Skip to main content

BLLNR Reviews: Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som

Our guest editor, Iroshini Chua, discovers a whole new level of wellness.

First impressions

Located 90 minutes north of Doha’s ultra-modern city lights, Zulal Wellness by Chiva-Som is a private haven of serenity in a desert oasis. Qatari tourism has a practised palate for luxury and Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som is very much an uber-luxe Qatari resort despite its deceivingly rugged setting by a flourishing coastline.

I was delightfully surprised when two elated guests leaving the premises upon their check-out provided us a helpful, literal shout-out, “You are going to love it! It will be a transformative experience!” Our arrival was further punctuated with promise as the staff welcomed us, “Marhaba!”, with a hand on the heart, a “Jai Thai” hospitality value which means service from the heart. With a mothership like Thailand’s Chiva-Som setting the tone, we couldn’t wait to begin our wellness journey.

Forgive me for thinking I was in on the Interstellar movie set when I first stepped in. The premises resembled a very posh, futuristic habitation where guests clad head-to-toe in white Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som loungewear, meandered through a maze of verdant gardens by the sea, on-route to their wellness therapies. The hushed atmosphere, the soaring ceilings, the minimalistic interior, the shades of sand, the smell of herbs all made for a peaceful retreat.

The back story and Wellness Concept

Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som is very much a trailblazer, offering a unique blend of TAIM with holistic health and wellbeing philosophy. Using their six pillars of wellness; physiotherapy, nutrition, holistic health, fitness, spa, aesthetics, a full team of specialists including TAIM specialists, TCM specialists, Ayurveda Doctors, medical doctors, nurses and dermatologists, curate an immersive experience for a transformative retreat for the mind, body and spirit. It involves a digital detox, as well as alcohol detox, but to be honest, we hardly missed either during our stay. Neither did we miss the rest of the contrabands such as caffeine, sugar, gluten, non-organic food and anything fried.

The space

Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som boasts a host of flat-roofed buildings within its outer walls that is lapped up by the turquoise waters of a lagoon. Don’t expect glittering chandeliers, ostentatious gold-clad doorways or decorative furniture that the Middle East is famous for. Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som enjoys tasteful and quiet luxury with special spaces like a House of Wisdom that features a cube-like room in the foyer housing an Anish Kapoor sandstone sculpture, a library lined with 3000 books from floor-to-ceiling three-stories high, a tearoom offering delicious tea blends served with the most nutritious of creamy, white honey from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, and an apothecary stocked with a multitude of herbal remedies and spices.

The resort has two separate areas. Zulal Serenity is dedicated for guests over 16 and is designed for a health rest and reflection where the spaces help to disconnect with the world and reconnect with yourself. The programmes vary from stress reset and burnout recovery, mind-body wellness, therapeutic cleanse, natural slimming to mother-to-be retreats.

Zulal Discovery focuses on family wellness and aims to build meaningful connections, welcoming guests of all ages. The bonding activities include kayaking, pottery, dancing and arts and crafts and even spa sessions for the whole family.

The Suite

Our junior suite was an oasis of calm in white and shades of taupe. An inviting private pool on the terrace afforded views of the ocean and yet just enough foliage for privacy for meaningful contemplation. It was stocked with heathy snacks with the likes of energy balls and succulent dates and three types of tea curated for the morning, afternoon and night. We were also given the softest white pyjamas that we lounged around in from the morning stretches to the evening dinners.

The Spa and activities

The main event at Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som is its customised wellness programme. First on my agenda was the one-on-one meeting with the Health and Wellness Advisor who understood what I was seeking and crafted a personalized itinerary that included tailored meals, customized treatments, a fitness regime and other activities like kiting and arts and craft for a holistic approach to health and wellness.

The TAIM consultant identified my personality with an element and my treatments were aligned to that element, which was fascinating. I started my mornings following a sequence of asanas (yoga poses) or slow-moving, meditative Chinese tai chi movements under the shade of the rustling leaves, listening to bird song. The ancient arts of yoga and tai-chi for holistic wellbeing deeply connects the mind, body and spirit promoting fitness, relaxation, and mindfulness.

