DUBAI: Set amidst the landscaped gardens of Dubai’s sprawling One & Only Royal Mirage resort, the One & Only Spa is an oasis of marble, flickering candles and bubbling fountains that promises release from the stress and hustle of the UAE’s busiest city.
The spa’s expansive hammam facility is one of the finest I have seen. It combines the nostalgic charm of a traditional Arabian bathhouse with opulent, modern luxury. Evocative aromas of amber and musk waft through the air as you enter.
Hammams first became popular during the time of the Ottoman Empire, and variations on the theme of cleansing and relaxation have since spread throughout the world. Unlike a sauna, which uses ambient steam to get the pores open, hammams focus on water, and the process is similar to the bathing practices of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
As anyone who has ever tried an authentic hammam before will tell you, this is the kind of treatment where you need to leave your inhibitions at the door — you are being bathed by someone else after all — along with any expectations of dozing off in relaxed bliss.
The ‘Royal Hammam’ treatment involves a series of cleansing rituals, from a full and thorough wash down with a traditional Moroccan black soap to a vigorous scrubbing with a loofah. The sensation of someone else washing you from top to toe is an unusual kind of luxury that takes some getting used to, but once you do, it does start feeling a bit ‘princess-y.’
Taking things to the next level in the pampering stakes is the inclusion of a ghassoul (natural mineral clay from Morocco) body wrap, which nourishes and moisturizes the skin more effectively than any high-end branded cream or lotion. While you are swaddled in the mask and lying prostrate on the marble slab, waiting for the ghassoul to work its magic, the therapist shampoos your hair.
To finish off the 80-minute treatment, I received a light massage using a body gel. My friendly therapist then sent me off home with a smile, the bespoke loofah she had used as a little take-away memento, and with skin that felt softer than the proverbial baby’s bottom.
There are several other hammam treatments available apart from the ‘Royal Hammam,’ from the slightly more traditional experience, to indulgent oriental rituals complete with a massage in a private room.
And naturally, for those looking for a less robust treatment — or one more respectful of personal boundaries — the One & Only Spa offers a wide range of other massages and beauty treatments, including massages, body scrubs and wraps, facials, special treatments “to protect and enhance sun-kissed skin,” steam rooms, saunas, themed showers and relaxation pools.
The spa also has a dedicated ‘Carita’ suite, using products exclusively created by the French cosmetics brand now owned by L’Oréal. Here you can splash out on science-y sounding luxury treatments like the “Kinetic Life Expert.”
Back to the hammam though. It’s certainly one of the best and most authentic hammam treatments you can find in the GCC. And well worth experiencing at least once, or even twice, as you’ll probably feel less uncomfortable second time around.