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Zen in a Tropical Paradise

It all begins when the Captain announces that ‘We are about to land in Salalah and the temperature outside is 25 degrees Celsius’! For anyone who has lived in UAE, it is easy to understand how wonderful that feels in July! A ninety-minute flight from Dubai takes you to this lush green tropical paradise famed for its foliage during the Monsoon season or Khareef as they call it. A short drive through picture postcard views brings us to Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara – a luxurious, mindful retreat set on the pristine shores of the Arabian Sea.

Inspired by the traditional villages of Dhofar, the resort reflects old-style Omani design whilst incorporating contemporary elements to deliver a stunning retreat by the Arabian Sea. The latest addition at the resort, is the ‘a la carte’ concept, ‘Balance Wellness by Anantara’ programme that features a selection of enduring and vitalizing experiences to restore a healthy sense of wellbeing and rejuvenation for discerning travellers who wish to make wellness a part of their getaways. Stressed-out city dwellers are increasingly seeking anxiety-busting experiences, with choices of high energy activities or complete relaxation. The resort offers guests an ocean respite, with a wave of activities, followed by Zen-inspired pampering; a place that supports an integrated approach to wellness, and takes a lot of the guesswork out for them. The philosophy is based on the healing traditions of the East, balanced with the Middle East’s ancient rituals and indigenous ingredients, with choice being the guiding principle here, allowing you to make informed selections.

I started my first day at the break of dawn with a walk on the beach, an exhilarating experience during Khareef, with enormous crashing waves and dark clouds. The sea isn’t safe for swimming at this time, but the ethereal, mist-filled setting is perfect to calm my city nerves as my tension begins to diminish. Breakfast is at Sakalan, their all-day dining sea food restaurant with an array of choices that include healthy detox drinks and fresh coconut water along with vegan and gluten free options in a multitude of cuisines along with the regular continental options. Guests undertaking the Balance program are advised to choose healthy options.

CULINARY EXPERIENCE

Healthy, nutritionally balanced, and freshly cooked, the specially curated wellness menu, created by renowned Italian vegan chef Valeria Agnelutto, has tasteful options to suit every taste and palate. The balance program advises lunch and dinner to be served in the room or villa to avoid temptations from the menu served in the restaurants. Designed to detoxify and energise the system while delivering maximum flavour, each meal consists of a soup, starter, main course, and a dessert and comes with a detailed nutritional breakdown accompanied by a vitamin-packed raw juice. Miso soup, carrot and cashew soup, white beans and pear soup, delicious gazpacho, were some of the delightful and filling soup options.

The starters had interesting options like the avocado tartare with cucumber and dates, cauliflower couscous and more, with generous portions for each. The mains had super healthy options like the chickpea burger with veggie mayo, beans and tofu croquette, stuffed baked potato, vegetable fettucine and much more. Delectable desserts included options like a vegan tiramisu, carrot cake, coconut rice porridge, banana mango ice cream!! These were some of the most nutritious and delicious culinary experiences I’ve ever had!

REJUVENATION

I spent the afternoon relaxing in their stateof- the-art, serene spa done up in a “Life Enhancing Minimalistic” design intended to ease the mind, and it did exactly that. There are many harmonizing spa offerings to choose from that are simply blissful. Here the focus is on YOU— designed to transform you physically and emotionally. The traditionally inspired hammam experience, the first in Salalah, was  an out of the world experience. The age-old ritual that originates in Ottoman culture purifies the body, cleansing it from toxins and stimulating the immune system. It starts with a musclerelaxing steam bath in preparation for a black soap cleansing and kessa mitt exfoliation to sweep impurities and increase blood circulation, followed with a hair wash; all this in a beautiful hammam surrounded by heated marble. The skin feels beautifully soft.

Their signature Frankincense massage was amazing, and nothing short of ultimate relaxation. Proven to rejuvenate skin, the region’s most famous ingredient is utilised in this massage where the therapist performed a foot ritual followed by a relaxing massage in soothing rolling motions to knead out the knots of tension.

