I’m good with it all unless they put cucumbers on my eyes, I wrote my editor in an email, as I contemplated my first ever spa treatment at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza. “I never let vegetables near my eyes.
“Don’t worry about cucumbers, she wrote back, somewhat ominously.
As I took a taxi down to Garden City, I grew reflective and thought about what odd series of life choices had delivered me to the Four Seasons in Cairo to get a facial.
“I go to pig farms, and you’re getting a massage? a colleague pointed out to me earlier in the day.
His what’s-wrong-with-this-picture observation resonated with me as I took the elevator up to the fifth floor of the hotel, following signs to the spa lobby.
I had been nominated for this job because the spa was promoting its treatments designed especially for men.
I approached the assignment gamely. I wanted to be convinced that a men’s spa treatment could find a market in Cairo.
The most instantly apparent element of the spa is the remarkable service. After signing in and filling out a health form (I began to worry. Could the massage really exacerbate my preexisting heart condition?), an attendant ushered me to the lockers, the bathroom and the changing room. I never had a ‘where do I go from here?’ type of moment.
Wrapped in a Four Seasons robe, I was delivered to the capable hands of Balinese therapist, Sri, for my gentleman’s facial.
I threw myself into a chair that resembled something between a Lazy Boy and a bed. Sri asked a number of questions about my comfort. She really left no detail to chance. How was the temperature? Perfect. Music volume? Great. Anything I didn’t want her to do? Please don’t touch my eyebrows.
The $159, 80-minute treatment consists of a series of creams, rubs, and scrubs.
“We put more emphasis on the cleansing for the gentleman’s facial, says Spa Director Doris Sinnathurai. The more delicate touch-ups are reserved for the women.
The facial combines a mixture of cleansing elements – like prodding to get dirt out from under the skin and a rough scrub to eliminate dead skin – and refreshing components-like cool creams, steam treatment, and, yes, cucumbers.
The 80 minutes vanished quickly, and Sri had to shake me from my semi-coma.
“Mr May, this concludes your gentleman’s facial, she said. They called me by my name at every step, a courtesy rarely extended in the service industry here.
Sri whisked me to my next stop: the massage. This 50-minute event was what I had really been looking forward to.
The massage was designed for athletes, mixing traditional massage with stretching. Mati, the Balinese charged with working the knots out of my back, asked me which of five oils I wanted her to use. I left the decision to her.
She also asked how strong she should massage. Towering over Mati’s petite figure, I told her to go whole hog.
The result was an intense 50 minutes of deep rubbing, kneading, prodding, and chopping. It taught me never to underestimate a masseuse, however small she may be.
She zeroed in on a number of tension spots and worked and worked at them until my muscles finally relaxed.
The massage, which costs $129 for 50 minutes, was full-body. Each arm and leg massaged and stretched.
Unlike the facial, during which my mind drifted off, the massage kept me acutely aware of what was happening. It was truly a therapeutic session, aimed at working out the stress of life in the big city.
At the end of the session, the staff informed me that the steam rooms, saunas, and Jacuzzis were all mine to use. They were included in the price of treatment.
Catching up with Sinnathurai later, I asked her whether she had been able to cultivate a clientele of men who returned regularly for facials and massages. She told me she had and that these sorts of treatments were taking off.
I could see why.
My skin purged of the stresses of Cairo life, I headed home. Needless to say, I slept like a baby, dreaming of soft music and cucumbers.