Spa. It might rhyme with car and bar, but its hopes of inserting itself in to the vocabulary of the modern male seem remarkably slim. Spas are for men who like to pluck their eyebrows and shave their legs and wear their girlfriend’s knickers. They’re the type who’d book in for a back, sack ‘n’ crack and queue up for colonic irrigation.
So you might have thought. But according to the International Spa Association, one third of all spa appointments are booked by blokes, meaning worldwide literally millions of men are making time for a manicure and a mud-pack.
Lulu Katrivesis, the spa director at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain put the figure even higher. ‘Around 40 percent of the clients at our spa are men. And it is not like men just want a massage anymore. They want to have facials and other treatments.’
Lulu should know. One of the most experienced spa directors working in the Middle East, she started at London’s celeb-central The Berkeley, opened spas for Kempinski, worked at the Dead Sea Mövenpick and was headhunted by one of the Middle East’s most prominent royal families. Prior to The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, she gave Tom Cruise a lalur (a Balinese body scrub), let Naomi Campbell have a good kneading and even massaged an African head of state at gunpoint. ‘He was with four bodyguards and halfway through the treatment I had to say, “Excuse me sir, but do you think you could ask them to put their guns down?”’ In the Middle East, most of her clients are stressed out businessmen. ‘We used to do short treatments for meetings at the Mövenpick in the Dead Sea; when the conference was over all the men would dash to the spa, which never used to be the case in the past.’ Indeed, you only need to look at the ever increasing spend on male-marketed moisturisers to see that the shower-and-a-shave stereotype is fading fast.
In fact, the trend is so great that some spas have even closed their door on the fairer sex and imposed a men-only policy. Spas like H2O in Dubai and The Lounge in Abu Dhabi have banished the babes and set themselves up as temples of masculine vanity. In this respect, Bahrain is lagging behind. When asked why Bahrain does not have a dedicated man spa, Lulu replies, ‘Of course, we haven’t got there yet. I think it is because when spas were built in the past people didn’t really think about it. But we have such a lot of turn-away business [at the Ritz-Carlton] that we really need to look at having some [male only] treatment rooms.’
‘Men are feeling much more comfortable with spas than they ever have before. And while it’s great to have a massage, there is much more to a spa than just a massage...’ Unfortunately Lulu, whose hands once got the knots out of Naomi Campbell, rarely has time for the treatment room and now spends her working day overseeing one of Bahrain’s best spas, a large part of which is enticing men into the uncharted territory of spa treatments.
Bahrain’s Best Spas for Men
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Spa: One of Bahrain’s best spas, the menu here is packed with treatments that are unique to the Ritz-Carlton group and use some of the most innovative spa products on the market. There are four treatments that are dedicated to men, although they emphasise that the vast majority of treatments are unisex. 17 586 808.
Banyan Tree Spa Al Areen: The second largest spa in the world has more than enough space for its male clientele. Since the company was born in Bangkok, treatments here tend to fuse the best of Thai spas with other eastern indulgences. Nothing specifically for men, but everything is unisex. 17 845 000.
Diplomat Spa: A spa that has a dedicated men’s menu, the offerings here include massage, herbal rubs, facials and foot care. 17 525 237.
Sheraton Spa: A mixed spa that has a range of packages for men as well as the standards rubs and scrubs. 17 524 570.