For many, Las Vegas is synonymous with gambling, stag parties and Celine Dion. As I go to great lengths to avoid all three, it was with more than a twinge of reluctance that I accepted a request to attend a series of meetings in the convention capital of the world. But if my downtime was not going to be spent cashing my chips, then I was determined to make the most of the spas on offer in this adult wonderland. Time to roll the dice in the game of beauty...
I decide to visit the most talked-about resort on the strip, The Cosmopolitan, home to the Sahra Spa & Hammam, which purports to be inspired by the desert – but seems to be missing a significant “a”. Perhaps they hoped no one would notice the typo in a city where numerical literacy reigns.
I make my way past the hotel reception – it’s hard to resist gawping at the spectacle of the pop-up wedding chapel, or stop myself from quietly marvelling at the juxtaposition of twinkling chandeliers above a sea of noisy slot machines. I stay the course and manage to make it to the 14th floor with both my marital status and bank balance intact. As the lift doors open, I am met with yet more of a sensory overload: I walk through a rippling sandstone tunnel dubbed “the space between”, which is faintly illuminated by veins of silver light. I finally reach the entrance to the spa, which is flanked by a 7m golden waterfall. Welcome to the Sah(a)ra, Vegas-style… I am greeted warmly on arrival, change into a sumptuously silky Boca Terry robe and am then led through to the waiting area, which is adorned with equal numbers of glittering chandeliers and Sin City blondes. For the Soap Ritual, my therapist leads me into the hammam, which I have entirely to myself. It is heated to 98°F and has a large circular “mother stone” slab heated to 85°F, as well as two cooling baths, two steam rooms and two heated stone loungers.
I am left to undress and position myself face down on a towel on the heated marble slab. My therapist returns to cover my derrière with a towel then begins by pouring a steady trickle of warm water from a considerable height all over my body, using an authentic-looking Turkish jug. She checks I am happy with the temperature before moving the water rhythmically across my legs, back, arms and neck. She begins a gentle body exfoliation using a rough mitt, starting with my feet, moving up my legs to the sides of my thighs, ribs and arms. Her touch is carefully considered and the pressure is just right. It feels exquisite and I drift off into a little realm of minty aromatic contentment. She douses me again with warm water, sensuously trickling it up my legs. Then, using a steaming metal bowl, she abruptly pours pools of water on my feet. The sudden change of pressure gives me goose pimples. While I am still lying on my front, she soaks a cloth in an olive soap mixture and waves it into the air, transforming it into what looks like a pillowcase of foam – she squeezes the suds from the cloth and lathers them all over my body, enveloping me in a thick cloud of bubbles before removing them with warm water. It is revitalising – as if I can feel every cell on the surface of my skin shaking itself awake. I turn over onto my back and she repeats the same process: exfoliating my body – from my toes up to my chest – then dousing me with warm water and covering me in bubbly, olivey foam. I feel physically and mentally calm. When she is finished she hands me a towel and leads me to a steam room (still inside the hammam), where I sit for 10 minutes and am encouraged to both drink and douse myself with ice-cold water. I return to the slab and lie down on my front. My therapist begins massaging a tangerine-and- fig butter cream into my skin, working it into my feet, calves, back, arms and neck. She digs deep into my neck and shoulder muscles. I can feel the trapped tension evaporate. I turn over and she repeats her moves, working up from my feet to my legs, arms and chest in a routine that lasts about 15 minutes.
The treatment over, I wrap myself in my plush robe and wander through to the main spa area to an azure vitality pool where there are yet more glittering chandeliers and a huge monsoon shower. I first make my way to the cool-mist room, which is just subtle enough not to induce brain freeze – a welcome change from the typical plunge pools and ice-bucket showers. Then I nip between the sauna, eucalyptus steam rooms and relaxation area. Changed and showered, I head back downstairs. As I wander through the ground floor I feel like I’m floating toward the exit – oblivious to the Hotel Cosmopolitan’s ring-a-dinging antics. I barely notice the woman perched in front of a slot machine delicately balancing a stack of quarters in one hand and a breakfast cocktail in the other. I am unmoved by the sight of a barely legal-looking couple giddily exiting the pop-up chapel and am unfazed by the gaudiness of the lobby art.
The bottom line:
My experience was light years away from the white noise of the roulette wheels spinning aimlessly below – a wonderful experience that left me refreshed and invigorated and was a welcome antidote to the 24-hour hum of the city. My skin felt softer afterwards and my spirits were lifted. And while they say what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas, all I can add is: except for that Boca Terry robe, I wish it could come home with me.
While the soap ritual is the star treatment, should I ever find myself back in Vegas, I’d head back to try the Red Flower Hammam Experience ($300 for 80 minutes), where a vigorous scrub is performed alongside a purifying clay wrap with essences of cardamom.
Spa Junkie pays for her own travel, therapies and accommodation.