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10 outrageous spas in the Middle East
Where a gold facial means exactly that
In a part of the world where you can buy 24-carat bullion from a vending machine, eat a cupcake worth US$27,000 and get your iPad plated with gold, it’s no surprise that some spas in the Middle East are set up to treat you like royalty.
Seriously, as in real royalty, not the type of faux royal platitudes usually dished up on spa brochure copy.
With five-star details and prices to match, these are no ordinary spas -- offering treatments ranging from gold facials to a Hello Kitty pampering, here are 10 places that may care more about the frills factor than the actual relaxation.
1. Six Senses Spa at Hotel Missoni, Kuwait
One of the world’s most luxe brands, Missoni has lent its stripes to fashion, homewares and even a sell-out line for Target, so a spa in the label’s dazzling hues is no great leap.
The Kuwait spa is anything but fun-free, with a blend of Arabian styles and the knitwear house’s signature zigzags and colors, all personally designed by Rosita Missoni.
High-end treatments include a four-hour beauty package (back treatment, mani-pedi and massage) for 109 Kuwait dinars (US$390).
Symphony Complex, Gulf Road, Salmiya, Kuwait; +965 2577 0077; open daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; www.hotelmissoni.com
2. Hello Kitty Beauty Spa, Dubai
With everything from credit cards to lingerie emblazoned with the mouth-less mug, it was only a matter of time before Hello Kitty scored her own spa.
The gloriously girly spa comes with separate treatment menus for "princesses" and "queens," with an emphasis on pampering parties.
Town Centre, Beach Road, Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 344 9598; open Saturday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday noon-8 p.m.; www.hellokittybeautyspa.com
3. Eternel Medspa, Dubai
The Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (aka the Vampire Facial) at the Eternel Medspa involves a doctor removing a few vials of blood, which are then spun in a centrifuge to extract the platelets, then re-injected into your face and neck.
This rather squeamish-sounding procedure costs 3,673 dirhams (around US$1,000) and is intended to improve the look of your skin for up to 18 months -- once the bruises have faded.
Villa 397, Beach Road, Jumeirah Beach Park, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 344 0008; open Thursday-Tuesday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; www.eternelmedspa.com
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4. Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
Imagine a Venn diagram of James Bond fans and spa lovers.
In the tiny space where the circles overlap is a group of people who would be delighted to paraglide into a spa appointment.
Which is exactly what you can do at Zighy Bay.
On the coast of Oman, guests at the five-star resort can arrive either by air or bounce over the sand dunes in a four-wheel-drive vehicle before arriving at the Six Senses spa.
The full Arabian experience is a three-hour ritual (110 Omani rials or US$286), which includes a warm sea salt bath, body scrub made from local coffee and massage using frankincense essential oil.
Musandam Peninsula, Oman; +968 2 6735 555; open daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; www.sixsenses.com
5. PureGray, Lebanon
Beauty is big business in Beirut, where getting a loan for plastic surgery is not an uncommon bank transaction.
There are medi-spas dotted around town but if you prefer a more alternative approach to your appearance there's the spa at Le Gray.
In one of the city’s chicest hotels, PureGray is home to Robert Ogilvie, a world leading acupuncturist and holistic healer, who has been practicing for 22 years.
In downtown Beirut, the spa is decorated with one-off art pieces and also has a great sidewalk wine bar.
Expect to pay L£97,856 (US$65) for any of the following: a 30-minute back massage, foot massage, facial, body scrub or combined manicure and pedicure.
Martyrs' Square, Beirut, Lebanon; +961 1 962 885; open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; www.campbellgrayhotels.com
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6. Biolite Aesthetic Clinic, Dubai
Dubai lives up to its extravagant reputation with this spa's 24-carat facial.
Biolite’s gold treatment follows in the footsteps of Cleopatra who, historians claim, slept in a gold mask.
At 2,000 dirhams (US$545) for 90 minutes, however, it might be cheaper to go for a tub full of asses' milk instead.
Gold is said to have beautifying benefits, as it slows the depletion of collagen and can cause a tightening effect.
In this session, a fine layer is applied to the face with a special solvent, which helps to dissolve the metal and assist the skin in absorbing the particles.
Al Razi Medical Centre, Healthcare City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 375 2122; open Saturday-Thursday 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; www.biolitedubai.com
7. Anantara Spa, Abu Dhabi
Deep in the United Arab Emirates' Liwa desert (the size of France, Belgium and the Netherlands combined) is Qasr Al Sarab, a five-star resort with one of the best spas in the Middle East.
The treatment menu follows an Arabian theme but it's the unique landscaping that sets it apart, with hanging gardens, hidden pathways between treatment rooms and views of seemingly endless dunes -- some taller than the Eiffel Tower.
A three-day pampering program at 1,285 dirhams (US$350) includes massages, foot rituals, scrubs, facials, bathing and a lot of herbal tea.
1 Qasr Al Sarab Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; +971 2 886 2088; open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; www.spa.anantara.com
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8. Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah
While this desert retreat in Ras Al Khaimah -- one of the lesser-known emirates -- offers treatment rooms and a great menu, it's the rainforest hydrotherapy experience that holds the most allure.
Visitors don swimsuits and make their way around various humid rooms and spaces of the Rain Walk -- pebbled pond, aroma steam chambers, ice igloo, scary bucket drench shower, saunas -- before ending up in a huge vitality pool packed with acupressure body jets.
Quite the contrast to the sand, camels and sun.
Al Mazraa, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates; +971 7 206 7777; open daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; www.banyantree.com
9. Evason Ma’In Hot Springs, Jordan
The spa at the Evason Ma’In Hot Springs hotel uses mineral-rich mud and waters from nearby springs.
The highlight is a traditional Hammam scrub with black soap and rose-clay body mask, which takes 90 minutes and costs 390 Jordanian dinars (approximately US$550).
Madaba, Ma’In, Jordan; +962 5 324 5500; open daily, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; www.evasonresorts.com
10. Assawan Spa, Dubai
At the iconic "seven-star" Burj Al Arab’s spa, couples can pay 7,346 dirhams (US$2,000) for a massage followed by a swim in a private infinity pool, then finish with bubbles, roses and robes that come as souvenirs.
Warning: gents, if your girlfriend is angling for a proposal then she’ll downright expect it here, so bring a ring or get ready for some sulking.
Burj Al Arab, Al Sufouh, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 301 7338; open daily 9:15 a.m.-10 p.m.; www.jumeirah.com