I looked forward to each of my daily massage therapies which focused on energising, relaxing or detoxifying the body.  The signature full body Tadleek’s deep pressure massage using Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som’s herbal-infused oil helped promote muscle relaxation. The Relaxing Al-Qadam massage commenced with a herbal foot soak of rose petals, magnesium flakes and local herbs followed by rhythmic strokes to soothe tired feet, the traditional Qatari Hamiz deep tissue was focused on releasing tension and knots that have accumulated over time. The stretch classes also helped to decrease muscle soreness and improved flexibility.

Throughout the stay, I sampled a variety of activities. I had the opportunity to unleash my creativity through pottery, using clay under the guidance of our Kenyan teacher. I was also able to practice Pranayama breathing, a guided meditative yogic breathing technique under the instruction of Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som’s Yoga instructor. She helped my mind to focus and reconnect myself with the present moment.

Most memorable was at low tide when the sea pulls back to reveal several kilometres of the sea floor. One of my favourite activities, “Earthing”, was where I walked bare feet on the wet sand to connect and feel the energy of Mother Earth with a private guide to lead the way. I am certainly all for fresh air, sunlight and sounds of nature!

It was a busy schedule of therapies for the mind and body but I reserved a couple of hours a day for the state of the art hydrothermal area at the women’s wellness building. I jumped from the hot water Jacuzzi to the freezing cold plunge pool to the herbal steam room, hot sauna, ice cave before relaxing at the beautiful Himalayan salt cave.

At sunset, I took to the beach, this time with kites in-hand. I learned the skill of allowing the kite to pick up the breeze and soar. It occurs to me that I am slowly mastering the art of relaxation.

Nutrition

At Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som, nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining overall well-being. The belief is that a diet rich in nutrients and well-balanced is essential for realizing the full potential of a healthier and happier life.

Being of a healthy BMI with no weight loss goals meant that my food options included an open buffet of healthy food that were low in fat, high in fibre, full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients and devoid of any sugar, dairy or wheat. At all dining venues, the calories were carefully counted and displayed, and portion sizes were controlled to facilitate those on a weight loss programme. Without a doubt, the nutrient-packed meals at Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som, prepared fresh from scratch, were not only tasty and full of flavour but also left me feeling energized and satisfied.

Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som’s five dining outlets are all unique and are deeply rooted in Qatari culinary heritage. Al-Sidra offers global cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner that is focused on a balanced diet based on fresh produce. Aizoon serves signature Arabic and international dishes and caters for guests with dietary programmes and has a children’s menu. Acacia is a sophisticated fine dining venue adorned with art and serving the finest ingredients with a special focus on local favours.  Its degustation menu has all the bells and whistles of a Michelin meal but without the guilt that comes with it and was healthily exquisite.  Casuarina is the lagoon side café that is perfect for a snack. I couldn’t get enough of their pistachio balls and gluten free pastry, hot chocolate and smoothies. Malbu, the modern beach club is great for a fresh fruit mocktail and for a Mediterranean menu that displays the catch of the cay on an open-air grilling station. Besides, what’s more perfect than to construct your own salad whilst watching the Arabian Gulf?

Service

Thailand, Rwanda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Italy, Philippines, the nationalities of the staff span 40 different countries.  They kept a close eye on our wellness journey. The chefs are world-class, the restaurant staff quick and attentive, the specialists and doctors are immensely knowledgeable and the masseurs are at the top of their game, as expected by Chiva-Som training. We were taken care of by a team of experts.

Eco-Conscious

Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som has sustainability at its forefront. The resort uses a desalination plant for its water and recycles it for irrigation. Its power generation facility uses renewable energy sources.

Lasting impressions

Back in Singapore, I was at the Taylor Swift concert, energetic and very much present in the moment without looking at the world through an iPhone camera unlike many a “Swiftie” around me. My wrists were adored with friendship bracelets and my nails were a pretty pink. The manicurist at Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som had understood the assignment. Beyond the perfectly manicured nails, Zulal has left a bigger imprint on me. My experience at Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som taught me sustainable lifestyle changes that I implemented in my daily life to optimize my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing long after leaving.  During my stay, the resort’s priority was my health and wellness. Now it’s my priority.

 

For bookings: www.zulal.com