The immersive experience at Dahlia Spa left us with a nourished soul and baby-soft skin
Spa review: inside Four Seasons Abu Dhabi’s private hammam
Every proper hotel spa here should come with a hammam, a bathing ritual that is not only one of the region’s great traditions, but also a personal favourite of mine. There is no worry that can’t be washed and melted away by a good scrub-down on a heated marble slab.
If it’s not something I do often, it is mainly because the process feels too elaborate for a quick treatment, usually conducted in a communal steam room that looks like it is out of One Thousand and One Nights (a rather humbling experience for those who prize their modesty).
Leave it to my local haunt, Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, to make it simple. Its single treatment room has one small marble round table surrounded by green-tiled alcoves, providing some welcome privacy.
Dressed in black yoga pants and matching T-shirt, Toi seats me on the table and runs through what's about to happen, with a tray of hammam products by marocMaroc that contain ingredients such as black soap, beeswax and argan oil.
I lie back on the marble that's covered with a rubber mat, through which I can feel the heat. After covering me in the black soap, a paste made primarily from black olives, Toi leaves me in the light steam. Before she does, she places a cold cloth in my hand and offers me some water, assuring me she'll be outside. I melt like butter on the the mat.
After 10 minutes, it's time for a firm scrub with a kessa glove (like a loofah), before a lighter scrub with Miel d'Ambre, in which brown sugar acts as an exfoliant. Both times Toi rinses me with a ladle of hot water from a copper bowl.
Even my face gets the treatment, with a gentle facial scrub called Grains de Lumiere, containing a finer sugar. After washing my hair and applying a mask, an add-on that's worth it for the scalp massage alone, Toi gives my shoulders, neck and feet a small massage.
When it's over, she guides me to the relaxation room with the hair mask on, which I wash off myself when I'm ready. While it left my hair noticeably shiny, it was a bit waxy and difficult to blow dry. (If you're going somewhere after, I'd recommend leaving that to the pros at Hairwaves by Charbel, which is in the spa). After showering, I get an added glow by applying argan oil from a little pot Toi left with me.
The spa itself
The two-storey Dahlia Spa is a stylish blend of art deco and modern Arabian design, with grey and green marble corridors, and dark-wood mashrabiya screens. Some interesting features include a massage table submerged in a vitality pool and heated bamboo loungers in the relaxation room.
Having my own private hammam. Being washed like an infant isn't just about baby-soft skin; there's something about it that nourishes the soul.
The unusually loud gargling sound from the vitality pool's massage jets outside the treatment room interferes with my hammam's serenity. However, it's fun to try once you're out.
Duration and price
A one-hour private hammam experience costs Dh570; the two-hour experience with an argan- or oud-oil massage is Dh1,000. The 20-minute hair ritual, which includes a shampoo and conditioning mask with a scalp massage, costs Dh230.