The Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai is the place for celebrity spotting. This sprawling city where all that glistens really is gold, attracts the rich and famous like bees to a honey pot. Film stars, models, and sports personalities can be seen all over town, from the crowded lanes of the gold souks to the hotels that line the blindingly white Jumeirah Beach (I swear they polish the sand every morning) and in city hotels, like the 5* Shangri-La which has plays host to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Enrique Iglesias, George Clooney and Bryan Ferry among others.
Tibetan Timbres at the Shangri La Hotel, Dubai
My first experience of a truly magnificent Spa was the one in the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubia where the treatment I had was, literally, mind blowing.
Sand, Sun, Shopping and now Spas
Dubai’s legendary status is built on the three S’s, sun, sand and shopping, to which can be added a fourth – the Shangri-La Spa. It’s the perfect getaway for a few days from Europe, just seven hours from most European countries, no jabs needed, no malaria and no other nasties lurking around unless you want to count spitting camels. It’s Disneyworld meets the Arabian Nights, from the Burj al Arab, the world’s most over-the-top hotel decorated with five square
miles of 22 carat gold leaf, with a fleet of white Rolls-Royces, and an under-water restaurant, to The Palm, a man-made offshore island shaped like – you guessed it - a palm tree, with hotels, villas, penthouses, malls, entertainment facilities and 60 Km. of man-made beaches.
This bling-tastic melting pot of outrageous luxury that stretches far out into the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf is now home to The World, another man-made group of islands laid out to resemble a map of the earth, and has the desert’s first indoor alpine resort with five ski-slopes and daily snow! Don’t ask – just accept.
Celebs, Stars and Spa Protocol
I was enticed to the superb Spa in the Shangri-La Hotel by reports of its spectacular Chi Balancing treatment which cures ailments you don’t even know you have, treatments comprising a unique blend of Asian techniques including Acupressure, energizing massage for Yang stimulation and relaxing massage for Yin with pure oriental oils to harmonize the energy flow.
The Spa Director suggests I take a steam bath or sauna prior to my facial and massage and I stare at her in horror. No way! George Clooney is reported to be staying in the hotel and if he comes into the Spa I have no intention of being seen with shiny red cheeks, hair in damp tendrils and no make-up. Matt Damon is also lurking around somewhere: both men are here filming.
No problem, she says. The spa is strictly segregated, male on one side, female on the other, and I can pop into the hair stylist before leaving to have my crowning glory suitably tousled again before flip-flopping around the swimming pool in the luxurious robe provided. The Ray-Bans will hide the fact that I’m wearing no eye make-up.
Treatments and the Shangri-Ls Effect
As strolling the souks of Dubai where my plastic had become limp through overuse (designer goods at 30% less than UK prices and jewel-coloured silks, beaded kaftans, and pashminas at giveaway prices) was a bit like a sauna, I opt for a dip in one of the 3 plunge pools in the spa suite and then a rest in the comfortable lounge before my treatment, personalized to suit my needs and focussed on the five elements, Water, Earth, Wood, Metal and Fire - a holistic approach to physical and spiritual well-being.
The treatment room is dim and as I lie prone on the couch the spa therapist strikes the Tibetan bowl and waves of sound begin to pour over me. As the last sweet note fades away in the distance she places the bowl on my upper back and strikes it again and this time the sound goes deeper into my body, the waves of sound soothing and lifting me at the same time. Next the bowl is placed in the middle of my back and I see snow-capped mountains, I see prayer-wheels, I see lush valleys and as the sound fades away to a whisper I accept that something extraordinary has happened.
Now I’m totally relaxed and she begins working her magic to release the tensions, aligning the energy lines, balancing the Chi and harmonising the Yin and Yang. She intuitively senses the tensions in my neck which comes from too many hours at a desk and works to release them. She massages the calves of my legs until the tightness disappears, and she returns time and time again to massage my head until I’m putty in her hands. I feel mellow and happy and with such an inner glow that if George Clooney were to walk in right now I’d just raise a languid hand and say ‘Hi’. Now that’s relaxed!
Shangri-La was the legendary land where no one grew old. I felt years younger after my treatment, so maybe there is something in the story after all. Or was it all down to that Tibetan bowl? Whatever the cause, I really did float away. Trust me. I still remember it.