Review: Six Senses Spa-Qatar

This review is provided from my husband’s point of view. I was unable to make the spa appointment.

Six Sense Spa
Six Senses Spa

You may recall that we visited this hotel and spa a year ago. We were there for a stroll then as we had heard so much about the Sharq Village hotel and the Six Sense spa. The hotel and spa is rated as one of the top hospitality and spa venue in Qatar.

We had made a point that we must visit and try out the Six Senses Spa one day. We finally did.

You know, sometimes I hate to review brand-name spa such as Six Senses Spa. It is a high class establishment and it comes with a high price tag. Hence, the moment I walk into such a spa, I switch into review mode straightaway and I’m not sure I was really there for work or pleasure.

I always want my reviews of such brand-name spa to be good because I know they have invested much time, money and effort into upholding their brand. I also know spa management sometimes read my reviews and I was always worried staff may be blamed correctly or wrongly for a bad review.

Tough call. But I insist my reviews must be true to the spirit. Sometimes, all the more for brand name spa.

Six Sense Spa
Six Senses Spa main entrance

We walked into the spa and asked for a spa menu. There was a Thai massage available and my husband opted for it. Co-incidentally, the January promotion was for Thai massage and he could get a US$30 discount off the price. I walked away then for my other personal appointment.

My husband was assured that it was a Thai therapist but was available only at 10pm. There was a 1 1/2 hours interval and he agreed to use the facilities in the meantime. While he was at the reception desk making the appointment, the male Indian receptionist was at the same time picking up phone-calls, talking to other colleagues and attending to customers who were there to drop off keys or payment. Obviously, he was either overworked or did not understand the concept of personalised attention to a standing customer. In the meantime, 2 other of his colleagues were hovering around in the background.

Anyway, my husband asked that should an earlier appointment be available, that it be arranged. The answer back was a fast ‘no’ and the receptionist was quickly back on the phone again.

No luck, he decided to enter the facilities area with a waiting attendant. He was shown around the facilities area which was done up in a myriad of small alleys to recreate the feel of an old Arabian souk. (Market place).

And then, he found out that shorts were not provided to customers. How would a first-time customer know he had to bring his own shorts in a high-class spa? And this being a conservative Arabian society, even males were not supposed to be seen in the flesh! Luckily, the attendant was apologetic and did his best to hunt down a pair of shorts. He had to make several attempts before he was successful and a good 20 minutes was wasted.

With shorts worn, he was able to explore the facilities. The hardware was there but the ‘heartware’ seems to be missing.

  • The steam room was extremely hot. No one was able to use it.
  • There was a hot pool and a small swimming pool. No hooks/towel racks were provided and towels were strewn all over the floor, sofa and flower pots
  • The quiet(rest) room was also a common corridor area. How does one rest and make peace with people walking by all the time?
  • No jacuzzi?
  • Minimal signboards for the myriads of corridors. If there are any, it’s brown words on brown signboards on brown walls in dim warm light.
  • No attendants in attendance in the wet area. Hence, strewn towels, misaligned sofas, dripping taps…
  • 6 shower stalls but 3 provide cold water only. There were no sign to say that it was a cold shower and so a few customers were confused why there was no hot water…

In the meantime, my husband was approached 3 times that his appointment had been changed to 9pm. In other words, he had less than 10 minutes to enjoy the facilities after wasting 20 minutes hunting down for a pair of shorts. He obviously refused. Apparently, the staff was not prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer because he was asked a total of 3 times to change his mind!

Granted it was 9pm and it must have been a long day for the spa’s staff. However, this is still a 5-star spa and you would expect more. Also, obviously the management had not reviewed the spa’s shortcoming or may have chosen to ignore them. Anyone familiar with spa management should have picked up these minor but niggling issues straightaway. The facilities were great; all it need was management and staff to put some ‘heart’ into managing it. Otherwise, what makes it different from the ordinary spa and massage shop?

Luckily, the rest of the time passed without incident. The massage room was big and comfortable and the Indonesian masseur was good with the Thai massage. Peace has been made.

Location of Six Senses Spa, Qatar:
Ras Abu Aboud Street, P.O.Box 26662, Doha, Qatar
Size of Spa: Large, with private treatment rooms
Facilities: Suana, Steam room, Hot and Cold Pool, Gym. Separate man and woman facilities as well as common facilities

Friendliness: Friendly
Pricing: Single treatment and packages available. Also facial and reflexology treatment. Prices starts at US$125 for single massage session. Membership scheme available.

