One of Doha’s newest resorts offers an elegant idyll designed as a private oasis of rest and relaxation. Amica Sicilia heads there to experience a luxurious home away from home.
Is there anything more enticing than seeing, behind a wall of white stone warmed by the sun, the tops of tall palm trees waving in the breeze? In a desert land, a walled garden holds out a special kind of promise, not just a promise of beauty but of rest and recovery. In fact, the word paradise itself finds its roots in the Old Persian for a place walled around. And this is what the designers at Maysan Doha LXR Hotels & Resorts have created. Rooting themselves in royal Qatari tradition in a walled compound set back from the busy seafront in the quiet hinterland beside the rolling green of Aspire Zone, they’ve created a personalised paradise of their own.
Maysan means a bright star and the décor reflects this luminous ideal. A fountained courtyard of elegant elongated proportions leads us under an archway through tall double doors and into the bright and welcoming lobby. We are greeted warmly by Lisa, the Duty Manager, with a fragrant lemon-scented towel, small cups of steaming Arabic coffee and a dish of fat black dates. As we sign in for our weekend retreat, we are immediately made to feel at home.
Our villa host greets us and loads our bags and ourselves onto a cream leather seated buggy, handing us a tall flute of one of Maysan’s signature drinks – a rosy draught of muddled strawberries and raspberries with bubbles – and off we go.
At the rear, the main hotel building opens onto a broad porch that looks out along an impossibly long and blue swimming pool flanked by an avenue of tall palm trees. On either side, in low, whitewashed adobe, nestle two lines of private suites and two-bedroom villas, each protected by its own verdant garden. Around the outside orbit the spa and Hammam complex, the restaurant and lounges, a state-of-the-art gym with separate zones for men and women, a suite of 24-hour padel tennis courts and, of course, a children’s club to entertain younger guests. We feel we have been transported to a gentler, quieter place for our stay.
It all feels so sheltered and secluded that we are not prepared for the scale and grandeur of our suite. Our host opens the door and our jaws drop. Our King Junior suite is nothing short of palatial. With maximum use of natural materials, it blends traditional architectural elements with modernist flair. The furniture is in highly polished wood, all smooth surfaces and restful lines, with thick cream cushions. The headboard and benches use traditional rattan weaving. And the soaring double-height ceiling is composed of perfectly aligned bamboo canes making a gorgeous golden zigzag. But the showstopper is one wall composed entirely of floor-to-ceiling sliding French doors. At the press of a button, the sweeping floor-length curtains open to reveal our private patio with our own private temperature-controlled swimming pool, a miniature of the one at the centre of the resort, all sheltered behind green hedges.
The bathroom is its own private kingdom, as large as half the bedroom, with sleek matte black fittings and twin sinks, well stocked with toiletries from London-based luxury brand Graff. The floor is a serene minimalist resin-sealed concrete, and the centrepiece is without doubt the most beautiful bath I have ever seen: a huge oval, almost a small swimming pool in itself.
It’s lunchtime and at Maysan, that means one thing: La Casa, which literally means home and features a carefully curated menu of homemade Italian classics. The setting is stunning. Gilded columns and huge smoked mirrors line the walls. Above us, a high vaulted ceiling is picked out with delicate wrought iron fretwork, recalling the art nouveau conservatories of Milan or Paris. In keeping with this theme, the tables are tucked into booths in emerald and claret velvet, creating more intimate, private nooks within this grand space.
We start with a light summery artichoke salad. The artichoke is sliced almost translucently thin, layered with curls of rocket leaves, sweet semidry cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan slivers. Alongside it, one of my weaknesses, baby calamari, fried just moments before, tossed with salt and lemon zest and piled high with baby cress, ready for hungry fingers to swoop in and plunge the pieces into homemade tartar sauce.
