Spa Reviews

Consider complementing your treatment with alternative therapies

Spas, besides the luxuriant pampering nature of these increasingly popular alternative health facilities, do offer medical benefits ranging from rehydration to detoxification and relaxation to anti-ageing. In addition, some spas incorporate holistic healing centres, the reputable ones of which can treat a variety of more serious ailments – such as eating disorders, back pain and spinal realignment.

It is unfortunate the essential meaning of word “holistic” has been diluted with its fashionable use by all proclaiming to provide some or other form of wellness treatment. In essence, it should refer to the restoration the body’s balance of energy to its original or “whole” state. Reputed Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practitioners, who practise holistic healing, use Eastern philosophy of the human body’s energy flow – such as the chakra energy centres noted in ancient Indian medicine – to treat a wide variety of disorders. These treatments can provide an excellent complement to Western clinical medicine. For example, a recent study(1) has shown that patients with chronic low back pain who received combined therapy of acupuncture and conventional care showed a faster and more thorough return to health than those that received only conventional care.

Scientific research in CAM is, however, still in its infancy, yet the findings of the little research carried out to date are of significant interest – such as the acupuncture research referred to above – and are provoking a keen and growing interest in the possibilities of integrating certain clinical and CAM therapies. The US National Institutes of Health’s relatively new National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is now one of the world’s leading organisations with regards to the provision of funding for scientific research in this field.

In the Middle East, Dubai Healthcare City is a pioneer in this sphere as it initiates a programme to integrate CAM and clinical, evidence-based medicine. It is incorporating a Wellness Centre into the healthcare city complex with licensed CAM practitioners and a pioneering CAM therapy coding system, which they are currently trying to get accepted by health insurance companies. (See page 47).

CAM therapy does have a place in modern medicine and clinical physicians should keep an open mind to the potential benefits of certain CAM treatments and in certain instances consider referring patients to reputed CAM practitioners for therapy that can complement their own treatment.


Middle East Health has reviewed a few select spas in Dubai and further afield to provide a taste of what these facilities offer in terms of CAM. We cover a range of treatments from detoxification to anti-ageing and relaxation to rehydration.

Granted, these facilities won’t cure heart disease, but importantly they offer a way of life that would certainly help prevent it if people followed their lifestyle recommendations and implemented these good lifestyle habits early on in their lives.


1. Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Avins AL, et al. A Randomized Trial Comparing Acupuncture, Simulated Acupuncture, and Usual Care for Chronic Low Back Pain. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009;169[9]:858-866.


Review by Brian Wilkie Publisher

No food – for a week.
No soft drinks either.
No restaurants, bars, clubs or sightseeing – in Thailand?

It certainly wasn’t our usual break. My wife and I, after hearing friends rave about the benefits of fasting and detoxing, had decided to check it out for ourselves. We had booked a week at one of the New Body & Mind Centres (NBAM) in Southern Thailand. NBAM runs 3 residential spas in the area – a 3- star and a 5-star on the island of Koh Samui, and a 4-star centre within a beach resort on the mainland coast nearby, which we chose as it sounded quiet and well-removed from temptations. NBAM’s aim is not only to help their clients de-stress and lose weight, but more importantly, to help them adopt a healthier lifestyle. It turned out to be much as we expected – and more.

We arrived and checked into our very comfortable ‘minisuite’ overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, and from that morning we didn’t eat any solid food for five-and-a-half days. Instead, throughout each day we had plenty of mineral water and four vegetable juices or soups, plus five glasses of water mixed with a cocktail of various cleansing ingredients such as psyllium husks and seeds, activated willow charcoal, bentonite clay and flax seeds. Each day started with a one-hour walk around the local hills or beaches, to get the metabolism working early. Following this was a set programme of drinks, gentle exercise and massage throughout the day – plus the dreaded colonic irrigation. We also spent an hour each afternoon with one or other of the centre’s managers, discussing various aspects of healthy living and being shown how to maintain and build on what we learnt. This included Thai cookery classes to show us how to prepare tasty, but healthy food for our regular meals.

