Pampering pitfalls

Isn’t relaxation therapy supposed to be… relaxing?

The Knowledge

Up there with shopping, brunching and using speed bumps as launch ramps, spa-ing seems to be one of the city’s favourite pastimes. There are thousands and thousands of square feet devoted to the art of pampering, whether your budget is a few hundred or several thousand dirhams, and there always seems to be a new boutique salon or five-star spa vying for your hard-earned fils.

Since I arrived in Dubai, I’ve bought wholeheartedly (or whimsically, as a person of not-so-extravagant means) into this penchant for pricey preening. However, even after three years of being scrubbed, wrapped and massaged at regular intervals, there are still some definite gaps in my knowledge when it comes to spa etiquette. Frankly, it’s putting me on edge.

My first complaint is perhaps unique to my aurally-challenged ears, but is it too much to ask that we all speak up a bit? I’ve terrible hearing at the best of times, but spa staff’s insistence on talking in whispers, combined with the prevalence of CDs and fountains geared towards making it sound as though you’ve been transported to the heart of a tropical rainforest, means I’m probably missing essential instructions.

This immediately puts me in dodgy territory when it comes to my next problem: I’m always unsure whether I should arrive wearing my underwear (to the treatment room, that is, not the establishment). Should I just be wearing the bathrobe? Will they definitely, definitely provide paper pants? And if they don’t, can I insist they do? Thankfully, I’ve never been anywhere that hasn’t provided some kind of disposable undergarment, but it seems the level of coverage on offer varies wildly. I almost asked if they had any boxer shorts going spare at the beginning of my last body scrub to save both our blushes.

Afterwards, how are you to bid farewell to the person whose palms were not a moment ago rubbing essential oils into your thighs? A handshake? A high-five? A hug? In a moment of blind indecision following one particular massage, I found myself attempting a combination of all three in the presence of my therapist. I wound up performing some new-fangled hand gesture, to which neither of us knew how to respond.

So, to put an end to all the anxieties that plague me every time I visit a spa, causing the peaceful hour to go to waste, I’ve decided on a plan of action. I’m booking an appointment – oh yes, another one – but this time it’s pants on, bathrobes off and conversations at audible decibels all round. I’ll be making my request at reception.

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