Dar Wafa is the latest spa to hit the island’s wellness scene. But, Liz O’Reilly discovered that it is more than a spa, it is a surprising oasis of tranquillity in the heart of the bustling Adliya district.
Set on the crossroads opposite Fuddruckers, the big ochreorange villa immediately imparts a sense of calm as you walk through the massive, intricate blue doors which, though made here in Bahrain, give a sense of a Medieval Moroccan fortress. The reception area is darkened with deep blue walls and woven lamps hanging from the ceiling as scented candles light the air.
Separated into distinct areas for the various treatment types, I am almost sorry that I have not chosen to experience the Hammam as I catch sight of the Moroccan bath rooms with their traditional Moroccan tiled floors and brass buckets, everything here is done in the classic authentic manner. There are two individual Hammam spaces and a larger group room – I immediately vow to come back with a party of friends.
Beyond the Hammams is the big surprise – a gorgeous tranquil courtyard, complete with pool (there’s even an inflatable camel to bring the fun) which leads onto a stunning rooftop where loungers, floor seating, brass and floaty sheers give a luxurious desert camp feel. This area is available for party use and I, again, begin making plans for a girls’ night.
It’s on this rooftop, with the sounds of Adliya seeming to disappear below, that I am served a delicious Moroccan breakfast of tasty breads with honey and jams, cut fruit and hard-boiled eggs topped with a dusting of cumin, all washed down with hot, sweet, minty tea. I could quite easily stay here all day – and perhaps will at some time in the future – but, for now, I am happy to head downstairs and get down to business.
Therapist Pamela leads me to the massage rooms, where décor and flooring are more Bahraini in feel, and introduces me to Dar Wafa’s signature – a hot stone massage with a twist.
After the hot stones, the body is encased in hot towels. Usually, I would request special attention to my shoulders – like many of us who work at computers, this is an area in which I hold knots and tension – but today, fresh from a weekend of birthday partying, Pamela immediately homes in on my lower back, lower legs and ankles. I’m not as young as I was and enthusiastic, if somewhat inept, dancing has wreaked havoc.
Without being asked, Pamela applies the hot stones with just the right amount of pressure to ease my aching muscles and loosen the cramping in my lower back. The delightful scent of lemongrass oil fills the room and her gentle but firm ministrations are just what the doctor ordered.
The application of hot towels to finish the treatment seems to confirm that my muscles have indeed been truly pampered and, as I rise from the bed, I stand straighter and virtually ache-free.
Next, we move to a second treatment room – if you visit, look out for the wallpaper, it is seriously funky – and I stretch out ready for my facial. Pamela gets to work using products from Docteur Renaud Paris, beginning with a tonic and swiftly moving on to a calming chamomile emulsion. My facial skin is pretty sensitive and the application of the creamy, cool mixture using a large, soft brush feels very comforting. Pamela applies a calming concentrate and eye cream and then uses a machine to very gently exfoliate my complexion and aid the potions in their work. At first I was a little worried about this part of the treatment. As I mentioned, my skin is very sensitive and exfoliation can easily leave me with red marks and bruises. However, my concerns proved baseless, so gentle was the movement that my face was able to drink in all the goodness of the products without a problem.
Steam was used to open my pores and, with the above-mentioned sensitivity in mind, Pamela used a gentle suction to remove any remaining impurities rather than the standard extraction method. And we finished off with a cold laser wand massage to close my pores. This felt amazing and overall, my skin was left refreshed and super soft.
Moving into the hair salon, I was struck by another change of décor, this time to art deco style with pink velvet upholstered chairs and more wonderful wallpaper.
Stylist Jane planned a Nashi treatment for my dry locks and mixed in additional argan oil to help the hair mask do its job. First I was shampooed then the treatment was applied and covered with a plastic cap. As I sat under warming heat lamps to activate the premium ingredients, Pamela returned, along with colleague Manu, and the two of them got to work on my nails.
My finger nails were clipped and filed before being painted a bright, dashing red, and my feet were scrubbed to remove hard skin before my nails were clipped and cleaned.
With my nails looking spotless, Jane removed my hair cover and rinsed away the treatment before blow drying my locks into a smooth, shiny crown. I have to say, my tresses looked and smelled fabulous and even a week later, blow drying is still much easier than before with no frizziness thanks to the Nashi smoothing effect.
By now, I was ready to leave but also sad to go. Dar Wafa, from the floor tiles to the doors, from the brass accents to the vibrant colours and from the range of luxurious treatments to the gorgeous outdoor spaces, is more an experience than a location. You can go for a whole day and enjoy various treatments, pop in for a quick blow dry, gather a group of friends for lunch on the rooftop. The possibilities are endless.