… at the Evason Ma'In Six Senses Spa, a sybaritic getaway tucked away literally in the heart of the earth: the Great Rift Valley in Africa.
We explored a deep ravine 284 meters below sea level. But we were not immersed in the sea! We had driven in from Jordan's Amman, through moonscapes of rocky, eroded desert till we came to the deepest, longest, natural slash in the earth: the Great Afro-Arabian Rift Valley. Here, where the continent of Africa bared its heart, we drove down into an unexpectedly green and lush oasis. Gulmohur flourished in reckless abandon, palms flounced their feathery fronds, and down a cliff of tortoise-shell coloured rocks, a gush of scalding hot water cascaded in a steaming, braided, waterfall. Rising on the far wall of the canyon and, along the course of the falls' run-off stream, stretched a modern settlement that could have been the setting for a James Bond thriller. And, for that added touch of the bizarre, in the distant cleavage of this incredible valley was the shimmer of the stark neon-blue of the mineral-saturated Dead Sea.
Until we build a luxury resort in a lunar crater, Evason Ma'In Six Senses Spa could well claim to offer mankind's most sequestered and cosseting getaway. But even the moon would not offer the toxin-burning benefits of increased oxygen pressure, the hyperbaric advantage, of living under an additional 264 meter column of air! That is how deep this valley is at Evason Ma'In: it plunges even further into the earth as it approaches the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of our globe.
All of which might give the impression that this spa, in this arid and austerely beautiful terrain, is one of those monastic, forget-the-world-and-its-comforts, sort of place. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Evason Ma'In indulges all the five senses of its guests in the good things of life hoping, thereby, to awake the evanescent sixth. Armchair pedants might call this a 21st century hedonistic Tantric approach! Significantly, in its well-stocked bar, we even discovered our favourite Glengoyne Single malt. This Scotch distillery straddles the Highland line giving its product the best qualities of both the Lowland and Highland whiskeys. Or so its flamboyant owner, Kydd, told us. One tends to remember such anecdotes in the sybaritic ambience of Evason Ma'in
Warm and friendly
But, for all its atmosphere of luxury and understated elegance, it's a warm and friendly place. As a matter of policy, its owners have made it a point to maintain a very informal relaxed atmosphere in the resort. The staff, including the GM, wear salwar-kameez though the GM does have a formal dark suit hanging in his office for those rare occasions when he has to call on government officials! In fact, the starkness of the landscape tends to deter any tasteless displays of wealth because the rugged coloured cliffs and canyons would not be at all impressed!
They were there, as they are in every room, framed in our huge picture windows. We decided to explore and visited the Honeymoon Suite with its own terraces overlooking the whole valley and being overlooked by nothing except, possibly, a high-flying eagle. Below us was the huge swimming pool, backed by the hot cascade of the waterfall. Not too far away, down the valley, was the Olive Grove in which the chef gave cookery lessons when asked to and from where the resort got its table olives and its olive oil.
The valley intrigued us and we summoned a golf-cart to drive us down this great cleft in the earth, past the open-air theatre — showing the classic “Casablanca” at the time — to the Six Senses Spa. It's in a stand-alone building, which looks a bit like the bastion of a desert sheikh: domes, walls of roughly dressed stone, and its own hot spring waterfall that spumes into the pool and unwinding area. We wandered past its 10 treatment rooms, glimpsed its hamam— what's a sheikh's palace without a hamam — a sauna (though we don't recall seeing fresh evergreen twigs for hygienic flagellation), and a natural steam cave.
We could have opted for a rigorous guided trek down the valley, but we weren't quite up to it. We chose the more effortless alternatives: massages. One of us had a long and aromatic one with herbal oils, the other asked for the slightly abrasive Dead Sea Salts treatment combined with a sort of tacky marinade in black Dead Sea Mud.
After the massages
The massages left us very relaxed and slightly tingly. Apparently, we had shed our dead skin and the new epidermal cells were eager to sense the dry desert air and the enhanced oxygen. Whatever the therapeutic reasons might be, we did feel rejuvenated and slightly, very slightly, tender. Butterflies probably have the same feeling when they break out of their chrysalises!
When the sun sank citrus-yellow at the Dead Sea end of the ravine, lights came on around the pool, illuminating the waterfall and netting the green valley. One evening we dined on the terrace of the bar, gazing across at the waterfall. The cuisine of Jordan is similar to that of Egypt, Lebanon and Maghreb: great for the heart, delectable on the palate, very acceptable to most Indians. “Yes, indeed, we do,” said a smiling waiter when we asked him if they served vegetarian fare on order. Sadly, they must have had a trainee chef on duty that night: one of their meat dishes had been overdone and required very determined chewing! But the two chefs at breakfast, the next morning, made up for their colleague's shortcomings. Their Eggs in Garlic, with lemon juice, dried mint and baby carrots had a uniquely tart flavour possibly given by an unusual spice: the maroon berries of Sumaq.
To our regret, however, we missed The Bedouin Experience set in a desert camp under whispering date palms. There they can cook a whole lamb in a sand-pit and serve it to guests lolling on soft cushions under the stars.
And you don't have to be dolphins to experience all this at more than 866 feet below sea level!
Air: Royal Jordanian Airlines flies from Delhi and Mumbai to Amman's Queen Alia International Airport.
Road: A 60 minute drive from the airport.
Reservations: Ph: 011-26236525;Fax: 011-41553034. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org