Their facials using the Hungarian brand Eminence are the best that you could find! The effective anti-ageing facial infuses proven anti-aging expertise with natural and organic ingredients like Arnica, Bamboo, Coconut and Hibiscus to dramatically repair the skin and diminish signs of aging. This helps boost collagen production and transforms the complexion and feel of aging skin. Eminence effectually injects moisture and tones the skin making it firmer, smoother, and lighter. Harnessing precious ingredients such as frankincense as well as bananas, coconuts and pomegranates from nearby plantations, each treatment has been designed to renew from top to toe, whether it’s a stimulating body polish,  therapeutic massage, replenishing wrap, radiant facial or ancient Ayurvedic treatment, resulting in a new energised YOU!

GET ACTIVE

Whether it is water sports on the beach when it’s not the khareef season, or dune bashing through The Empty Quarter – world-class amenities and year-round activities are always available. Those wanting to hike will love the guided walking tours accompanied by a local ‘Salalah Guru’ or Guide who will share his secrets on the local culture, history, and landscape. The best part is that you can custom-design your stay from being active, as you like, or to be completely Zen. For example, take an afternoon Aqua Zumba class with the effervescent Golda Legaspi or an evening TRX training at the beach with the encouraging, and energetic Jonas, or an energising HIIT or Aerobic session at the fully equipped gym. But if you prefer something more low-key, there’s Yoga. I spent a restful day absorbing some serious vitamin D on the stunning beach and it is said that during summer and winter one can spot the occasional dolphin and swim in the clear blue sea. The resort has a huge infinity pool overlooking the endless ocean vistas. If you are there for some ME time, you can wind down the day lounging by the beach with a beverage of your choice.

STAYING AT AL BALEED

The resort comprises of guest rooms and villas offering views of the ocean, lagoon, or scenic gardens. The premier and deluxe rooms have handcrafted furnishings and rich textures in traditional Arabic design, whilst the villas offer personalised host services that include fitness training, yoga sessions and in-villa dining. The pool villas have private temperature-controlled swimming pools, the first of their kind in Salalah with a separate living room.

VERDICT

The wellness experiences at Al Baleed are a great way to balance the body and mind. The spa, through its Balance programme, in consultation with Virginia Cogliati, the knowledgeable Spa Director, who tailor makes your experience based on your needs and preferences, offers three, five and sevenday bespoke packages targeted at weight management, revitalisation, relaxation and de-stress, detox and rejuvenation as well as specific wellness needs as per your wants. For three days, I ate fresh healthy food, swam in the pool, fell asleep during spa treatments, relaxed in the steam room, went for walks and played frisbee on the beach, and allowed most of the stress and tension to leave my body like sweat through my pores. I felt restored from inside out; my breathing slowed, and my head felt clearer than it has for years. Nurturing, restful, and reviving, I would certainly recommend this!

VIRGINIA COGLIATI, SPA DIRECTOR SHARES HER TIPS FOR ‘BALANCED LIVING’.

• Applying oil (pure and organic almond coconut/argan) right after a shower, especially on wet skin, increases absorption and hydration.

• Eating spicy food boosts the metabolism however if eaten at night they can also affect your sleeping habits.

• Doing cardio and physical activities in the morning can help reduce stress levels as well as balance food intake.

• Burning mint/lemongrass essence in the office can help stimulate the brain activity. Burning lavender essence in the house bedroom can help relax the nervous system improving sleep quality.

• It is best not to drink water with meals as it slows digestion, it is advised to drink up to 15 minutes before and wait 1 hour after the meal. For more information or to book a Balance Wellness by Anantara package, please visit: www.anantara.com or email: res.aabs@anantara.com, or phone +968 2322 8222.

Words Viki Shah: Email- viki@yogalifeme.com | Instagram @shahviki 


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