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Review: Intercontinental Hotel Club, Qatar

It’s lousy to be away from home during Christmas! So, what’s the next best thing I can compensate myself? How about a hide-away in a luxury hotel, sit by the beach and pool and gorge myself silly on good food?

Decision made. Next, to look up a hotel. This is a no-brainer…I have a free Hotel Intercontinental Hotel voucher set to expire on Christmas Day itself..so the choice was unanimous – Hotel Intercontinental, Qatar. Date: 24 December 2009.

Hotel Intercontinental, Qatar is not the newest hotel in Qatar. In fact, it seems to have been around for a while. The outer facade does not look new, the rooms are well decorated and furnished but you can tell it’s slightly aging, and the restaurants does not serve exciting cuisine. However, it seems to be packed with expats and local alike – much more than some of the newer and grander hotels around.

I think the reason is simply this – once you step past the lobby of the hotel and enter past the pool area – you’re in a oasis of your own. The hotel has a grand pool, health and fitness club and beach area and while not exactly letting your hair down, you can relax and let go some of the inhibition you have while residing and living in conservative Qatar.

I like the fact that the health club has 2 squash courts. I have not played squash for a while and enjoy slamming away at the squash court. The courts are also used for ‘spinning’ – a sort of stationery bike aerobics group exercise – and a group of lady expatriates were cycling away to some hot and pulsating music.

The pool area is large with a swim-up bar. Alcohol is served and bikinis are in abundance. Deck chairs surround the pool and continue on to the large beach area. Once you sink into a deck chair, sip a beer, close your eyes, dig your feet into sand and listen to the waves, you’ll never imagine you’re in Qatar!

Hotel Intercontinental - as viewed from beach
Hotel Intercontinental – as viewed from beach

Large Swimming pool area
Large Swimming pool area

Relax by the sandy beach
Relax by the sandy beach

For those with children, there is a kid’s playground and a shallow wading pool. For those with older children, a beach club cater for kayaks, water-scooters and sailboats for rental.

And when hunger or thirst strikes, there are numerous restaurants dotting the pool area or within the hotel itself. There is a large international buffet restaurant, a cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant, a Mexican restaurant cum bar and a large Lebanese seafood restaurant.

I do have to admit that restaurant prices are on the high side, especially with the galore of Christmas meals, and I couldn’t have as many meals as I wanted in the hotel. Luckily, there are hourly shuttle bus service to the nearest shopping mall and I was able to settle a couple of meals at the mall and back without having to burn a hole in my wallet. Nor face the stress of driving in Doha’s traffic on my day off.

There is a spa at the health club but prices are a bit scary. There is also a Chinese massage and acupuncture clinic at the 2nd level but having visited their sister outlet at Sheraton hotel, I wasn’t too keen either.  (Read here)

But you don’t really need a massage here to have a good time at the hotel. To be able to enjoy the sound of the waves and be able to drink the occasional beer had already made my day. I now understand why this hotel is a top favourite with expats despite being slightly out of the way and not being the newest nor the grandest!

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Health Club at Ritz Carlton Hotel, Doha, Qatar

Indoor tennis courts
Indoor air-conditioned tennis courts

Health clubs in hotels are expensive in Qatar. They usually cost above US$6000 a year in membership fees. Despite the hefty prices, memberships are still extremely popular as it provides a useful getaway for a day of sporting activity, spa treatment, relaxation and some good food and wine for expatriates who are able to afford the fees.

A friend of mine is a member of the health spa club in Ritz Carlton Hotel, Qatar. One day, she invited me to spend a weekend day with her at the club. I was glad to accept her invitation without hesitation.

The Ritz Carlton Hotel is located at the edge of Doha, the main city of Qatar. It is located very close to The Pearl, a spectacular luxury residential, commercial and marina development that has recently risen out of the Persian Gulf in the shape of a palm leaf . The spa club is located on the ground floor the Ritz Carlton hotel.

We first registered at the reception counter and then made our way to the changing room. Located within the changing room is a sauna, steam room and relaxation corner. We then made our way out and my friend offered to show me the various sporting facilities.

There is an indoor squash court, 2 indoor tennis courts and a fully equipped gym – all in air-conditioned comfort. I’m really impressed… many health clubs in the hotels in Qatar has good facilities but I believe Ritz Carlton has the best sporting facilities. I believe they are very popular because the whole time I was there, the courts were fully occupied.

We then made our way to the indoor, temperature-controlled swimming pool.

I really like the pool. Most hotel pools in Qatar are free-form pools but this pool is a full 25m lap pool. It even has lane markers so one can swim laps in peace and not be knocked into by casual swimmers or kids all the time. We spent sometime doing laps in the pool.