Appetites whetted, it’s time for the main courses. In a broad blue platter, shaped like a shell, are stacked majestic king prawns, grilled and topped with fresh tomato salsa. We mop up the dressing with warm rosemary bread. Then a moment of drama: a beaten copper pan arrives, billowing steam and dry ice. Inside it, chargrilled lamb chops criss-cross with roasted aubergines. The fat is perfectly caramelised, the meat just blushing pink, tender and lean. We wash them down with a couple of Maysan’s original mocktails that we take back to the suite to prepare for this afternoon’s treat – a relaxing time at the spa.
The Maysan Spa is a sanctuary within a sanctuary. If the resort as a whole evokes the urban oasis of a walled garden, this effect is redoubled as soon as we walk through the spa doors. Treatment rooms are arranged around a previously concealed internal courtyard. Leading off this space are seven private treatment suites, each with a bathroom and changing room. There are separate sauna and steam-room facilities for men and women and a truly spectacular Hammam in emerald green marble. Maysan Spa’s facials use only cellular cosmetics from the Swiss line Valmont, while massages are with award-winning British brand Aromatherapy Associates.
We are treated to Maysan Spa’s twist on my favourite hot-stone massage. This one is not with the usual volcanic black basalt but with another wellness wonder material: pink rock salt from the high Himalayas, hand carved into smooth palm-sized pebbles. It’s a material known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, believed even to improve mood through the emission of negative ions.
The massage begins with gentle stretching of the limbs. The salt stones are then placed resting along my spine, pressed and manipulated along each limb. These glowing crystals carry the healing power of heat through my body. Their concentrated pressure and warmth relieve my tired and aching limbs, revitalising my nervous system. It’s a feeling of renewal, as much mental and emotional as physical. Afterwards, we take our time relaxing in the spa’s elegant lounge over fresh ginger tea and apricots.
After a nap, we change into our evening best and follow our noses back to the restaurant, where delicious smells emanate. We begin with a carpaccio of Wagyu beef and whole burrata cheese on a bed of sweet cherry tomatoes and tiny black Leccino olives.
Our main courses are particularly impressive. The pasta is a graceful twist of Tagliolini al Nero di Seppia – the pasta is black, made with squid ink and loaded with the flavours of the sea, fresh mussels and prawns tossed with garlic and sweet tomatoes. The second act is known as Orecchio di Elefante or elephant’s ear: a prime cutlet of tender veal, on the bone, beaten until thin and broad, breaded with a herbed crumb and then flash fried.
Strolling back to our suite, I decide the way to round off the perfect day has got to be to try the bath. I draw the curtains, turn down the lights, turn up the hot water and empty a bag of lavender bath salts into the running water. As they dissolve, they fill the air with perfume. I lie back and relax utterly, luxuriating in this tub fit for an empress.
We sleep deep and wake early, sweeping the curtains aside to show a perfect blue-skied spring day. Our room has its own espresso machine, so we make strong shots just the way we like them and take them outside to the loungers by our private pool to let sunlight and caffeine gently bring us to life. Breakfast is served on the broad terrace looking out over the main swimming pool and palm avenue. The sun warms us without dazzling as we sip foaming cappuccinos and an energising concoction called The Fountain of Youth, a blitz of orange, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper. We share an avocado toast, topped with two perfectly poached eggs on a base of whipped ricotta, garnished with sliced purple radishes. And because alongside a little virtue, we could also do with a little indulgence, we also have a pistachio french toast dusted with icing sugar and topped with fresh berries.
Thus fortified, we hit the pool. Settled under a blue-and-white striped umbrella with a good book and a cold drink resting on the marble-topped table beside us, I feel that elusive state of inner peace usually only achieved in the comfort of your own home. We never want to leave this idyll. The sun moves across the sky, dappling the water with light and shade through the fronds of the palms. We wait until the shadows start to lengthen across the pool again before reluctantly saying goodbye – or until next time.
For more information or to make a reservation,
please call Maysan Doha, LXR Hotels & Resorts at 4144 6666.