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Review: Sometimes zen can be pretty elusive at Saray Spa

The 45-minute hammam treatment doesn’t include a massage or oil rub-down, so it’s over all too soon

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The hammam returns what you give it
GN Focus

It’s only afterwards while I’m waiting for a taxi on the street that what must be an old Turkish truism trots into my head: The hammam returns what you give it. The mood you bring to the bathing house determines the experience you’ll have there. That could be a truism for life, of course, but it’s true enough at the expansive Saray Spa at the JW Marriott Marquis.

I head over late one workday in the week from hell; it’s my way of scheduling a little downtime so I don’t lose my rag at the office and tot up what remains to be done.

Turns out it isn’t such a good idea after all. After sitting in endless gridlock to get to the hotel (it’s Gitex week and the Dubai Canal roadworks have drivers confused), the taxi drops me off about a hundred metres away, because there were too many cars and not enough valets.

It isn’t until I’m in the private steam room upstairs, past the crowds in the lobby, past the people at the spa’s reception area, past the other gents in the locker room, that I actually take a deep breath and begin to unwind. After what seems like only a couple of minutes, though, I’m whisked away to a private hammam room, where my therapist, Jean, has me lie back face down on a towel-covered marble slab and with a kese mitt, scrubs away quickly at the dead skin on my feet, legs, back and arms.

I’m then soaped with a fragrant liquid and washed down.

It’s a 45-minute treatment that doesn’t include a massage or oil rub-down, so it’s over all too soon. I ask for some private time so I can finish up; as with the rest of the day, I rush through this bit too — Jean has another client waiting and needs the room.

A cup of ginger tea helps calm me down, before it’s off to deal with the chaos of finding a taxi and the ensuing bad tempers. Zen was never so elusive.

Saray Spa, JW Marriott Marquis,