
- A terrace offering outdoor massage in the cooler months
I was a little disappointed at the lack of amenities in the relaxation and changing rooms, and I would have much appreciated some fresh towels, a hairbrush, and hairdryer. A pair of GHDs wouldn’t have gone amiss either! However, this doesn’t detract from the fact that it was a great experience and one which tied in perfectly with our weekend retreat at the hotel. What really topped it off was the fact that the staff were genuinely happy and really did love their job. Believe me, I can spot disengagement a mile away if it’s even remotely present!
The price for the hammam was a reasonable 710 AED.
If you still aren’t convinced that a hammam is for you, then I highly recommend you try one of their signature treatments. These include facials by Elemis and Shiffa, body treatments such as an “Exotic Frangipani Nourishing Body Wrap”, massages like the “Anantara Signature Massage”, and a variety of other body and beauty choices. Here with a special someone? Indulge in the 60 or 90 minute “Couple’s Desert Romance” or ask about their in-room treatments (because sometimes you just don’t want to leave your own personal sanctuary!).
If you’re still undecided, check out their full spa treatment menu here.
What are you waiting for? Treat yourself to some luxurious pampering—there’s never not a good time to indulge all your senses. Whether it’s a girlie getaway with friends or a romantic weekend away, the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Resort and Spa is the ideal destination in the dunes.
1 Qasr Al Sarab Road,
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 (0) 2 886 2088
Mary Pratt is a writer and founder of The Caviar Spoon, a luxury lifestyle site that brings together consumers, brands, companies, tastemakers, and emerging talent.
Her roots are in talent acquisition and branding, where she used to constantly scout out rockstar talent and develop employer brand strategies. This grew into a passion that then extended to human and brand behaviors. Curious to find out what makes people thrive and companies stand out, she transitioned from profiling world-class organizations to reviewing places and products and writing about them from the inside out.
Having been misled by one too many mediocre editorials, Mary makes sure that her reviews cover all aspects. She digs deeper than most and offers a look behind the scenes to spotlight the talent who are making things happen. She knows that everyone has a story to tell, which affects the experiences they create, and she asks the right questions to gain intriguing insight into the individual and the company.
Mary has a deep-seated love for traveling and adventure and believes that life’s best indulgences are about the experience, not the extravagance. This means she’d be just as likely to write a review about backpacking through a remote pocket of the world as she would about a trip to a luxury resort. No matter what, she’ll always hunt someone or something down to bring the entire story to life.