REINA: The grounds of Al Manahil Ladies’ Center in the Diplomatic Quarters are sentimental to me. As a young girl, I grew up running around its gardens, playing alongside the Royal’s children and spending my summers learning swimming in their Olympic-sized pool. My mother used to work there in the early 90’s as a Graphic Artist and her job was to prepare materials and decorations for the events that the center hosted. During those vibrant years, I’ve known Al Manahil as that one place where I could see Saudi women without their abayas. Take note, I was around 6 or 7 at that time and it was when I first time I would literally see a Saudi lady unveil herself as she leaves her niqab and abaya at the front desk.
If memory serves me correctly, Al Manahil is the brainchild of Princess Madawi, daughter of the late King Fahad. It served as an avenue for women to be able to gather and partake in various educational and physical activities like learning English and sports like tennis or swimming. They also had a lot of activities for children too, like ballet classes, mini-musicals and themed-parties. That was Al Manahil back then.
Fast forward to 2017, Al Manahil has changed A LOT. It’s been almost 20 years since I stepped back in those halls that my childhood heart still oh-so remembers and after receiving the invitation from their management to review their spa, I was instantly nostalgic.
As Janelle and I entered the lobby, memories of those days where my mom would painstakingly create murals for their events rushed into my mind. We turned right after the entrance to head on over to the spa area and as I was approaching the reception, the lady standing behind it seemed to be staring at me til I greeted her good morning. At first, she looked a bit like a Singaporean to me but then, when she didn’t respond to my greeting, I said hello again…to which she responded, “Anak ka ba ni Shirley?” (Are you Shirley’s daughter?) I glanced over to her name plate and suddenly remembered who she was! Her name is Ms. Lalaine and I used to play with her kids in Manahil too! It’s been so long that I didn’t really recognize her at first but I was really happy to see her and we talked a bit about her kids and she asked how my mom was.
Okay, I know this is starting to sound like a trip down to memory lane and I do want to focus on the entire spa experience, it’s just that for me personally, it’s simply amazing to have this then and now experience. Now, unto our spa day ahead!
Like I said, the center has changed a lot through the years and one of the focal points of Al Manahil now is their spa and salon section, which has recently acquired state-of-the-art spa beds that are exclusive to them. Janelle and I were scheduled to try one of each of these beds along with a few services in their salon as well. I’ll be writing about mine first then Janelle will add her experience right after too.
My first stop was the Sand Quartz Bed Massage (SR750/ 90 minutes). I had my anticipations at first thinking that since there was the word “sand” it might be the fine type that could possibly get into certain crevices of my body. As it turns out, they are not the kind you find in the beach of at the red sand and in fact, they are larger granules of the quartz mineral itself…which is the main component of sand to begin with. There was a small display of it outside the treatment area and I was able to get a better idea of it then.
I went into one of their cutesy, individual changing rooms and proceeded to the Sand Quartz Bed area. My masseuse, Ms. Josephine oriented me with the procedure as I was about to lay down. A soft cloth is laid over the sand quartz before I lie on my face. I immediately feel the warmth of the bed and the quartz granules nestling my whole body creating a soft yet impressionable pressure. Meanwhile, Ms. Josephine went on to apply some oils on me and started massaging my back. The pressure was just right and I was slowly feeling the effects of the heated bed. I was told that it really intended for me to sweat and honestly, I didn’t mind. She also kneaded my back with the sand quartz wrapped in a cloth and creating pressure points as she goes. The granules felt more prominent this time and kit felt like it was able to rub through a lot of areas that needed loosening. I observed how the sand quartz made the difference and if I were to put it into words, it felt like I was lying on the beach while getting a massage…if only they played ocean sounds. Halfway through the massage, I had fallen asleep (proof that it was good) and I took a quick shower to freshen myself for the salon services that were up next for me.
I supposedly had a facial scheduled, but I just a had a facial three days prior to our Al Manahil visit so I decided to skip that and instead headed for my Simple Day Make-Up Session (SR 450) with Ms. Nadine. They have two makeup rooms and in here you’d have to by lying on your back as the makeup artist applies the makeup (which is how it’s supposed to be done, anyways). The room does not have the bright bulb lights you’d expect, instead there’s a stretched bed where you lie down and a flourescent light is shone over your face and the artist begins. Since I was laying on my back, I couldn’t take photos of her makeup kit but I did see that she used Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics along with Naked palettes and Huda Beauty lipsticks. I only asked for a light, day make-up because first of all, it was a Saturday and truth be told, after our salon trip that morning, I was scheduled to go home and wash the dishes anyway. 😛
The only caveat to having your makeup done lying down is that you don’t get to see what you look like on cue. I was only able to ask her to hold up the mirror once she was done applying it because I didn’t want to stop her after every section of my face was done. Of course, I know it’s my right but still, I just didn’t feel like interrupting her and just trusted her to do her job. She put on some primer first then worked on my eye area. She did my brows, gave me brown-ish eyeshadow for a more natural look, did liquid eyeliner like a pro and applied individual fake lashes on me. After that, she went on to put foundation and concealer on the rest of my face, followed by slight contouring and a lip swipe of my choice of lipstick shade. The whole process lasted about 30 minutes and the service was smooth sailing til the end. She sprayed some lasting liquid on my face once she was done and then I moved on to the last service of the day: Blow Dry (SR 175, medium length).
I didn’t value the importance of blow drying your hair until about three years ago. Having blow-dried hair makes you look more composed and presentable and any glamour lady would not leave the house without having done it. Albeit there may be some damage done to your hair for constantly using it, but hey, that’s why there are products you can use to help fight that. Anyway, I headed on to the heart of the salon, which was the styling section and it was a spacious and bright place with tall mirrors and green accents. It was still early at that time and I was one of the first appointment of the day so I was able to secure Ms. Noha, one of their best stylists to do my hair.
Granted, my hair is short at the moment and there really isn’t much styling you can do with short hair so I just asked for volume and that I leave the rest to her on what she thinks would look good on me. About twenty minutes later, I emerged from my seat feeling like a million bucks! As in I felt like a “madam” with that hair along with my makeup so I walked on over to Janelle (while she was having some hair treatments) and said, “Check me out!” Haha! That’s the thing with great spa and salon studios, you come out of them not only feeling relaxed, but energized (and beautified enough) to take on the world again.
JANELLE: Reina and I had a different itinerary for our Al Manahil experience. While she was having a massage at the Sand Quartz Bed, I was whisked off to experience their 90-minute Detoxifying Oriental Package (SR 1,175, 90 minutes). It began with the Vichy Shower where I lay down a water bed and felt the water on my back. Yes, it’s literally a shower. The only difference was I was lying down instead of standing up. The water felt like strong rain on my back. My attendant was Grace from Indonesia and she was asking me how I was and how do I feel. Uhuh, AMAZING!
She began scrubbing my body with the Winds of Sands scrub that has gentle beads for mild exfoliation and yes, she really did a great job! It wasn’t like the scrubbing we got from our Moroccan bath in Marrakech (that was epic) but this one was softer and relaxing. After another shower and washing, she began putting a firming mask on my body. She let me choose from firming, detox and moisturizing masks and I chose the former because I think that’s what my skin needed more. After putting the mask in my entire body, she pulled the plastic at the foot of the bed to make a tent. Only my head was outside. She turned on the steam but we had to wait around 15 minutes before it worked. She explained that since they turn off all electricity at night, it’s takes a while for the machines to start when they first turn it on in the morning. When it finally did, I can feel the hot steam enveloping my body. It was uncomfortable because I felt like it was too warm and water droplets were hitting my body here and there (and I freaked out a bit afraid that it might burn my skin, haha) but actually, the temperature was just right at 50 degrees (seemed like a hot summer day in Riyadh) for this procedure. If you’re sensitive to warmth then you might want to rethink going through this kind of treatment.
I transferred to another room for the next step. Grace slathered on a firming moisturizer on my body and gave me a nice, 30-minute Sun Ocean massage. It was one of the best I ever had. The pressure was hard then soft the next. It has long and short strokes and the combination made me a bit sleepy. It was sooo good! I was sad that it ended; it ended with a hot tea though and I appreciated the little things like that. After changing into my clothes from Al Manahil’s spa robe, I proceeded for my next treatment which is their Spa Pedicure (SR 200).
Their Nail Spa section is also as nice and bright as the other rooms in the entire center. By this time, there were already more ladies going in for their scheduled treatments. My attendant Vanessa explained to me the steps that are included in the Spa Pedicure. It started with a foot soak and a scrub. After that, she placed a mask on my legs. All products were from the brand O.P.I. which is known for being one of the most popular brands for the nails and hand/foot treatments. She proceeded in doing my pedicure; she was really careful all throughout. I didn’t have my nails colored because I was wearing closed shoes but I enjoyed my quick spa pedicure. I felt like I can walk and stroll the malls again for long hours in my rejuvenated feet. Haha!
I was then turned over to one of the salon attendants for my Kerastase Ampoule Booster (SR 150) treatment. She shampooed my hair like I’ve never shampooed it before. She also scrubbed and massaged my head and this is one of the most relaxing parts of my Al Manahil experience (ahhh I love massages!). I have really oily scalp and with the way she shampooed my hair, I thought all the oil must have been gone by the time she finished, haha. The part of my hair which was colored a year before though was dry and I was really grateful for this booster treatment because it moisturized and refreshed my hair. I had to air dry my hair so I didn’d go to my Blow Dry appointment, the last of the treatment I was supposed to have for the day.
I really enjoyed my time at Al Manahil. It is one of the most luxurious moments I’ve ever had in terms of my “me time” and pampering myself. It relaxed me and by the time I stepped out of Al Manahil’s doors, I felt like I can conquer the world. Haha, or rather, I can do whatever I want just because I already had time to de-stress and re-energize. Of course, the prices in Al Manahil are expensive but they’re worth it if you’re looking for treatments and services fit for royalty. You can indulge once in a while. Right, ladies?! The good thing too is if you’re committed to certain treatments like their slimming packages which need a few sessions, you get offers and promos. And just so you know, with every service you do at Al Manahil, you also contribute in supporting women entrepreneurship development called “Deem Al Manahil.” Yup, that’s beauty for a cause for you! If you’re still thinking of gifts for your mothers, sisters or girl friends, gift vouchers can also be purchased in Al Manahil’s reception.
If you’re ready for pure body, hair, and nail indulgence, all roads lead to Al Manahil, then and now.
Al Manahil Spa and Ladies Centre
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
T: +966-11-4881069 ext. 502/505/506
Disclaimer: We were invited by Al Manahil to try these treatments. All our feedback, opinions, and comments are our own.