On the third floor of the Museum of the Future, time stands still.
The recently opened venue’s preoccupation with how the UAE could look like in 2071 is serenely paused upon entering Al Waha, a zone dedicated to various therapies and meditation practices.
Chances are, you will need it.
Such is the heady nature of the museum’s information and eye-popping exhibits that Al Waha acts as a welcome reprieve for the senses.
"People can become overwhelmed if you introduce so much information in such little time," says tour guide Maryam Al Raeesi. "So this is a relaxing area for peace of mind. It is about forgetting all the technology of the outside world and just focusing on yourself.”
We are standing in the lobby of Al Waha, where visitors are invited to lean into what resembles a marble fountain which emanates a sweet and earthy scent.
“That’s the smell of tribulus omanense, the national flower of the UAE,” says Al Raeesi.
With the aroma acting as a mental palate cleanser, our journey into Al Waha begins.
1. The sand bath
Meaning "oasis" in Arabic, Al Waha resembles a mauve-coloured Moroccan Riad with an arched passageway leading to a central courtyard.
“It is an area designed to activate and relax all the senses,” Al Raeesi says.
The first of which is movement: I walk across a soft carpet resembling fine white sand, thanks to audiovisual effects. With each step leaving an imprint, I am encouraged to walk and breathe slower and focus on each stride.
"This is called the sand bath and the rhythms of your movement mimic the rhythm between sand and wind," the guide says. "Seeing that effect will make your movement slow and steady and ultimately has a calming effect."
2. Ultrasonic therapy
The courtyard is home to four adjoining rooms specialising in widely used treatments. No prior booking is required for any therapies and each room is able to hold between three and six people.
The ultrasonic therapy had me sitting on a stool and placing my hand over a humming copper plate. I close my eyes and feel a steady and delicate vibration slowly going up my arms and to my neck.
"We use our hands every day and it always interacts with technology, such as mobile phones. We do that so much that we forget that one of the most important senses is touch and that starts with our hands," Al Raeesi says.
"So this therapy is about relaxing those muscles and just feeling the waves."
3. Grounding therapy
While the pandemic has made us more aware of our body temperature, the museum’s grounding therapy area wants us to be attuned to our body's optimal frequency, which, according to Al Raeesi, should be 7.83 Hz.
To get on the wavelength, I am invited to stand between two large metal discs that somehow will recalibrate me to the level. After a minute, I confess I don’t know what I am supposed to feel.
“That’s fine,” Al Raeesi says. “You need to give it time, some people could be standing there for five minutes and they will leave when they feel ready to.”
4. Connections therapy
Not every treatment is a solitary experience.
Connections therapy is a group affair requiring six people to see its benefits. If you come with a smaller group, as we did, some of the museum’s staff will happily take part.
Upon sitting at a concave-shaped table, all participants are asked to lean into their respective small microphones and hum together. The joint effort will result in a series of six digitised rocks slowly coming together from all sides of the table and meeting at the centre.
"It's about promoting a sense of collaboration and connection with each other," Al Raeesi says. "It sounds simple but it’s actually what is needed right now as technology makes us feel busier, isolated and very lonely sometimes."
5. Meditation centre
The final feature of Al Waha is my favourite.
The circular meditation centre is brilliantly ethereal with comfortable seats arranged around a projector beaming water ripples and waves on the ceiling. Coupled by the droning sounds of the ocean and sea life, I sit in the dimly lit room for nearly half an hour, lost in the images above.
While Museum of the Future promises the best is yet to come from the UAE, Al Waha shows there is nothing wrong with also enjoying the present moment.
Entry to the museum costs Dh145, but is complimentary for children under the age of 3, people of determination and Emiratis aged 60 and older. More information is available at motf.ae
Scroll through the gallery below for pictures from the opening ceremony of Museum of the Future: