Abu Dhabi Wants to Transform Into a Serious Wellness Destination

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are separated by less than 100 miles, but in some ways they’re worlds apart. While Dubai is synonymous with futuristic bling and off-the-scale glitz, Abu Dhabi presents a softer, slower, and less shiny exterior. It’s a difference the city is increasingly using to position itself as a cutting-edge wellness destination and its newest destination spa, Kintsugi Space, hopes to serve as the prime example.

Kintsugi Space is Abu Dhabi’s first women-only members’ club founded by a group of Abu Dhabi-based female wellness aficionados. The idea for a holistic wellness company started back in 2015 and grew out of a product line and magazine. Opened in November 2023, the spa now fills a seven-floor, pastel-pink biophilic residence on Al Reem Island. The no-expense-spared, women-only spa brings together big-name experts with international pedigrees, including Kintsugi’s Creative Director Patrizia Bortolin—the Italian guru behind the health resort Preidlhof in South Tyrol—and Wellness Community Ambassador Anastasia Achilleos—a celebrity facialist and expert in lymphatic and fascial systems, whose clients include Jodie Comer and Demi Moore. It has also practitioner poached from the world-famous Chiva-Som in Thailand.

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A lounge at Kintsugi Space
The seven level spa has a serene atmosphere.

Treatments at Kintsugi take inspiration from all over the world and range from the ancient (like chi nei tsang, an internal organ massage with Chinese roots) to the avant-garde (like the Keope treatment, an ergonomic machine from Italy to aid in arterial circulation). While there is no shortage of crystals or motivational quotes, “quantum” principles are at the root of many treatments using scalar waves and sound and light therapies. High-tech equipment includes oxygen chambers, LED beds, and bio-acoustic sound generators.

Memberships are spread across three-, six-, and 11-month durations, with the three-month-minimum membership starting at $3,920. There are also six-day retreats open to non-members, starting at $8,167. If health is wealth, then here, wealth is health.

A treatment at Kintsugi Space
East meets west in the treatment rooms.

“There are so many other wellness concepts arriving, but the way that we’re leading here is with quantum technology, the quality of touch, plant-based menus, and it’s very Italian,” says Achilleos of Patrizia’s influence; Achilleos moved to Abu Dhabi with her family to spearhead the spa. “[It’s] an Italian love affair with food and Italian furnishings. There’s really nothing like this.”

But others are going to be quick to follow. The Emirati capital already has a foundation in health, with the 2015 opening of the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, a 23-acre, multi-speciality luxury hospital—which cost a reputed $1.9 billion to build and is located about 10 minutes from the spa on Al Maryah Island. And holistic wellness—the blending of both Western and Eastern practices and philosophy—is in demand. The five-day Kayan Wellness Festival, the first festival of its kind in Abu Dhabi, launched on Al Fahid Island in April. It featured international experts, like the Oprah-endorsed clinical psychologist and self-described “Wisdom Teacher” Dr. Shefali, plus plenty of yoga, meditation, and sound healing.

A treatment at Kintsugi Space
The spa takes a holistic approach.

In 2025, an outpost of the famed wellness clinic and five-star hotel SHA is coming to the so-called Riviera of the Emirates, Sahel Al Emarat, about 30 miles north of the city center. With a mission to “live longer and better,” there will be a focus on natural therapies and regenerative medicine, key totems of both the original SHA Spain and the newest arrival SHA Mexico, which opened in January 2024. There are no room rates yet; however, SHA Spain and SHA Mexico start at $7,796 and $5,770 respectively.

Highly in-demand luxury wellness real estate is also en route. While there’s no firm opening date yet, the UAE’s first wellness-focused residential community is coming to Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Grove. With prices starting around $767,785, the new low-rise hamlet the Source, will include one-, two-, and three-bed apartments as well as amenities such as a wellness concierge, rooftop zen gardens, and fitness spaces. According to real estate developer and manager Aldar, 148 units had to be added to the community after the initial 204 units were sold within days of its launch.

“[In Abu Dhabi], they have everything they need to build whatever it is they desire, and it happens very quickly here,” says Achilleos. “They have the capacity, the wealth, the minds. People from all over the world are migrating to the Middle East, [and] we’re part of that movement.”

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