There’s been a lot of buzz about the new Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain Resort & Spa. Liz O’Reilly got the chance to check out that very spa to see what all the fuss is about.
Heading through the capacious lobby of the hotel, I notice how busy it is, especially for a weekday afternoon. A film crew is shooting footage, glamorous ladies float between tables and sportspeople are out in force.
On the lower floor, which houses the Talise Spa, offering both men’s and women’s sections, Spa Manager Susi welcomes me with a beaming smile and walks me through explaining that there will soon be a hair and beauty salon but for now I am more than happy to spot the 26m indoor pool – Hockneyesque in its sparkling blue oblong perfection with streams of water flowing over metallic tubes. There are steam and sauna rooms at the side plus an experience shower, I make a note of that for next time!
Passing through to, what seems to me, a massive gym – Susi explains that this is just the ladies’ section, the mixed gym is even bigger – I spot just about every piece of Technogym equipment you could wish for from running and rowing machines to weights and elliptical trainers. The mixed facility also has a cycle room and classes.
The spa décor of creams and golds with thoughtful artworks and carved screens is truly relaxing, giving the sense of a restful haven where good things surely happen.
The products used are mostly from local organic brand Green Bar and Biologique Recherche – a world-famous French skincare house whose treatments are based on highly personalised methods. However, today, for my Hammam scrub and massage, my therapist Iin will be using gorgeous oils and scrubs from SENSASIA.
After our mini-tour, I am shown into the Hammam and I can honestly say it literally takes my breath away. A huge circular marble Hammam slab, which must be at least five metres across, sits in the middle of a dimly lit room. Water troughs are strategically fitted around the sides and shower nozzles in a dull, burnished gold add luxury while the whole appearance is almost altar-like. It’s where I imagine the good lady Arwen from Lord Of The Rings or maybe some medieval Nordic queen, would bathe alongside her ladies in waiting. I even find myself speaking in a hushed reverent tone!
The other-worldly ambience is only made more pointed by the feeling of heat – the marble slab, surrounding benches and even the floor radiate warmth. But it’s not oppressive, just all enveloping and strangely comforting. This Hammam area is for one or max two people, so I quickly head through to the personal changing area where my locker offers up a deliciously fluffy robe and rubber slippers – Hammans get notoriously wet and slippery, so safety rather than aesthetics is the consideration here.
Then Iin shows me into the steam room where the 53 degrees Celsius heat, once again, leaves me breathless. Always conscious of my well-being, she leaves the door open while I acclimatise then I settle face down on a bench and prepare to cook!
Iin returns to lather me in black olive soap – the heat and perspiration opening my pores and allowing the precious black preparation to be better absorbed and do its work of deep cleansing my skin.
I’m rinsed down before heading out to the Hammam where Iin has placed a cloth and a small pillow for me to lie on and I now fully appreciate the all-encompassing heat as Iin begins to loofah me from head to toe, sloughing off dead skin and paying particular attention to my many dry patches.
I’m then rinsed again with abundant warm water before being washed down with SENSASIA soap containing red algae and chamomile to remove the dead skin, cleanse and soften.
Iin applies a cool towel to my eyes before shampooing my hair with a deliciously scented concoction containing lavender, more red algae and almonds and conditioning with ylang ylang and rice oil.
Next, my very sensitive facial skin is gently smothered in a cleanser containing papaya extract and almond to clean and soften and this is removed with another cool towel.
Rising from the Hammam slab, I can honestly say I have not felt so clean and totally relaxed in as long as I can remember and I am eager for what comes next.
And what comes next is an absolute treat. The massage is called In Your Element, which guests can personalise to their own preference.
For me, Iin has chosen three types of oil: lemongrass and mandarin to relieve muscle tension and energise; lavender and mandarin relaxation oil to calm and reduce anxiety; and Seaside Citrus, a blend of grapefruit, rosemary and lavender to refresh and rehydrate the skin – perfect after all that sweating!
Iin uses gentle pressure working one side at a time from my shoulders to my feet and applying a subtle extra strength to my areas of particular concern – my neck and lower back. Now, I must confess that, while I love massage, I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to strong pressure. I also have an old back injury that does not take kindly to being overly stimulated. But Iin is clearly a master (or mistress) of her craft and I actually really enjoy the extra pressure on my sacral area as, without overdoing it, she eases my tightened muscles restoring a greater range of movement almost, it seems, without trying – the sign of true skill.
So relaxed am I under her expert touch that I actually doze off! All too soon, it is time to wake up and change back into my street clothes but not before heading to the relaxation room – more shades of soothing cream with golden bead curtaining – for a delicious lemongrass and ginger tea accompanied by almonds and fat, juicy dates.
I can honestly say, I have not enjoyed an afternoon this much in a long time. Just writing about it a week later has brought a huge smile to my face and it’s made all the better by the fact that my skin, after all that sloughing and scrubbing, still feels amazing. What more could a girl ask?