We then made our way to the outdoor free-form pool which is located just beside the indoor pool to sun-tan and enjoy some beverages. As a member, we are entitled to a 10% discount.

We were deliberating to ourselves whether we should get a massage. The spa has a good choice of facial and massage treatments and as a member, we are again entitled to a 10% discount on massage treatments. Before we could decide, a call came in and we were invited for dinner with friends and massage plans will have to be postponed.

I can see why health clubs in hotels are popular. There are not much leisure activities in Qatar and the hot weather prevent one from spending a lot of time outdoors. One cannot simply spend time in shopping malls all the time and health clubs in hotels are really an oasis of sporting and leisure activity to escape from the outside busy traffic, harsh heat and fine sand.

I think I’ll really need to examine my budget and see if I can find a budget-price health club membership if I need to spend any more time in Qatar. Otherwise, I may need to talk to my boss about a pay increment…

Pix credit: http://hotels.lonelyplanet.com

Location of Ritz Carlton Health Spa Club PO Box 23400, Doha, Qatar
Size: Large indoor club
Facilities: Sauna and steam rooms, private massage treatment rooms, tennis and squash courts, indoor and outdoor pool, gymnasium, workout studio
Friendliness: Polite and helpful
Pricing: Annual membership starts at US$5500

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Review: Chinese Health Corner, Qatar

Pressure pointsI’ve been spending more and more time in Doha, Qatar. The weather is hot and the air is always dusty. There is not much to do in terms of after-work entertainment and there are minimal choices for Asian food as well. I needed to find some comfort of home whenever I spend anytime here… such as a familiar spa or massage.

I’ve checked out a number of hotel spas. Believe me, they are very expensive. Just like most things in Qatar. Expensive. Even a simple Chinese foot massage cost US$65 and above in a hotel. I couldn’t afford to have one.

One day, while driving past the Landmark shopping mall, I saw a building decorated with red Chinese lanterns. That means possibly a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese Traditional Medical Hall or a Chinese Massage Palor. I drove closer for a look and true enough, two buildings side by side which says Chinese Health Corner and Hong Kong Beauty Salon.

I entered the building. A Chinese lady greeted me and passed me a brochure. I was right. It’s a beauty salon cum massage palor. Services such as foot massage, back massage, ear candling, sauna and steam bath, body massage, volcanic rock massage, pedicure, manicure and facial beauty treatments were offered. Traditional Chinese massage, cupping and Tuina were also offered.

The interior decor is typically that of what you’ll find in a massage palor in mainland China with posters of foot reflexology charts and body acupressure points charts. The staff and therapists are all from mainland China and most speaks a smattering of English only.

There is a public lounge area for foot massage. There are 6 comfortable chairs and flat-screen TVs and amazingly, a 45 mins foot massage starts at US$18 only. This must be the cheapest foot massage in Qatar; and even cheaper than similar treatments in Singapore as well!

You can have body massage or facial treatments in private rooms. These private rooms are relative large and comes with a treatment bed, arm-chair and a flat-screen TV as well. Very much like private treatment rooms in mainland China.

I opted for a foot massage. I wanted to gauge the quality of their service and treatment before I decide if this can become a regular place for me. The prices they posted are certainly attractive but I wanted to ensure quality of treatment and service does not suffer because of the lower prices.

My therapist is from Shenyang in North-East China. Apparently, the boss is also a mainland Chinese from Shenyang as well and he has 2 other similar outfits in different parts of Doha, with the Landmark branch being the latest addition. According to my therapist, most of the clients are local Qataris with some expatriates. There are hardly any Chinese clients.

The foot massage started with a 10 minutes soak in a tub of hot water and the quality of the foot massage was pretty good; as good as what I can get in mainland China. This augurs well for me because it means I now have a place that I can relax in whenever I am in Qatar.

Note: The buildings are located slightly after the carpark exit of Landmark Shopping Mall. If you come with a companion of the opposite sex, treatment is segregated and you can only meet after treatment.

Diagram credit: http://www.kheper.net

Location of Chinese Health Corner/Hong Kong Beauty Salon PO Box 30183, Doha, Qatar (Behind Landmark Shopping Mall)
Size: Two buildings side by side. One for men only and one for ladies only
Facilities:
Sauna and herbal steam rooms, foot massage lounge, private treatment rooms
Friendliness: Polite but speaks minimal English
Pricing: Starts from US$18 for a foot massage in the foot massage lounge. Massage starts at US$30 in a private room. Pedicure and manicure starts at US$20.

