Whenever I book a spa treatment, I usually call ahead and ask them to send me the spa menu: lunchtime is then spent poring over the options to decide which treatment sounds the most appealing. Armani/Spa is different. I’m told simply to book a time slot; my appointment will be tailor-made by a specialist based on how I feel on the day. Haute healing – that takes confidence.
Driving up to the glittering Burj Khalifa induces a shiver of excitement – my expectations are high. Upon entering Armani/Spa, first impressions are promising: I’m greeted by impeccable service and a cavernous, simple space. I’d heard mixed reviews about the Armani Hotel’s interiors, but I like the look: finally, a Dubai hotel that doesn’t feel the need to cap everything off with gold leaf and prancing horses. The furnishings are all clearly high quality, and not so self-conscious that they need tarting up. So the general aesthetic gets the thumbs up, but I’m not convinced it feels particularly relaxing and indulgent – the space is cold and classy, rather than warm and welcoming.
I’ve booked a 90-minute slot, hoping to fit in a body wrap and maybe a back massage. The therapist sits down with me and asks: ‘Do you want to feel invigorated, or do you want to feel relaxed?’ ‘Invigorated,’ I reply, anticipating many more questions. ‘I recommend the Liberta massage, which is good for energising.’ ‘Are there any other options?’ I ask. ‘You can have any of the three massages for 90 minutes; a facial cleanse for 30 minutes and a massage for 60 minutes; or a 60-minute facial cleanse and a 30-minute foot massage.’
What if I don’t want a massage or a facial cleanse? The conversation doesn’t really feel any more bespoke than the introduction at any high-end spa: in fact, many spas offer more options. A little disappointed with my ‘consultation’, I head into the pre-treatment relaxation room: a small room with closed blinds. A sip of goji berry juice later and it’s time for my massage.
My friendly Thai therapist tells me that in order to work at the spa she received two months of comprehensive training, which sounds promising. The treatment starts with an incredibly thorough leg massage, which involves kneading, tapotement and satisfying stretching. She then moves on to my arms and back: there are moments of brilliance (such as when she uses her forearm to relax my whole back) and the Armani massage oils smell gorgeous, but overall I’m left feeling dissatisfied. I’d asked for hard pressure and a focus on my shoulders; I walk out a little disappointed on both counts.
Before I know it, it’s time for my 30-minute facial massage and cleanse. This involves a thorough application of Armani creams, cleansers and potions, which all feel lovely, but surely I could slap ointments on
my face in the comfort of my own home? There’s a bit of a massage, but again it’s not firm enough for me, and it just feels like someone stroking my face for half an hour.
I leave the treatment room impressed in part, but generally underwhelmed, having been unable to truly relax because of noisy maintenance work right outside my room (unavoidable, I guess, but frustrating nonetheless).
I finally find relaxation in the sauna and steam area, which really is gorgeous: it offers two types of steams, one sauna and a ‘shower experience’. I enjoy spending time here, but can’t afford to stay too
long – it costs an extra Dhs150 to extend your time by an hour. It seems that in Dubai, designer healing is just as expensive as couture clothing.
Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa (04 888 3888). A 90-minute booking is Dhs650 for non-hotel guests; an hour in the Terme sauna and steam area is Dhs150. The pool and gym are reserved for hotel guests.