Sugar Trims the Bells and Whistles on its Hammam – But keeps all the Benefits


Traditional Moroccan Hammam


There are lots of places that offer hammams, but they are usually either high-end – like a 5-star hotel – or in a cramped, tiny room in the back of a mani-pedi joint. Sugar’s Beauty Lounge’s hammam, offered in Abu Dhabi’s Bawabat Al Sharq Mall location, sits somewhere in the middle.


The therapist at Sharq Al Bawadi Mall’s Sugar, Kalima, was from Marrakesh and a master hammam giver. Apparently the ruins of the oldest known Islamic hammam can be found in Volubilis, Morocco, dating back to the 8th century. Most hammams offer a good steam, followed by a soapy scrub down with the kessa mitt, which is like a loofah embedded with (tolerable) sandpaper. After just one session you leave feeling silky soft externally and utterly refreshed on the inside. Sugar’s hammam was conducted in a sizeable room, with a granite table covered in towels. Kalima put on her swimming gear for the session, and we skipped the steamy first step, which addressed one of my concerns about most hammams: they take a very long time. Worried though I was that the lack of steam might continue – I was shivering a little on the table as she prepared in the other room –  I was soon greeted by the sounds of water bubbling in pipes and a steamy cloud that floated around me, and was warmed up in no time. Kalima used a black rose soap that was gentle and sweetly aromatic. The Sugar version also skipped some of the other steps involved in 5-star hammams: hair washing and conditioning, for example, a facial scrub and slight massage.


There is just something so satisfying about having your skin scrubbed down like that, whether it’s a 90-minute production in a resort or a 30-minute “just the basics” version like the one Sugar offers. Moroccan women go for these once a week, even bringing their babies in for a little splash 40 days after they are born. I think they’ve got the right idea.



Sugar, Bawabat Al Sharq Mall, Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi, daily from 10am to 10pm. Tel: (02) 6274609) Taxi: Bawabat Al Sharq Mall.

Two more to try…


Avitane recently took over operations of The Cove’s spa and I can only think the addition of this massage was a positive outcome. My therapist was a tiny woman with muscles of steel, and she spent a lot of time climbing over me, pulling me this way and that, and just generally stretching out every last muscle I had. This massage combined the best of shiatsu, Thai and sport massage into one very pleasurable Friday morning session.

Why try it?

When it comes to massages, it’s all about the therapist. And although you would think big resorts would have the best, in my experience that is not always the case. Not at The Cove: this woman was both strong and intuitive in her ability to seek out the tightest of spots. I particularly revelled in the work she did around my shoulder blades, a minefield of tiny knots most therapists miss.


A 60-minute Avitane signature massage at The Cove Rotana is Dh400.

Avitan Spa at The Cove Rotana, Ras Al Khaimah. Daily 9am to 9pm. Tel: (07) 2066341 Taxi: The Cove Rotana


It seems like everyone and their uncle is doing acupuncture these days, but when it comes to this ancient Chinese therapy involving the body’s energy lines, or meridians, I’ll take experience over aesthetics any day. When I need a treatment I’ll head to this Abu Dhabi mainstay and visit Dr Hu, the best in the city.

Why try it?

I’m sure there are some things acupuncture won’t fix, but I haven’t come across them. This centre has a steady stream of patients looking for help with everything from pain to infertility. For myself, no matter whether I’m visiting for headaches, insomnia, anxiety, plantar fasciitis, weight loss or just because I need to truly relax, I always leave feeling better.


Dh250 per session.

Gulf Chinese Medical Centre, Old Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum St (2nd St) and Airport Road. Daily 9am to 1pm; 5-9pm. Fridays 5-9pm. Tel: (02) 6343538 Taxi: Airport Road opposite Marks & Spencers Building