The astonishing thing for us was that in spite of no food and plenty of outdoor activity, we never really felt hungry. A few hunger pangs on day two was about as bad as it got, but no worse than we’d normally feel before a delayed lunch. The fact that our programme was fixed and monitored also meant that there was no pressure and we could really relax. After fasting and exercise, relaxation is the third key to the week’s success, according to NBAM.

Over-weight, addiction and diabetes

The centre’s excellent Belgian director, Patrick Van Brussel, commented that around a third of their guests/patients come from the Arabian Gulf, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The main reasons are for weight-loss, destressing, and to help throw off addictions to alcohol or prescription drugs. Van Brussel added that diabetics, particularly from the Gulf and Australia, were visiting in increasing numbers for the centre’s 14- and 21-day programmes.

“If you’ve been abusing your body for years with too much food, stress or general bad living, you can’t expect to change everything overnight,” he explained. “However, a couple of weeks will certainly start reversing the worst effects, and most people manage to keep on the right track when they leave here. Having seen how healthy they can be, they simply don’t want to go back to their old habits.” Certainly, my wife and I proved the truth of what he said. Though we were both reasonably fit and healthy before we went, each of us lost more than 3 kilogrammes over the week, and she’s steadily lost more since returning to Dubai. Surprisingly, most of the weight-loss during the week was not fat, as our body-fat measurements only showed reductions of a kilogramme or so each, but appeared to be ‘internal’ – i.e. matter excreted by and through the fasting and colonic irrigation processes. The irrigation itself wasn’t as bad as we’d feared. It was separately self-administered in our own room, and therefore both private and gentle with only mild discomfort, which soon passed. The results, though, were impressive – both of us lost inches off our waists, and my abdomen is now flatter than it’s been for years.

Other former clients of NBAM have similar stories. A nurse from Saudi Arabia, for example, who was there for 10 days in March told me that she’d had “amazing” results from the colonics, had stopped taking caffeinated and artificially- sweetened drinks, had not had any of her previous regular headaches and, four months on, is still “a lot calmer and more inclined to let the frustrations of life in Riyadh flow over me!” Other guests, particularly those who were trying this sort of centre and treatment for the first time, commented on how “safe” and “therapeutic” their stays were, and how it had literally changed their lives.

Overall, we’re definitely pleased that we plucked up our courage and went for it. The fasting and detox was much easier than we’d feared, and a few weeks after coming back we’re still eating less food and more healthily, as well as sleeping and feeling better. Certainly, the obesity, diabetes and high-stress incidence in the Gulf would be markedly reduced if doctors suggested similar programmes to their patients, both as prevention and part of the cure.

And as for New Body and Mind – it’s not for everyone, but the cost is reasonable, the resort and accommodation top-class, and the benefits are long-lasting.

● New Body and Mind, Thailand
Tel: +66 775 300-246


Review by Sue Constantine

Situated on the 13th floor of one of Dubai’s newest and most beautiful hotels, the Spa at The Address is an island of cool serenity. Upon arrival a surprisingly delicious glass of cucumber, mint and lime is offered, which is then sipped whilst lying on a day-bed overlooking the Dubai Mall’s lake and the hotel’s terrace and answering a health questionnaire. When suitably relaxed guests are shown to the luxurious restroom and invited to don robe and slippers before being led to a therapy suite. After selecting the oils to be used, based on your preference of smell and body’s needs on that particular day, and then a sensitivity test, the therapist begins.

