Surrendering to the opulence of the Oasis Ritual at the capital’s Ritz-Carlton ESPA

Adam Workman spends a good two hours having his aches and pain soothed with the Oasis Ritual at ESPA, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal.

The Moroccan hammam room at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
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If there’s such a thing as a typical spa customer, rest assured that, on this occasion at least, it was not yours truly. Looking to soothe the twin pains of a first game of competitive cricket in about a decade and multiple ungraceful dismounts from a mechanical bull at a friend’s birthday party, it’s safe to assume none of the other customers at the Ritz-Carlton’s ESPA spa were in an identically tender pre-treatment position.

Fortunately, at two hours in length, there aren’t many more opulent options on ESPA’s menu to ease aches away than the signature Oasis Ritual. Booking an entire day at the 2,000-square-foot, stand-alone, beachfront facility is perhaps the only upgrade you could indulge in.

The dual-therapist treatment – swapping from male to female at the midpoint – was a well-being game of two halves. It began with a Moroccan-style hammam. In the North African nation, the hammam is predominantly an affordable, regular pursuit – and a highly social one at that – for the country’s male folk, but this was a more private experience, in ESPA’s specialised hammam room. Our chatty Romanian therapist helped to ease what could have been a vaguely awkward atmosphere by discussing, among other things, professional football players from his homeland – just the type of manly conversation that, we hope, bounces off the walls in traditional Moroccan hammams.

After a brief foot ritual of restorative bath oil and body-smoothing shower gel, I lay down on the octagonal, marble centrepiece. Unlike another five-star-hotel hammam we endured in Abu Dhabi, where the gallons of painfully hot water used made the whole shebang feel like some kind of medieval torture, ESPA was much lighter on the quantities of more-lukewarm liquid. And although the treatment wasn’t one you’d describe as “comfortable”, owing to a towel being the only barrier between your rib cage/back and the stone, added to the deliberately sandpaper-esque scrub, it hit the spot. And even several days later our skin was still silkily smooth to the touch.

A rubdown with a jasmine-infused Moroccan black soap, a marine-mud body mask with a caramel texture, a foam wash and an “awakening” shampoo were interspersed with two short spells in the steam room, followed by brief stints in the in-hammam shower cubicle (replete with shade-changing mood lighting that gave the rather disorientating sensation of enjoying a quick clean on a discotheque dance floor).

Phase one completed, we were whisked off to a second, somewhat drier treatment room by a diminutive Thai therapist. Appearances are almost always deceptive in such circumstances: what she lacked in size, she certainly made up for in strength during a warm-oil massage that occasionally had us wincing as elbows and fingers sought out the creakiest enclaves between ribs and shoulder blades. A test of a good massage is not to give any pre-pummelling advice on which areas require special attention; to our delight, our therapist zoned in on neck and shoulder stiffness within moments, without any directions. The concluding scalp massage, meanwhile, was firm and uncompromising, but, at the same time, very nearly sent us off into a woozy doze.

• A 120-minute Oasis Ritual at ESPA at Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, costs Dh1,070, plus taxes. Call 02 818 8051 for bookings