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Six Senses Spa, Sharq Village and Resort, Qatar

Six Senses SpaI spent another weekend in Doha, Qatar. Qatar is one of the richest country in Middle East and obviously, the rich and famous here are spoilt for choice when it comes to pampering themselves.The weather is super in Qatar at the moment. The day time is in the mid 20C and make walking and driving enjoyable. We drove around the city of Doha, visited an Old Shouq (marketplace) as well as check out some nice restaurants and hotels in Doha.

I came to know about Sharq Village & Spa from a Qatar guide book.  I read that the spa in that hotel resort is managed by the Six Senses Spa so I took the opportunity to check out this spa when we decided to have lunch at the Sharq Village.

Sharq Village & Spa is indeed a luxurious 5 stars hotel.  It is situated on Doha Bay which is only 5 minutes away from Doha International Airport. The hotel is well decorated in an Arabic Village style. The main building host the Reception, shops, meeting rooms, bar, lounge and a restaurant.

Within the Sharq Village & Spa houses the Six Senses Spa.  It is located on one side of the hotel.  The design of the Six Senses Spa is very different from a typical spa.  The beauty & uniqueness of this spa is that it is designed like you are walking along a quiet and peaceful Middle Eastern village with old wooden doors, mud-hardened floor and billowing Indian cotton curtains.

Six Senses Spa

The Six Senses Spa is of 6,500 sq.m with 23 treatment rooms. There are four separate spa villages each offering a variety of treatments.  As you enter the huge entrance (a traditional wooden door with drop down curtain), you will see 3 reception tables on your right.  Spa facilities like the gym, jacuzzi, sauna etc are on the 2nd level.

A gentleman approached and explained to me the Spa treatments & facilities. The Six Senses Spa offers all the traditional treatments such as Swedish, Thai, Balinese and Aroma massages. The spa has dedicated areas for yoga, meditation, tai chi and other wellness practices, as well as relaxation rooms and prayer rooms.

As Qatar is an Islamic country, ladies are also offered a private entrance and reception, a private gym and exercise area, as well as a full-service beauty salon offering hair, nail and henna tattoo treatments.

To be honest, I was very tempted to try out the spa. However, we were there for lunch and decided we’ll make a decision while having lunch. Well, lunch brought me back to my senses and I decided I had too full a lunch that I couldn’t possible have a massage for another 3-4 hours at least. (Buffet lunch at the Sharq Village was superb…with entire fish and even lobster served but that’s another story altogether)

I also decided that since I would be back in Singapore in a day or two, paying 2-3 times what I would normally pay in a good spa in Asia was a no-no for me.

However, if you are ever in Qatar and have the time and money to spare, you must certainly check out the Six Senses Spa in Sharq Village. Or at least check out the superb buffet lunch at their restaurant…


Location of Six Senses Spa, Qatar:
Ras Abu Aboud Street, P.O.Box 26662, Doha, Qatar
Size of Spa: Large, with private treatment rooms
Facilities: Jacuzzi, Suana, Gym. Separate man and woman facilities

Friendliness: Extremely friendly
Pricing: Did not try but believe to be US$120 and above for massage treatment

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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Massage in Qatar

Qatar LivingThe popularity of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Massage has spread far and wide from the shores of China. This is true even in the Middle East where products and services from China are not always well accepted or respected.

In the basement of the 5-star Sheraton Doha Hotel and Resort in Qatar, along with classy hair and beauty salons, is a small Chinese traditional medicine clinic run by a qualified Chinese Physician. The clinic offers traditional Chinese treatment such as acupuncture, moxibustion, detoxification and cupping.

In addition, the clinic also offer traditional Chinese foot reflexology and Tui-Na massage as part of it’s services. You can tell that this is a very popular massage service in Qatar because despite opening from 10am to 10pm daily(except Friday), you can hardly find a free slot to make an appointment for treatment.

I tried the 1 hour foot massage. Before starting treatment, I was required to fill in a personal particular form and also to indicate if I was suffering from any medical ailment. I was also required to have my blood pressure taken. Despite having Chinese reflexology and massage all over the world, this was the first time I ever had to go through such scrutiny!

In respect of Islamic culture as practiced in the Middle East, the clinic was divided into a male and female section. The massage therapists are all from mainland China and I was told that female therapists may only provide foot and head massage to male clients and body massage will be provided by male therapists for male clients.

