A Serene Sojourn at Zulal Wellness Resort

At the northernmost tip of Qatar, this luxurious retreat offers a blend of Arabic and international therapies in a tranquil setting overlooking the Arabian Gulf.

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Zulal Wellness Resort occupies a sprawling area of 2,80,000 sq mt. in Qatar’s coastal region of Khasooma. Photo Courtesy: Zulal Wellness Resort

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After a lengthy question-and-answer session, Dr. Mubaris Ahamed has deciphered my dominant “humour”; “it’s dam or blood and your mizaj or temperament is hot and moist,” he pronounces. I look at him blankly. Much like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, Traditional Arabic and Islamic Medicine (TAIM) is an alternative healing system that analyses your body type and prescribes herbal medicines, dietary practices, spiritual therapies and the like to treat ailments. It developed during the so-called Golden Age of Arab-Islamic civilisation (7th-15th centuries) and draws upon the work of several Muslim scholars, particularly Ibn Sina. It is based on the theory that the four humours (liquids) in our body—blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile—need to be in balance, although everyone has a dominant humour.

Zulal Wellness Resort in Qatar is the first resort to revive this traditional system and combine it with modern and international therapies. I am about to find out what makes it a pioneering retreat for holistic healing.

 

A Serene Sojourn At Zulal Wellness Resort

Guests can start their day with a morning session of beach yoga. Photo Courtesy: Zulal Wellness Resort

 

Designing wellness

We leave Doha’s shiny airport and tall buildings behind and drive north; instead of juices and sugary treats, the car is stocked with kombucha, dates, and bite-sized coconut apricot bars, a taste of what’s to come for the next three days. Ninety minutes later, we arrive in the coastal region of Khasooma. In this flat desert landscape—literally in the middle of nowhere—Zulal Wellness Resort is spread over a whopping 2,80,000 sq mt., flanked on one side by a private beach and the glittering aquamarine Arabian Gulf beyond. 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, the world-renowned Thailand-based resort’s first international foray. The massive resort is divided into two sections—Serenity for guests aged 16 and above and Discovery, which focusses on family wellness with age-appropriate activities and treatments crafted exclusively for children.

Zulal is designed to blend harmoniously with its surrounding landscape—awash in shades of the desert, the squat structures also reflect Qatari architectural sensibilities where treatment areas are built around courtyard gardens and 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 accents. My grand deluxe room comes with a king-size bed with deliciously soft sheets, a private terrace, and a plunge pool with calming views of the (artificial) lagoon. If you want to live like a sheikh, book the Qataf (royal) suite—a huge 694 sq mt. space with three bedrooms, a private garden and pool, steam bath, sauna, and a deep-soaking bathtub, not to mention endless beach views.

 

A Serene Sojourn At Zulal Wellness Resort

Besides the spa treatment rooms, the property offers multiple indoor and outdoor pools, gym, hammams (top), and mineral baths; The Serenity Grand Deluxe Bedroom (bottom) is suited for guests aged 16 and above. Photo Courtesy: Zulal Wellness Resort

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 begins with an in-depth discussion with my personal consultant who then chalks out a schedule for me, including spa treatments and fitness and physiotherapy sessions, with a bit of energy healing thrown in. I also undergo an integrative TAIM consultation, and based on my humour, Dr. Ahamed prescribes certain lifestyle tweaks including what to eat and avoid, what kind of exercise I should take up, and so on.

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

What does impress me is 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, a complex-looking system that incorporates movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming, and Tai chi to strengthen muscles and improve joint mobility. I skip the machine and opt for a guided super stretch session that helps loosen the knots and the tension in my neck and shoulders. Other facilities at Zulal include Himalayan salt rooms, arctic rooms (the frigid environment is supposed to be good for skin health, inflammation, etc.), a Watsu pool (a form of hydrotherapy), an aesthetic centre for skin and beauty treatments, and so much more.

 

Platter pleasures

When you think of a wellness resort, you naturally expect portion-controlled and calorie-counted food but “delicious” is not always the 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 comes as a pleasant surprise. Yes, it is healthy, portion-controlled, and calorie-counted, but it’s also flavourful and tastefully presented.

A Serene Sojourn At Zulal Wellness Resort

The menu at the on-site restaurants take a health-first approach and include only gluten-free food. Photo by: Prachi Joshi

The food and beverage team serves up some tantalising fare across the resort’s five dining outlets—each named after a local tree—all offering different meal experiences. Since I’m staying at Serenity, a few of my meals are at its formal dining restaurant Al Sidr (named after Qatar’s national tree), ranging 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 feast on assorted mezze and seafood kofta, while the fine-dine Acacia impresses me with stunningly plated tuna tartare, lobster truffle rice, chocolate textures, and the like. There’s no alcohol, of course but each meal is 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 or herbs or perhaps saffron, all completely 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.

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

I’m 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 recalibrate your lifestyle, this is the retreat for you—the gorgeous views (and stellar food) are an added bonus.

 

Also Read| Qatar’s Field of Dreams 

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Essentials

Zulal Wellness Resort is a 125 km/1.5-hour drive from Hamad International Airport, Doha; doubles from ₹1,25,000 per night for Serenity Full Retreat (minimum three nights’ stay), which includes wellness consultation, three meals per day, choice of one daily treatment, access to fitness and wellness facilities, and more (taxes extra). 

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  • Prachi Joshi is a Mumbai-based travel and food writer who is obsessed with coffee and all things Italian. She tweets and instagrams as @delishdirection.

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