Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental brings world-class wellness masters to Abu Dhabi

From energy exchange and mind training to non-surgical facelifts, famed self-help gurus take over Mandarin Oriental spa in ongoing series

The royal hammam at Emirates Palace, Mandarin Oriental's spa. Photo: Mandarin Oriental
Powered by automated translation

“Tell me who you are,” urges the suave, serene Frenchman before me. “Not what you do or where you’re from, but who you really are,” with emphatic emphasis on the final word.

I feel like I’ve walked into my worst nightmare. Coming from the UK, where feelings are buried and not bandied about, I expect to shuffle into my massage appointment without so much as a flash of eye contact.

In stark contrast, my ultimate massage experience with “wellness designer” Jimmy Jarnet begins with an intimate one-on-one that leaves me stuttering through well-worn cliches.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says, with a wave of his perfectly manicured hand. “Your body will tell me.”

I’m on the verge of kicking off my spa slippers and hot-footing it out of the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental spa until the very same Britishness has me nodding with feigned enthusiasm, following Jarnet meekly through the Moroccan-inspired retreat.

The spa itself is impressive, especially to someone who sources their monthly rubdowns from Groupon. Each treatment room follows a different theme, ranging from a magnificent hammam to a mystical cove-like vault bathed in red light.

After a brief tour, we get down to business and internationally acclaimed Jarnet does not disappoint. A former nurse and chiropodist, the dad-of-two knows his way around the human body, but the experience is so much more than the average back rub.

As well as relieving muscle tension, the “intense energy exchange” aims to achieve body-mind symbiosis that acts as an emotional release. As the music plays and our breathing syncs, I gradually let go of my inhibitions, allowing Jarnet to bend and cradle me until I finally emerge red-eyed and floppy-limbed.

Jarnet’s residency towards the end of last year was the first in a four-month-long series at Emirates Palace, with two more wellness masters set to take over the spa for one week only until February.

Each promises moments of “serenity and self-discovery” from world-famous wellness gurus. Justin Andries came in mid-December for private energy readings and guided group meditations, while Dr Buathon Thienarrom, a holistic practitioner and founder of the Sukkasart Institute of Healing Arts in Thailand, arrives on January 25, and Harley Street's global head of aesthetics, Milena Naydenov, drops in from February 20.

With trends such as womb steaming and vampire facials flooding social media feeds, it’s clear that many are looking for ways to look and feel better. And they’re prepared to go a bit kooky to get that elusive spring in our step.

Emirates Palace’s series has the benefit of world-class practitioners, luxury surroundings and impeccable facilities, and is the perfect setting to try something a little out of the ordinary.

It’s unfamiliar, it’s a bit awkward to begin with and it requires a bit of trust in the unknown. But when such methods are championed by a self-professed spiritual square, it’s probably worth a look.

Here’s what to expect from the final two alternative wellness masters.

Mind training with Dr Buathon Thienarrom

Thienarrom is famed for her holistic approach to alternative medicine.

With a background in nursing, psychology and health psychology, she certainly knows her stuff, focusing on physical awareness as a tool for mental transformation.

During her residency, from January 25 until February 3, Thienarrom will share her expertise in Tibetan medicine, sound healing, mind training and Taoism, a Chinese philosophy based on the writings of philosopher Lao-tzu advocating humility and religious piety.

The 60-minute sessions, called ZenNaTai, cost Dh1,700, and have been specially created by Thienarrom to release chest, cranial and abdominal tension while stimulating lymphatic flow.

Guests can also boost energy flow through Thienarrom’s energy-enhancing sound-healing treatment that uses restorative vibrations from Tibetan healing bowls, said to slow brain frequencies for immediate rejuvenation and calm. The process takes 75 minutes and costs Dh2,135.

The last treatment on offer is ideal for summoning the “new year, new me” perspective. Mind transformation aims to promote emotional well-being and mind training using conscious breathing exercises.

The one-to-one takes 60 minutes and is said to transform stress into vitality for the princely sum of Dh1,700.

Going back in time with Milena Naydenov

Fancy a more sculpted and youthful appearance for 2024? Milena Naydenov is the global head of aesthetics for luxury skincare brand 111Skin and will take over the Emirates Palace spa from February 20 to 25, with a range of cutting-edge formulas specially customised for UAE guests.

Naydenov will provide three high-performance skincare treatments, each priced at Dh1,470 for 90 minutes.

The signature Harley Street facial unlocks deep nourishment and hydration; the celestial black diamond non-surgical lift is hailed as the elixir of youth and the rose gold radiance facial uses innovative massage techniques aiming for a bright and freshened pallor.

Prices and dates vary; Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, Corniche Road. More information is available at mandarinoriental.com/en/abu-dhabi/emirates-palace/spa or by contacting 02 690 7885; moauh-spa@mohg.com

Updated: January 22, 2024, 11:31 AM