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Zulal Wellness Resort – A Sustainable Retreat in Qatar

Pool at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Zulal Wellness Resort, a luxurious retreat overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Opened in March 2022, this is the first full-immersion wellness destination resort in Qatar, and the largest in the GCC. It is managed and operated by Chiva-Som International Health Resort. Zulal is the world-renowned Thailand-based resort’s first international foray. It is also the first resort to revive Traditional Arabic and Islamic Medicine (TAIM) and combine it with modern and international therapies. I spent three blissful days at Zulal Wellness Resort — read about my experience below.

Zulal Wellness Resort - wide anglePin

Designing wellness

Entrance at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

I left Doha’s shiny airport and tall buildings behind and headed north. Instead of juices and sugary treats, the car was stocked with kombucha, dates, and bite-sized coconut apricot bars. 90 minutes later, I arrived in the coastal region of Khasooma. In this flat desert landscape, Zulal Wellness Resort covers a whopping 280,000 sq.mt. A private beach flanks one side with the glittering aquamarine Arabian Gulf beyond. The massive resort has two sections of which Serenity is for guests aged 16 and above. Discovery focuses on family wellness with age-appropriate activities and treatments for children.

Zulal is sustainably designed and blends harmoniously with its surrounding landscape. Click here to read my feature for Architectural Digest on other sustainably designed spas around the world.

Awash in shades of the desert, the squat structures reflect Qatari architectural sensibilities where treatment areas are built around courtyard gardens. Also, water features abound — after all, Zulal translates to “pure water”. Across Serenity and Discovery, the resort offers 180 rooms and suites, all sporting contemporary decor in earth tones with blue-grey accents.

Suite interiors at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

My grand deluxe room had a king-size bed with deliciously soft sheets, a private terrace, and a plunge pool (below) with calming views of the (artificial) lagoon.

View of pool from suite at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

Healing touch

Retreats range from three to 14 days and address different areas of concern such as weight loss, mind-body wellness, therapeutic cleanse, etc. As with any wellness retreat, my stay began with an in-depth discussion with my personal consultant. She then chalked out a schedule for me, including spa treatments and fitness and physiotherapy sessions, with a bit of energy healing thrown in. I also underwent an integrative TAIM consultation. Much like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, TAIM is an alternative healing system. It analyses your body type and prescribes herbal medicines, dietary practices, spiritual therapies and the like to treat ailments.

Water features at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

Both Serenity and Discovery have their own expansive wellness areas. These include spa treatment rooms, multiple pools (indoor and outdoor), gym, hammams, mineral baths, and much more. Over three days, expertly trained therapists administered a series of massages. These ranged from a full-body tadleek (massage) to al-qadam (foot massage) and a vigorous oriental scalp massage. I also took a private energy healing session where the therapist used Tibetan singing bowls to ”balance my chakras”. However, the experience left me unimpressed.

What did impress me was the state-of-the-art fitness pavilion with a Pilates studio. There’s also a fully equipped physiotherapy section that includes a Gyrotonic Expansion System. This is a complex-looking system that incorporates movement principles to strengthen muscles and improve joint mobility. I, however, skipped the machine and opted for a guided super-stretch session. It was probably my favourite experience and helped loosen the tension in my neck and shoulders.

Treatment rooms at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

Other facilities at Zulal include Himalayan salt rooms and arctic rooms (the frigid environment is supposed to be good for skin health, inflammation, etc.). There’s also a Watsu pool (a form of hydrotherapy), an aesthetic centre for skin and beauty treatments, and so much more.

Platter pleasures

Food at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

When you think of a wellness resort, you naturally expect portion-controlled and calorie-counted food. However, “delicious” is not always a word that springs to mind. Indeed, I have been to wellness retreats where I have been subjected to bland food or have been left starving (sometimes, both). So, the food at Zulal Wellness Resort came as a pleasant surprise. Yes, it was healthy, portion-controlled, and calorie-counted, but it was also flavourful and tastefully presented.

Desserts at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

The resort’s five dining outlets, each named after a local tree, offer different meal experiences. At Serenity’s formal dining restaurant Al Sidr my meals ranged from a breakfast of muesli, salad, or eggs to Asian-inspired meals such as Thai soup and red curry or miso soup and stir-fried seafood with hot basil. At the Mediterranean restaurant Aizoon, I feasted on assorted mezze and seafood kofta. The fine-dine Acacia impressed me with stunningly plated tuna tartare, lobster truffle rice, chocolate textures, and the like.

F&B at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

There’s no alcohol, of course but each meal was accompanied by imaginative fruit juice concoctions. A special mention of the bread, of which I couldn’t get enough. Mini croissants or sourdough or ciabatta, sometimes with a dash of herbs or saffron, are all gluten-free. In fact, all the food at Zulal is gluten-free, largely dairy-free (with the exception of bakery, yoghurt, etc.), and uses either organic or premium-quality ingredients sourced from around the world.

A serene sojourn

Mangrove deck at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

On my last day, I walked over to the beach to catch the sunset. It was a balmy evening and the seawater lapped warm at my feet. The day temperatures were consistently above 40°C (it was August) so the gentle breeze was rather welcome. Nearby, I spotted the resort’s mangrove deck that juts out over the sea. Zulal has been planting mangrove seedlings, an activity that guests can participate in. You can even kayak to the nearby islands to learn more about the local marine ecosystem.

Sunset at Zulal Wellness ResortPin

Logo at Zulal Wellness ResortPinI was alone on the deck watching the setting sun paint the sky in vivid hues of orange, pink, and purple. If you’re looking to slow down and re-calibrate your lifestyle, this is the retreat for you. The gorgeous views (and stellar food) are an added bonus.

Have you been to Zulal Wellness Resort? Or is it on your wish list? Check out their website for details on packages. And if you want to know what to see and do in Qatar, read my feature for Architectural Digest.

This article was commissioned by National Geographic Traveller India and appeared in their digital edition in November 2022. Since the publication is no longer in existence in India, I’m republishing this feature on the blog.
Disclosure: My visit was courtesy Zulal Wellness Resort, views and images my own.

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