Completely natural products by Espa are used, limiting allergic reactions, and sourced from the UK. Soft music plays in the background as the skin is cleansed and gently exfoliated. Your choice of oil is then applied to the face and upper body, with particular attention paid to pressure points. Never normally one to lie still long enough for salon sessions I found myself drifting off to sleep and only awoke when a blue light was shone on my face. This Wood’s, or UV light, is used to highlight imperfections in the skin and guide the therapist in her treatment. It is not recommended for home use, however, as it also shows up lines and wrinkles you might rather not see. An intense and very relaxing massage ensues, during which the writer once again drifted off. Another thorough cleansing and you are ready for the nourishing mask. Whilst this is on your face the therapist would normally apply a rich cream to the head and massage it in, but I opted instead for a foot massage, and after a shopping spree beforehand was very glad she did. After almost an hour of cleansing, moisturising and massaging a sense of wellbeing envelopes you and a final application of moisturiser is gently patted and stroked onto the skin. The therapist then advises you of the best way to care for your skin at home. I left with my complexion glowing and dry patches soothed and even the slight headache I arrived with a distant memory.

● The Spa at The Address
Tel: +971 4 436 8888

Holistic Healing

Review by Callan Emery

Getting to the Six Senses Hideaway at Zighy Bay can be quite an adventure. Situated in a small seaside cove in the mountains of the Musandam peninsula in Oman just outside the small coastal town of Dibba you have to drive over a very steep mountain pass to get to the resort. The resort provides a driver at the gate, so you don’t have to raise your stress levels trying to navigate the fairly treacherous, yet magnificently scenic, mountain pass. And this is the whole point of visiting this resort – to reduce stress, to slow down and revitalise your body.

The exquisite, remote setting of the resort nestled between a steep and stark mountain backdrop and the warm Arabian Sea, exudes a serenity that is immediately calming and entirely conducive to a holistic healing retreat. As with all Six Senses Hideaway resorts, it is architecturally styled to blend harmoniously with the local environment. The resort at Zighy Bay has been designed as a traditional Omani fishing village built from stone, typical of the Musandam peninsula. All the beachfront villas offer exceptional privacy and have their own rim-flow pool. Some have an en-suite spa room, where the spa therapists can provide treatments in the privacy of your own villa. Every detail has been carefully conceived, so although the resort is thoroughly ecofriendly and rather minimalist, it is luxurious.

The Six Senses Spa focuses on holistic wellness and healing and offers a range of treatments from relatively simple massage therapies to more intense detoxification therapies and vibrational energy healing for body realignment and muscular dysfunction.

I spoke to Alison Potter, health and wellness consultant at the resort and a highly experienced holistic healer and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practitioner. She explained in detail how, with a thorough understanding of the Eastern philosophy of the body’s energy flow, she releases blocked energy to revitalise the body through a variety of massaging techniques. One of her CAM therapies is called Chi Nei Tsang Tou Tang, which she uses to treat eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and bloating. Based on an ancient Chinese Taoist healing technique, she massages the abdomen and can feel where energy is blocked. She treats these disorders of the abdomen by releasing this energy, enabling it to flow as it should and restoring the natural energy balance of the body. This revitalises the internal organs. She also pointed out that emotional tension is held in the abdominal area and that this treatment also relieves anxiety.

Alison uses a variety CAM therapies, all of which are based on an understanding of the flow of energy in the body. She says ideally a full holistic healing session should be spread across five days or more. Therapists at the Six Senses spa also provide lifestyle consultations to improve your dietary and physical exercise habits. The resort also runs yoga retreats at various intervals throughout the year.

Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay is offering a range of accommodation and spa packages. Holistic healing packages can also be tailored to your needs.

Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay is the first Six Senses resort to open in the Middle East. Six Senses Resorts and Spas has unique properties in Maldives, Thailand Vietnam, Spain, Fiji and, most recently, Jordan. These resorts all incorporate Six Senses core values – to create innovative and enlightening experiences that rejuvenate their guest love of the SLOW LIFE – Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences.

● Six Senses Hideaway, Zighy Bay
Tel: +968 2673 5888


Review by Debbie Forrester

Relaxation, rejuvenation and sensory discovery is promised by the Mandara Spa, and on this visit, it didn’t disappoint.

Granted, I probably left it a few decades too late to be literally rejuvenated in one treatment, but the ritual surrounding the Elemis Advanced Anti-Ageing Facial ticked two of the three boxes and for a day or two, the third.

