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Holistic Health with an Arab Twist: Zulal Wellness Resort

by Claudia Cojocea

A few things may come to mind when you hear the word “resort”. You might think of somewhere in the Caribbean, with blue waters, white sand, and all the facilities of your dreams. At least a place that is a far cry from the dust and concrete of the city. So when news spread that Zulal Wellness Resort was opening in the north of Qatar, curiosities were piqued. After all, it prides itself in being “the Middle East’s first full-immersion wellness resort”. But is it just another take on a beach hotel or fancy sports complex, or is there something more?


Embracing Local Culture and Traditions

Daniele Vastolo, the general manager of Zulal, emphasises the resort’s uniqueness, calling it “the world’s first to blend Traditional Arabic and Islamic Medicine (TAIM) and holistic wellness”. He says that Zulal offers individuals and families unique treatments and experiences that are true to the character and heritage of Qatar. It even comes down to its name because “Zulal”, as Vastolo explains, means “pure natural water” in Arabic.


So, what exactly is TAIM? Sandie Johanssen, Zulal’s Health and Wellness Director, explains that this treatment modality connects Islamic medical practises (including Prophetic medicine) with traditional healing practises from the Arab region. “The use of TAIM has been recognised and acclaimed around the world, comprising of medicinal herbs, dietary practises, mind-body practises, spiritual healing, and applied therapy,” she says. She also describes TAIM as “one of the cornerstones of the history of medicine”. Many of the healing practises used in TAIM are derived from The Canon of Medicine, written by physician-philosopher Avicenna (known regionally as Ibn Sina) in 1025.


At Zulal, TAIM is employed in both diagnostic and treatment processes, and the products used are derived from local herbs, minerals, and marine flora. These remedies are also used to support the treatment of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. Moreover, fertility problems are managed with hijama (wet cupping).


Additionally, lifestyle guidance on nutrition, movement, and rest plays a significant role in TAIM and forms an integral part of the programmes at Zulal. And it doesn’t end there. Johanssen adds: “Zulal offers a TAIM-inspired pharmacy and a range of retail products including camel milk, essential oils, medicinal herbs, tea blends, and much more, all available in a dedicated retail area at the resort.”



Family First

Families have always been at the core of Zulal’s mission, according to Vastolo. “Our main goal is to become the reference in the region when it comes to holistic wellness and family wellness.” So, in line with that, the resort has a family-centred section called Zulal Discovery. At Zulal Discovery, activities are set up to suit families and individuals of different ages and are characterised around traits of desert animals to help children playfully develop life skills. They involve creativity, edutainment, sports, and nutrition.


Vastolo also confirms that families can expect professional support and guidance throughout their stay at Zulal. In fact, expert input was even included in the resort’s design. “Facilities have been designed by child and family specialists to bring families together,” he shares.

Sustainability also plays a significant role at Zulal Discovery, as many activities are centred around getting in touch with the local environment. One example is the Zulal Mangrove Planting initiative. Families enrolled in Zulal’s retreat programmes participate in protecting the resort’s marine habitat through this initiative. Vastolo points out that this focus on sustainability also contributes to furthering Qatar’s goals, as environmental development is one of the four pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030.


So, what can families at Zulal expect to focus on during their stay? “Wellness at Zulal Discovery revolves around the health and well-being of the family—both in terms of physical fitness and emotional balance—and the all-important connection between generations enjoying time together,” says Johanssen.



Nutrition and Lifestyle Support

Nutrition programmes play an integral role in wellness spaces, and Zulal is no different. “Zulal believes that eating healthy, organic, and well-balanced meals are the sustenance one needs to empower a wholesome lifestyle, allowing for a longer and happier life,” says Vastolo. The menus at the resort are set up to cater to different dietary needs and preferences, so child-friendly and vegan options are also offered. Plus, guests can take up cooking classes and can continue to receive support from Zulal’s nutrition consultants after their stay.

In terms of exercise, a wide range of group and private options are available for several activities, including:

  • gym fitness sessions
  • pilates
  • aerobics
  • swimming (indoor, outdoor, and lagoon)

Furthermore, exercise-based treatments like physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are available.

For those looking for a spa experience, hammam and massage facilities can be found at the Zulal Serenity section of the resort (for guests aged 16 and over), as well as skin and beauty treatments. “Al-Safa Beauty and Aesthetic Centre offers the latest rejuvenating treatments and technological procedures in recognition of ‘Bashrat Al-Haya’, which means ‘the skin reflects life’,” says Johanssen.

Other amenities available include prayer rooms and what Johanssen calls “quiet places of contemplation”.



Tailor-made Experiences

Once you’ve booked a getaway at Zulal, how do you know it will meet your needs? Johanssen explains that guests meet with a health and wellness advisor to discuss their pre-booked programme. During this meeting, they are given a health questionnaire to fill out and work with their health advisor to draw up a schedule based on their answers. “The resort encourages guests to build their itinerary incorporating holistic health, traditional therapies, and physical fitness, together with rest and relaxation, into their personal programme,” she says.



A Parent’s Verdict

For parents, the prospect of booking a weekend away with access to delicious food, a massage, and someone else to entertain their children sounds like an absolute dream. Whether or not family-friendly wellness retreats are the future of staycations is to be seen. In the meantime, this busy mum is tempted to give Zulal a shot.




To learn more about Zulal, get in touch through the following:

Telephone: 4477-6500

Email: info@zulal.com

Website: zulal.com

Claudia Cojocea is a long-time journalist and communication specialist who spent her career writing, speaking, and sharing her experiences and discoveries with readers. These days, she lives in Doha where she works in an international school. But rest assured! She still continues to go on adventures and documents them on her blog, claudiacojocea.com, like the Middle East’s answer to Bridget Jones.


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