24-Carat Gold facial at Emirates Palace. Picture: Emirates Palace Hotel
24-Carat Gold facial at Emirates Palace. Picture: Emirates Palace Hotel

I flew 15 hours to get the world’s weirdest facial

The United Arab Emirates is renowned for its excess. From golden body treatments to magnificent marble mosques, in just 48 hours, you can indulge in a rolled gold journey around the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. Shop in opulent malls which unfurl for kilometres, dine on first-class cuisine, sightsee at its new luxurious Louvre, before you surrender to a five-star spa. To help you pick which one, we road test six sensational treatments.


I am in the exotic Emirates Palace spa, having Italian gold applied to my face. The 90-minute, 24-karat gold facial starts with a rose petal foot bath and scrub. My face is then lathered in a number of different lotions and potions including one particularly pungent exfoliant. It feels like my grandfather's shaving brush and smells like roast lamb. There's another foamy cleanser with the texture of egg whites before my face is sprayed with a "nano mist". Gold leaf is applied to my entire face, including mouth. I look like an Egyptian mummy before the gold is massaged in and removed. I emerge with specks of gold in my hair and teeth. At $852, it's an elite treatment, but my skin looks as plump and crisp as the doona under which I've been laying.


There's a four-hands spa treatment on the menu here, which involves not one, but two therapists, but I opt for a 90-minute hammam instead. I am in the cavernous belly of the ESpa at Abu Dhabi's Ritz-Carlton, Grand Canal. I inhale rosewater spray before my therapist applies a black olive scrub which smells good enough to eat. I'm then led into the 40C sauna scented with eucalyptus. It's like being in the Queensland bush in the middle of summer. I emerge, sweating, after 10 minutes, and am rubbed with honey and sugar. While my skin settles, first conditioner, followed by shampoo, is applied to my hair. I am scrubbed like an old Holden ute being polished back to original condition before being directed to a shower with disco lighting to wash out my shampoo. My body feels reborn.

The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. Picture: The Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. Picture: The Ritz-Carlton


No two hammams are the same, so I venture to Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa and into my second hammam in as many days. This treatment starts with a spicy ginger drink and finishes with a Turkish Aryan glass of yoghurt and mint. For 90 minutes, I lay on a magnificent marble slab and am lathered with olive and eucalyptus combined, and seated in a steamy sauna for seven minutes before being scrubbed. A rose clay mask from Morocco's Atlas Mountains is applied to my body, and while that works its detox magic, my hair is shampooed, then clad in a mask. My body is scrubbed with Turkish coffee and I'm lathered in a soft cloud of bubble soap before cold water is splashed all over. After, my hair and skin is shiny for days.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa. Picture: Minor Hotels
Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa. Picture: Minor Hotels


Perched on the private Zaya Nurai Island, this spa boasts nine villas, six of which are right on the ocean's edge. Start your treatment with a frangipani foot bath overlooking the sea before climbing on to the table for a terrific treatment. There's a rose diamond polish and facial here, but I opt for a Bali Massage, where I breathe in ylang ylang mist, before being massaged with lavender oil. My muscles are kneaded, pressure points located, and limbs stretched during this hour-long treat which ends with a tea ceremony. Relaxed and recharged, I'm ready to catch the 20-minute speed boat ride back to the Abu Dhabi mainland.

Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi.
Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi.


I've flown all the way to the Middle East only to discover Australian organic facial brand Futur Lab the bestseller in the Iridium Spa at St Regis Saadiyat Island. My therapist starts my Diamond White facial with a skin analysis, using a magic Wi-Fi wand to determine its condition. Sun spots, not so great. Acne, on the other hand, not bad. Overall, my skin age is the exact age as my body. Things could be worse. For the treatment, 540 tiny needles are run across my face in an exfoliation process which feels like I've landed head first into a green ant nest. Pain is beauty. I'm told I may feel redness and itchiness for a few days. Cold towels and expensive soothing cream are applied towards the end to calm my skin. I am advised to avoid the sun. Back in Australia two days later, I think the green ants worked.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa. Picture: Minor Hotels
Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa. Picture: Minor Hotels


There's an oasis at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the form of Etihad Airways Six Senses Spa, available in both the first- and business-class lounges. As I have a 14-hour flight back to Australia ahead, I opt for the 15-minute jet lag treatment. In a spa room scented with orange and ylang ylang essential oil, a therapist with the softest hands scrubs my feet before drying them. They're then massaged with peppermint oil before a cool washer is applied. The blend of the oil and washer are meant to assist with circulation and to avoid the dreaded flying cankles. Fourteen hours later there is no evidence of cankles, but this may also have to do with the fact I've flown in one of Etihad's new Business Studios, and when my feet aren't elevated in my private haven, I'm laying in flat-bed luxury.


The writer was a guest of Etihad Airlines and Abu Dhabi Tourism





Etihad Airlines flies direct from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to Abu Dhabi.


The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal boasts a private, white, sandy beach on one side and overlooks the iconic Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque on the other. This hotel has 447 luxury guestrooms and suites, spa, pools and restaurants.




For more travel news and inspiration sign up to Escape's newsletter.

CQ coal mines to shut for a month in extraordinary move

Premium Content CQ coal mines to shut for a month in extraordinary move

The length of the Christmas shut down is considered unusual for the industry.

Donation helps keep Bilbies sun-safe this summer

Premium Content Donation helps keep Bilbies sun-safe this summer

Junior cricket club puts $2500 to good use.

Three-month adjournment for CQ mine death case

Premium Content Three-month adjournment for CQ mine death case

Allan Houston died almost two years ago on NYE when his dozer rolled off an...