Zoya Wellbeing: what it's like to stay at the Middle East's first 'wellcation' destination

The all-inclusive health retreat in Ajman offers six packages that focus on detoxing, getting fit, wellbeing, weight management and more

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There comes a time in life when the focus on health and wellness really starts to take centre stage. That happened to me when I turned 30. Trading late nights and bad habits for at least six hours of sleep, a decent diet and regular exercise has become the norm. And as a man in 2022, I have leaned into this wellness space, which a decade ago was perhaps not as acceptable as it is now.

One of the challenges I’ve since found is that while there are a lot of places offering therapies, treatments and consultations, most operate independently, meaning people inevitably spend a lot of time going from place to place all in the name of living their best, most healthy lives.

Enter Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort in Ajman. Launched in April and positioned as a "life-changing centre", this five-star, adults-only resort is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Offering integrative medicine, dermatology, nutrition and physiotherapy under one roof, it's a one-stop wellness shop that's a good place for those looking for a wellcation or extended stay that comes with the reward of getting your healthy lifestyle back on track.

The National was invited to experience an entry-level package at the resort to discover what a stay at Zoya is all about.

The location

Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort is located in the UAE’s smallest emirate, Ajman. It is housed in the seaside community of Al Zorah, looks on to the golf course and is nestled between some of the oldest natural mangroves in the country. It’s serene and very quiet, despite ongoing construction in the area.

This could be different during the week, so it might be worth checking ahead of time. It’s roughly an hour's drive from the heart of Dubai and DXB International Airport is a bit closer, with Zoya offering shuttle services direct from the airport to the resort.

The service

View of the physiotherapy room at the ZOYA Health & Wellbeing Resort in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National

Like most people, I value good service with a customer-first approach and that's what Zoya Wellbeing delivers. The staff are very attentive and friendly. While waiting to check in, you’ll be offered an infused water, which is made on-site. I opt for a cool cucumber to break the heat of the day.

Post check-in, I'm given a tour of the facilities. First impressions are that it's serene and clean, with the scent of lemongrass wafting through the building. All employees I encounter along the way are accommodating and welcoming — it would be a problem if they weren’t, of course, but it doesn't feel forced.

The accommodation

Inside view of a room at Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National

There are five types of room available to guests, ranging from deluxe to premium standard, superior, junior suites and the Royal Suite.

I stay in a premium standard room, with a spacious 30 square metres of private space. There’s a lot I love about the UAE, but one thing that really stands out is the size of hotel rooms, which are almost always bigger than others around the world.

In a resort like this, where you’re spending a fair amount of time in situ, space is good. It helps to have a balcony and terrace and space to move around freely, especially if you are staying with a companion.

For those looking to splurge, the Royal Suite is worth considering. It comes with a private terrace, a steam room, sauna, massage bed, lounge with comfy recliners and a separate bedroom. It’s not currently bookable, but will be ready for guests in the coming months.

The food

The food at Zoya is delicious, but don’t expect to find any meat, fish or dairy on the menu as it’s a plant-based kitchen. I think my metabolism is still working relatively well, which might be why I find myself hungry between meals. I wasn’t aware that there was also soup available, so make sure you ask for that if you get a little peckish.

I also bring a few snacks with me, but if you’re watching your calories or detoxing/juicing, make sure you consult with the team if you want to do the same. Must-tries from the menu include the turmeric latte and the vegetarian poke bowl.

A must-try at Zoya Health & Wellbeing is the turmeric latte, and an oat snack bar to go with it.

The packages

There will be a total of nine packages on offer at Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort, but only six are currently available for guests to book. These are all-inclusive, purpose-driven and customised for each guest.

Given time constraints, I trial the wellcation package, which is the shortest programme available and lasts two nights and three days.

Before visiting I had to complete an intake form that allows the Integrative Medical GP and the rest of the team to tailor the package according to my desired outcomes. It’s important to note that this is a guide based on preferences, but can change after your in-person wellness consultation.

The experience

Yoga is a highlight at Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National

I’m sporty by nature, so the treatments offered to me skew more towards physiotherapy, recovery and healing. I start with a body composition analysis with the resort's in-house nutritionist and, without going into too much detail, there’s work to be done.

It's quite incredible to get real-time results on where I carry most of my weight, the breakdown between fat and muscle, and insights into how much water I'm retaining. Based on those results and the consultation, I receive a report with suggestions and ways in which I can improve my diet.

I receive similar reports after my sessions with the integrative medicine and dermatology physicians, as well as the physiotherapist. These are really useful to draw on while staying at the resort, but you also get to take them away with you to reference whenever needed after you check out.

An absolute must-do if you're into sports or relaxation is the Physio Water Relaxation Bed. It's a floating bed with jets that double up as relaxing and tension-releasing agents for your muscles, and you experience it all while staying dry. It’s not a treatment that's widely available, so make sure you try it out if you're here.

@jvonberg

Spent the weekend at Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort in Ajman. A review is in the works but here’s a glimpse of some of the offerings you can expect should you visit. #health #wellbeing #UAE #healthiswealth #RnR #fyp #veganfood

♬ YOU'RE ALL I KNOW - Anndyk

As far as firsts are concerned, I take part in yoga classes (what took me so long?) and my programme also includes a Turkish hammam. The idea of the hamman is interesting and while many people love it, personally, it's not something that I will be rushing to try again. If this is something you enjoy, you'll be happy to know that privacy is accounted for with rooms for women, men and for couples, if preferred.

One thing I would try again is the luminette light therapy. Designed to re-energise you by replicating the synchronising effects of the sun, it's been likened to giving you the feeling you have when waking up from an afternoon siesta. The special glasses I wear during the treatment made me feel like I was prepping for a role in X-Men.

The effect of the therapy is, however, the opposite of what I expect — I feel like heading up to my room for a sneaky nap afterwards.

I sleep really well on my second night, which might have been as a result of the treatment, or just the combination of this with a deep-tissue massage, healthy eating and a busy day of activities. It would be interesting to revisit this to find out how beneficial it is after a couple more sessions.

What's still to come at Zoya

By the change of the season, all 61 rooms at the resort are expected to be fully operational. There are also plans in place to launch a sustainable farm on-site. The organic produce used is currently sourced locally, but with the introduction of this at the resort, they’ll be able to really cement the farm-to-table philosophy.

The insider tip

Give yourself enough time. This resort is unique in many ways but one standout is that you can check in from 10am, and check out is not until 6pm. This allows you to maximise on the experience and package that you’re booked in for. With hindsight, I should have arrived a little earlier, as my schedule felt a bit jam-packed. A bit more downtime is a must — especially around the pool area.

Also, make sure you know what you want to achieve. When the experts ask you questions about your goals for your stay (and beyond) it’s useful to know what’s bothering you or if you want to check any particular matters. Bring comfortable clothing and training gear if you’re prone to sweating or want to use the gym. I loved doing yoga for the first time, but I wasn’t dressed correctly.

The verdict

The Thai massage room. Pawan Singh / The National

While on the pricier side, if you’re looking for a different kind of break to rejuvenate and relax, Zoya is a good option. Go with a friend or a partner, or head there solo for the serenity and alone time that it promises.

Stays start from $1,030 per night in a premium room on the Wellcation package; zoyawellbeing.com

Updated: June 08, 2022, 3:58 AM
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