An Arizona Spa That Rocks the Kasbah

by  Melisse Gelula | Feb 1, 2010
Joya Spa
Joya Spa / Photo courtesy of the property

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Proof that hammams are hot? The gorgeous Joya Spa at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, which opened a little over a year ago. It imports the old-world, Mid-East bathing ritual—and makes it the basis the spa’s chic design. Call it a terrific example of mod Maroc.

The look is all thanks to Sylvia Sepielli, a doyenne of spa design, who used handmade Moroccan tiles, carved-wood furniture, silk pillows, copper bathtubs, and even Bedouin jewelry as design accessories. Despite the spa’s grand size—19 treatment rooms and two floors that encompass a salon, gym, and shop—it has a rabbit-warren, souk-like vibe. (I got lost a couple times.)

This starts with the spa entry where you pass a purification fountain, followed by several crystal illumination and intention-setting chambers that are meant to transition you from reality to spa reality. (No one will think less of you if you proceed directly to your treatment room.)

There’s a dreamlike (hooka-pipe?) quality here that the treatments, like the design, help cultivate. A brisk, black soap scrub takes place with a therapist in steam-filled hammam-style bathing chamber, for example. And a local alchemist created the spa’s organic body-care range that marries gemstone extracts and a fragrance extracted from night-blooming cactus flower that’s hypnotic. It’s used in the 90-minute Joyambrosia Body Bliss, a very good scrub and massage treatment—as well as a selection of drinkable flower essence tonics.

Even the skin-care treatments have a mystical side: My Diamond Experience facial using Natura Bisse, a high-end Spanish line of products, called for crystal orbs that were rolled across my skin. They, and my fantastic facialist, Shuly, must have bewitched my complexion: My skin tone was even and my dark under-eye circles had vanished.

If you can swing it, book your treatment in one of the five spa suites. They’re the size of guest rooms—some even have queen-size beds for napping between services, plus outdoor spaces, and soaking tubs. Also divine? The candle-filled relax room lined with divans, and the chaises on the rooftop spa-pool with gorgeous mountain views.

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