WHAT I TRIED The royal Ottoman hammam and sultan's massage at the Talise Spa in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel.
WHAT I EXPECTED Having tried Turkish baths in Istanbul, I wanted to see how the Ottoman-themed spa matched up.
WHAT HAPPENED Time seems to stand still as I am led through a labyrinth of corridors and interconnected rooms, all ornate mahogany walls and fluttering muslin drapes and replete with gently bubbling Jacuzzis, a thalassotherapy pool and massage showers built like caves.
After a stint in wet and dry saunas and the ice cave, I am taken through to the hammam, an authentic replica of the best of Istanbul's ancient baths (only rather more salubrious) with heated marble slabs and a stunning red and gold mosaic domed roof.
The Moroccan-born Wahiba begins by scrubbing me vigorously from top to toe with an exfoliating mitt, taking great pleasure in the layers of dead skin peeling off. Wahiba pours bowls of warm water over me and then begins a process like being gently beaten with a blanket made of marshmallows as she slaps a pillow filled with foam all over me. Through a foot-high mound of bubbles, she spends 20 minutes massaging me. After another rinse-off, she slathers me in a body mask made of honey, lavender and fresh mint. In the final rinse, she shampoos my hair and conditions it, leaving it silky-soft.
There is just enough time to lounge in the sumptuous Turkish-themed relaxation room, before Khaoula from Tunisia starts my sultan's massage, a combination of kneading, stretching and traditional massage techniques. The hour-long treatment using a warming lavender oil is relaxing without sending me into a deep slumber, while the potion she uses on my skin and hair leaves both beautifully moisturised.
THE VERDICT The Talise is understated, seductive and filled with subtle, aromatic scents that lead you to hammam nirvana. Together with the pool, Jacuzzis and saunas, this is easily somewhere you could come with a group of friends to while away an afternoon.
Royal Ottoman hammam, Dh485, and sultan's massage, Dh475, at the Talise Spa, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. To book, call 04 453 0455