The 1 hour foot massage included a foot wash in hot water before the actual foot massage begun. The foot treatment was very typical Chinese foot massage and I had to ask the therapist to increase the strength and intensity of the massage. I was told that most clients here are Caucasian expatriates or local Arabic and their average pain threshold are not too high. Despite that, it was still a very popular service among both expatriates and local Qataris alike and the booking calendar runs over especially over the week-ends.

I was offered Chinese tea after the treatment. Because I speak Chinese, I was surrounded by the therapists after a while because quite a few of them are pretty home-sick and wanted to speak to some-one who was able to converse in Chinese as none of their clients could speak Chinese.

Unfortunately, despite being located in a 5-star hotel, the clinic was not well furnished and feel more like a run-down TCM clinic located in the poorer districts of Chinatown rather than the typically well designed massage boutique you can expect to find in a posh shopping mall or hotel. Hence, I did not want to stay long as it did not have the conducive environment I would like to relax in after a massage treatment.

This despite a whopping 180 Qatari Riyah(@US$50) for a 1-hour foot massage and 200 Qatari Riyah(@US$55) for a 1-hour Tui Na massage. You can pay half that price in Singapore or one quarter that price in mainland China for a similar treatment but in a much more nicer ambiance and greater facilities.

I guess it will be a while before I return.

Location of International Chinese Body Care House:
Sheraton Doha Hotel & Resort
Al Corniche Street, West Bay, Doha, Qatar
Size of Clinic: Small, with separate treatment rooms for male and female clients
Facilities: None. No rest area. No changing area.

Friendliness: Not that helpful if you do not speak Chinese.
Pricing: About US$60 for foot massage. About US$65 for TuiNa massage. Upmarket rates for a non-up-market environment.

Pix credit: http://www.qia-qatar.com

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Four Seasons Spa, Doha, Qatar

I was fortunate to travel to Doha, Qatar in the Middle East recently. It was a smooth 8 hour overnight flight from Singapore – and I arrived at the Doha airport, sleepy but eager to find out what Doha is all about.

Doha is the capital of Qatar, one of the fastest growing country in the oil-rich Middle-East. Indeed, as we have often seen in the news, Qatar has sprung up like a new sparkling oasis in the Middle-East desert and Doha is literally sprouting with new construction, skyscrapers, shopping malls and highways everywhere.

I stayed at Four Seasons hotel in the West Bay – the new downtown district of Doha. Four Seasons is one of the newer and upmarket hotel in Doha and it even has it’s own private beach and yacht marina facing the Arabian Gulf.

The rooms in Four Seasons are top-quality and service is impeccable. What impressed me the most was the spa and fitness centre within the hotel – it is even housed in a building on it’s own and is certainly one of the most top class spa and fitness centre I have ever come across.

As a hotel guest, I was entitled to use the centre. Unfortunately, due to my tight schedule, I was only able to get a short tour of the spa centre; and did not even had a chance to use the facilities, much less have a massage.

The Spa, massage and fitness centre is linked to the hotel via a walkway. On the way there, I was already impressed, as it had a 2-level temperature controlled outdoor swimming pool and 2 tennis courts.

I pushed pass the grand door of the 2-storey building and it was a sight indeed! This must easily be the biggest spa and fitness centre I have ever seen with the latest and most fanciful spa and fitness facilities. (Note: The entire place is 34,000sqft)

The lap poolThere is a cafe, a relaxation lounge, a fitness gym, two squash courts and a exercise studio. What impresses most is the spa; with a large hydrotherapy pool, cold and hot plunge pool, reflexology zone and even two exercise lap pools (where water current pushes pass you to simulate that you are swimming laps in a proper pool)

The spa also boast hot sauna, steam room and even a ice-room! Yes, the room looks exactly like a typical ice storage room. There are also a couple of Swiss showers; where water jets shoot at you from 360 directions!

I wished I had the time to try the facilities not to mention a massage. The Four Season Spa certainly live up to it’s name as a up-market spa for the rich and famous in Qatar. You will need to spend at least half a day if not a whole day to soak into the grandeur and luxury that this spa can offer.

The hotel’s guest relationship officer who accompanied me on my spa tour proudly tells me that there is a long waiting list to become a member of the spa and fitness club. In fact, money cannot even gain you entry into the spa if you are not a hotel guest as club membership entry has been closed for quite a while due to overwhelming demand!

I have been to many spas in Asia; upmarket and otherwise. However, up to date, I have certainly not seen any in Asia that can match the Four Seasons Spa in Doha, Qatar for size, opulence and facilities! Even then, I hear that the Four Seasons Spa dwarf in comparison to some other spas in Qatar or elsewhere in the Gulf nations and Middle-East – gosh!

Pix credits: Four Seasons corporate website

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