22 Jun 2019
The last few years have seen the rise of wellness in travel, with jetsetters across the globe trading in the unhealthy and unsustainable for the feel-good and active. While southeast and south Asia capture the immediate imagination, Abu Dhabi might surprise you with all it has to offer in terms of a wellness break. From its white-sand beaches to its still, serene deserts, to its oases and centuries-old therapeutic practices, the Emirate is undoubtedly one of the world’s current wellness capitals. Here’s what to expect from a wellness break in Abu Dhabi.
Spas and Treatments
The Arabian gulf has a long history of therapeutics, with an emphasis on full-body steam rituals and scented oils made from the most coveted ingredients found on the millennia-old Indo-European trade routes. The most famous ritual of the Gulf is the so-called hammam ritual, so named after the specially-built Turkish bath-houses known as hammams. Here, the body is coated in fine oils, usually flavoured with local flowers, or exfoliated with Moroccan soaps or even local spice blends, before then basking in the rejuvenating steamy air of the hammam chamber.
In addition to hammam rituals, spas in Abu Dhabi combine the local aesthetics and ritual practices of traditional Arabian architecture with all state-of-the-art wellness facilities you’d expect of the UAE. One such example is state-of-the-art cryotherapy, where guests are exposed to short blasts of incredibly cold temperatures (well below minus 100 degrees) to prevent ageing and boost energy.
Being active in Abu Dhabi is easier than you might think. With over 400 kilometres of coastline, the Emirate is a haven for watersports. But it isn’t all jet-skis and speedboats. About 25 minutes from central Abu Dhabi lies the pristine beach of Saadiyat island, whose mangroves and undisturbed beaches provide perfect habitat for humpback dolphins and hawksbill turtles. Renting a paddle-board or a kayak is the norm here, with whole days free to devote to improving balance and fitness above the cerulean gentle surf, all the while getting up close and personal with some of the Middle-East’s most attractive marine life. If you prefer to stay on land, local yoga companies, largest amongst them Bodytree Studio, offer training sessions on the beach.
A core part of any wellness break is stepping into the calm of the natural world. Alongside stunning coastline, Abu Dhabi has one of the world’s most extraordinary, unpolluted landscapes in the world: desert. Nothing can quite capture the still beauty and windswept sandy aesthetic of this incredible environment, but the sensation of the desert’s warm dusk air blowing gently over you as you look out upon herringbone dunes and peaceful flats is as rejuvenating as any spa treatment. Situated in the heart of the desert about 45 minutes from Abu Dhabi, Jumeirah al Wathba offers a chance to experience the majesty of Abu Dhabi’s countryside.
Equally as rejuvenating is the UAE’s first UNESCO World Heritage site: the Al Ain Oasis. The largest of Abu Dhabi’s oases, the site is home to almost 150,000 date palms, all maintained by traditional falaj irrigation systems. Walking down its shaded, historic paths, accompanied by nothing but birdsong and the soothing trickle of freshwater streams, is the epitome of relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Seconds drift into minutes, minutes into hours, as the Oasis intoxicates you with its supreme serenity.