This Mandara Spa is at the Monarch Hotel, prestigiously addressed as number one Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.

Step inside and the traffic, dust and heat vaporise, leaving you in a tranquil, candle-lit dream world where you are attended by gracious and smiling Balinese staff.

After a spell in the wet room – Jacuzzi, steam and sauna for which you are recommended to arrive early, the treatment begins; not with the face, but the feet.

Robed and already relaxed I was guided to a petal-filled copper bowl where my kneeling therapist invited me to choose either lavender (relaxing) or lime (revitalizing) oils for my foot wash, salt scrub and massage. This 15 minute session is offered with all treatments over an hour, I learned.

On to the facial where I lost count of the number of serums, lotions and masks that were applied, removed and reapplied by gentle massaging hands or toner soaked swabs in the serene ambiance created by muted oriental music and the gentle rustling of the therapist’s preparations.

The masks that needed time to ‘work their magic’ presented the ideal opportunity for a firm, but not painful, massage of my hands, arms, shoulders and scalp that eased away a week’s worth of stress.

To be honest, the treatment is quite long, but when proudly presented with a mirror, I had to agree that my face looked plumper, re-hydrated and much shinier than when I arrived and suitable recommendations were made to maintain my glowing complexion.

In the relaxation room, fruit and a choice of herbal tea is offered and after half an hour of reclining like a Roman goddess, it became hard to leave.

Needless to say, I promised a return visit, perhaps to sample one of their signature massages. Available for both men and women, as are the facials, these incorporate the wisdom and traditions of ancient cultures, new age systems featuring crystals or colour, and the latest spa therapy from Elemis.

Mandara Spa offers 300 different treatments throughout the world and the menu at each spa is tailored to that resort’s theme, design and clientele. Locations include Africa, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, South Pacific and Thailand.

● The Mandara Spa
Tel: +971 4 501 8270


Review by Helen Coupland

The Thai Massage at the Amara Spa, Park Hyatt Dubai, is ideal for those who find themselves stiff from over exertion in work or sport; it enhances strength and flexibility, relaxes sore and tense muscles and improves circulation. However, it is not recommended for pregnant women, immediately after surgery, or after a recent fracture.

Believed to have originally been developed in India by the physician of Buddha, Thai massage has long been known for its ability to simultaneously energise and relax the body.

Traditionally more rigorous than other forms of massage, Thai massage blends a mixture of deep muscle massage and yoga aided stretches, with the therapist using his/her hands and feet to massage your muscles. Muscle compression, joint mobilisation and acupressure are also used during the treatment. It feels as if you have been taken through a yoga class with out doing any of the work!

Thai massage is different from other forms of massage as no oils are used, the massage is usually done on a padded mat on the floor (as opposed to a table) and the client wears comfortable clothing.

Never having had a Thai massage and having only heard stories of the masseur walking on your back I was slightly nervous as to what to expect. I needn’t have worried. After changing into the clothing provided, Sia, the resident Thai masseur at Amara Spa, first checked me for any medical issues. Noting where I had broken bones in the past and an issue with my lower back. She explained that all Thai massage movements were dependant on the client – the more flexibility they had, the more movement. Pressure could be either, soft, medium or firm.

I decided I could handle medium. Starting from the feet up, I was massaged through a series of positions: face-down, face up and sitting – a kind of 3D muscle workout. As I was slightly tense it was a bit painful in certain areas to start with, but I was amazed at how quickly my muscles relaxed. Using her hands, elbows, knees and feet, Sia kneaded, twisted and pulled the day’s stresses away. It really was a full body workout for me … and, it seemed, for the masseur as well.

After having such a vigorous massage I was worried that I might feel sore following the treatment, but there was no pain, instead I felt energised as promised. The next day my neck and back felt relaxed and I found the Pilates stretches I do easier.

● Amara Spa, Park Hyatt Dubai
Tel: +971 4 602 1234

ate of upload: 30th Sep 2009

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