x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A spa to keep talking about

So often we judge a spa from our first experience, and if it isn't good we don't return. I learnt last week what a mistake that can be

So often we judge a spa from our first experience, and if it isn't good we don't return. I learnt last week what a mistake that can be. I had a very average treatment followed the next day by one of the best massages I have ever had. Six Senses in Zighy Bay, Oman, has been the most eagerly anticipated spa in the region this year. The company sets as much store by its trademark spas as its locations.

As you walk in, the first assault on the senses is the perfume - lemon grass, peppermint, camomile, ylang ylang, rose or lavender, depending on which burners the staff have chosen that day. Others follow: the spa attendant touches you gently as she guides you to a seat, the lights are low, music is playing, everyone is smiling and you are offered ginger tea. Everything about it, as with the resort itself, feels natural, calm, peaceful, indulgent. Nothing is accidental. Wherever the eye rests, the attention to detail is clear, but the impact on the senses is deliberately subliminal. The client need not acknowledge the philosophy but he or she absorbs the mood.

When I returned to the hurly-burly of office life in Abu Dhabi, my mind kept wandering back and I yearned to return to the peace of those rooms in that exquisite setting. But the facial I opted for was disappointing; nothing actually wrong (although a bit too much steam for my liking - a failure on my part to ask the right questions) but nothing very special either. Then I talked to Ruwaida, the pre-opening trainer for Six Senses spas. The current plan is to open 10 spas across the world every year, so she has her work cut out. It seems I was a week too early for facials; she had just finished on the massages and next week the facials would be up to speed. The therapists were good, but some needed to learn more about the Six Senses way of doing things. Also, what had felt like nothing more than the frequent use of a wet flannel had in fact been the application of essential oils. Produced by Dr Lamees Hamden in Dubai, Shiffa oils have gems in them - sapphire to calm, ruby for balancing mature skin, diamonds for all types of skin. The aim is to get immediate results. A few days afterwards, two people, unaware of where I had been, commented on my skin, so maybe it worked after all.

The massage was an instant success. Weeks of working to tight deadlines 24/7 had left my shoulders and neck area as hard as the Omani mountain rock. Usually when I book a massage, I long for the therapist to skip the arms and legs bit and focus only my shoulders and back; here they had an energiser massage which, for 45 Omani rhials (Dh430) for 50 minutes, does just that. Ida, who worked for five years in the flagship Six Senses property before coming to Zighy Bay, intuitively knows how to go really deep into the muscles, keeping just this side of the pain barrier.

She got rid of knots and bumps and I left wishing I could see her once a month - a complete impossibility given the glorious inaccessibility of Zighy Bay. The following day I woke at 6.30am and went to the gym buzzing with energy - something I have not done for a long time - which must have been down to Ida and the energiser. Six Senses were famously started after Sonu Shivdasani, an Oxford University graduate from India took his wife Eva, a Swedish supermodel, on their honeymoon to an island in the Maldives. They loved it so much they wanted to buy some land and build a house; the government said they could do so if it was a hotel to bring employment to the local economy. The Soneva Fushi resort was built around a philosophy that it should be as natural, organic and ecologically friendly as possible. The Six Senses Spa was part of the development, but also a brand in its own right.

Since then, the story has been of expansion - allied both to their own new resorts but also frequently as managed spas. With 10 Six Senses spas a year coming; the name is one we will hear a lot more about.