Feeling stressed? Then a relaxing spa break
at Al Aqah Beach in Fujairah could be just
the answer, as Kathryn Roberts discovers
Picture this: You’re hunched over, frantically finishing an urgent report, the phone’s ringing, your inbox is overflowing and to top it off, there’s a queue of people at your desk chasing invoices, travel dates, minutes from yesterday’s meeting and a whole host of other pieces of information you haven’t had a moment to think about. Sound familiar? If so, stop.
Sometimes work – or perhaps for you it’s life with little ones – can be overwhelming and, well, downright stressful. You know you need to relax, but the question is, how?
If my trip to the Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa at Al Aqah Beach is anything to go by, a spa break at this sprawling property could be just the answer. Nestled between the UAE’s majestic Hajar Mountains and the Indian Ocean, this five-star hotel is surrounded by natural beauty, with lush gardens, white-sand beaches, sparkling pools and waterfalls.
But while the pretty surrounds are a talking point, the real pièce de résistance is the spa. Unassuming, unpretentious and unbelievably relaxing, Zen the Spa at Rotana wasn’t nominated for a 2012 World Luxury Spa Award for nothing.
A visit to this tranquil haven feels like stepping into an oasis with dim lighting, peaceful music and a cornucopia of treatments. In April, I tried three. The first, my favourite, was the blissful Vitamin E Body Enriching Treatment.
Too many afternoons in the sun combined with a long-neglected skincare routine made this the ideal treatment for my dry, worn-out skin. Starting with an exfoliating body scrub containing coffee, frankincense and grapefruit, the experience was invigorating and left me feeling preened and polished.
After a quick shower, Mayuree, my therapist, applied Aromatherapy Associates’ Enrich Body Serum. Containing tuberose, ylang ylang and aloe vera, the non-greasy blend helps to counteract dryness and leave skin soothed and refreshed.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, out came the Enrich Body Butter, a rich moisturiser exotically scented and full of natural oils to smooth and leave a healthy sheen. As Mayuree rubbed the mixture in, I drifted off to sleep dreaming of glowing, radiant skin.
I woke with a startle when something hot touched the sole of my foot. It was one of 54 black lava stones each corresponding to one of five chakras, believed to be the body’s energy centres. Having had a hot-stone massage a couple of years ago and finding the experience both odd and unpleasant, I needed some convincing this massage would be any better.
It was. As Mayuree rubbed the stones over my shoulders, lower back, legs and arms, I could feel the heat radiate into my muscles, relieving tension and harmonising body and mind. One of Zen’s most popular treatments, the one-hour hot-stone massage did not disappoint.
With stones positioned on the tops of my legs
and shoulders, we started treatment three, the
30-minute Aromatherapy Nourishing Hair Treatment.
If you’re anything like me, you have a daily battle with your silky strands. Living in a hot country surrounded by air conditioning and abrasive water takes its toll on even the healthiest head of hair. So, reading that the treatment restores vitality and adds gloss, I eagerly awaited the results.
Still in my private ‘Hibiscus’ massage room (ladies’ suites are all named after exotic flowers), Mayuree took small sections of hair and applied the oil, gently tugging each section as she went, and conditioned the scalp too.
Containing rich murumuru butter – extracted from the seeds of the murumuru palm – coconut oil and essential oils of ylang ylang, geranium and rosemary, the aroma was mysterious and unusual. I hoped for voluminous, revitalised hair, the look only an expert stylist can achieve, but having experienced one too many disasters over the years, I reconsidered my expectations and convinced myself a little added shine was the best I could hope for.
My, was I wrong! Leaving the oil in my hair overnight worked a treat and after a good lathering and blow-dry the next morning, my strands were as silky, glossy and bouncy as they’ve ever been. The Vitamin E Body Enriching Treatment may have been the best in terms of relaxation, but for me, the hair treatment was transformational and a hidden gem, until now at least.
From the moment I stepped into Zen the Spa, I knew I was somewhere special. I’m not sure if it was the bamboo-framed Thai-massage bed, the mysterious ice cave, the sunken marble bath in one of the couples’ suites or a combination of all three, but there’s something that sets this spa apart from its rivals.
For Cholpon Salieva, the spa’s Director, it’s the service as much as the facilities that make Zen so unique. “As soon as you arrive, we try to relax you. We choose the best products and promise the best quality of treatment. We take extra special care of all our guests,” she explained.
Based on my experience, I wouldn’t disagree. Salieva and her team have got the day-to-day running of Zen down to a fine art.
But then so has the rest of the hotel. Perched on one of the most beautiful spots on the east coast, the whole resort exudes that relaxed, easy-breezy lifestyle we all long for.
The outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pool, in the centre of the resort, is paradise for children. Water slides, bridges and inflatable toys ensure you’re never too far away from squeals of laughter and beaming smiles. If children’s antics aren’t for you, however, the beach offers a quieter experience with golden sands and instant access to the treasures of the Indian Ocean. Take your snorkel and mask and spot large shoals of fish in the shallows.
With water skiing, banana-boat rides, parasailing, aqua aerobics and PADI diving trips all available, water activities are a big draw. For those who prefer dry land, there’s table tennis, table football, beach volleyball and tennis not to mention an impressive fitness centre with a wide variety of equipment.
And for more local scenery, desert safaris, quad biking and camel rides are a must.
Dinner at the resort, often referred to as the Pearl of the Emirates, is not to be missed either. I dined at Waves under a picture-perfect, beach-side cabana surrounded by romantic lanterns. The food was just as pleasing, with an array of fresh fish displayed market-style at the restaurant entrance. On the chef’s recommendation I chose kingfish and tiger prawns, grilled to perfection.
The epicurean feast was followed next morning by a lavish buffet breakfast in Mozaïque. Brimming with tasty treats, the cuisine was mouth-watering and the service fast and efficient. Staff were friendly and eager to assist, making sure my every whim was attended to.
For a moment, I thought I heard someone mention work next week. But I couldn’t be sure. I was too engrossed in my bubble of peace, quiet and blissful relaxation.
Visit www.rotana.com for bookings.