The Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort Al Areen has just opened, and claims to be the largest spa in the Middle East, and one of the largest in the world. The resort has just 78 villas, yet the spa stretches to some 10,000 square metres. What makes the resort particularly noteworthy, however, is that it isn't in Dubai, but in Bahrain.
Despite Bahrain being a small island kingdom, the new resort isn't on the coast, but in the Al Areen wildlife park, home to over 300 species of birds including the rare sooty falcon as well as the world's largest Socotra cormorant breeding colony. To compensate for the lack of sea views, the 56 one-bedroom Desert Pool Villas, each measuring 400 sqm (4305 sq ft) and 22 two-bedroom Royal Pool Villas spanning 740 sqm (7965 sq ft), incorporate several water features into their design including private outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pools with separate heated jet-pools, indoor infinity bathtubs, steam and shower room plus an outdoor shower. Technology includes home theatre surround sound stereo system, interactive LCD TV and DVD player, complimentary wireless high-speed internet access and 24-hour villa butler service for private dining.
The mammoth spa has four distinctive areas: a hydrothermal garden, a garden hammam, the health club and the spa proper. The spa has eight Deluxe Spa Pavilions spanning 140 sqm (1507 sq ft) and four Royal Spa Pavilions covering 190 sqm (2045 sq ft), each one with twin treatment beds, twin rain mist shower rooms, infinity bathtubs and a private garden. The Royal Spa Pavilions also include an outdoor sunken bathtub, private fountain courtyard, beds for overnight spa therapies and a private entrance. The hydrothermal garden boasts over 15 different treatment cabins including an ice igloo, pelotherapy or mud therapy chamber and two signature rain mist corridors, as well as a vitality pool with nine different hydrotherapy stations. The health club has two tennis courts, a squash court, separate male and female gymnasiums with cardiovascular and fitness equipment, a kids club, an indoor lap pool and an outdoor free form swimming pool.
In addition to the private in-villa dining, there are six restaurants and lounges including the Thai Saffron restaurant, surrounded by water and accessed by bridge, and three private dining islands for special occasions. So much for the leisure angle, but the resort also has a large conference and banqueting area including a grand ballroom that seats 240, has six breakout rooms, audio and visual facilities, and video-conferencing. It's an undeniably impressive facility, but later this year, Kempsinki Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea will be completing a 10,000 square metre Anantara Spa, matching the Banyan Tree for size. Expect much re-measuring of the respective properties to retain their crown as largest in the Middle East.
Report by Tom Otley