There is something of the Cleopatra about being bathed and washed from top to toe by a stranger. Especially in the richly exotic refinement of the One&Only’s exclusive hammam. It’s fitting then, that I’m here for the Royal Treatment, which, even while eschewing that Cleo favourite – bathing in asses’ milk – still involves enough decadent rubbing and scrubbing by a nubile young handmaiden to make it feel fit for an ancient queen, Egyptian or otherwise.
We begin with a gentle rest in the steam room, all the better to open my Dubai traffic-clogged pores. Next up, I’m washed with a mixture of black Moroccan soap and eucalyptus oil. Then, in a final bid to get those pores ever wider, it’s back in the steam room with me, before a vigorous exfoliation with a loofah and a lot of elbow grease removed so much dead skin from my weary bod that I was left feeling not so much like a newborn babe as one that’s barely been conceived. Sounds like a stretch? Let’s just say I was well and truly scrubbed.
Then it was on with the pore-tingling clay and eucalyptus mask, while I warmed up nicely on a hot marble slab. Things were never going to stop there – there was still the honey face mask to come (disappointingly basic after the in-depth attention paid to my body from the neck down), followed by a final, deeply pleasant massage with aromatic oils. The overall effect, while absolutely top-notch in its execution, feels a little like being on a very exclusive and aromatic production line and, intimate as the whole being-washed-by-a-stranger thing is, not one for the body-conscious. (Note to self: remember next time to bring my bathing suit – parading about in paper pants does little to preserve one’s dignity.)
The One&Only’s hammam is a wonderful alternative spa experience that I would recommend anyone and everyone to try. But you may need, as I had to, to do a 180 on your expectations – this is much more a cleansing and skin-reviving treatment than your classic massage with a little cleansing thrown in. Still, relaxing with a cup of herbal tea under the Arabian Courtyards dome afterwards, I felt more relaxed than I had for months. And the fact that my skin, five days, later was still feeling softer than it had in years? Well, that’s gotta beat bathing in asses’s milk any day.
The Royal Treatment, Oriental Hamman, One&Only Royal Mirage, Dhs410 (04 399 9999).