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Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea (Late 2023)
Six Senses Zil Pasyon
July 17, 2023 - The aptly named Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea invites you to an oasis filled with birdsong within sweeping desert vistas. It’s as refreshing as the Kingdom’s new take on tourism. It’s a new dawn and you are most welcome.
Since its beginnings, Six Senses has ventured to less-trodden corners of the world in the interest of understanding, communication, community, and discovering unexplored treasures. So why not Saudi Arabia, where Red Sea Global is establishing a luxury regenerative tourism destination along the western shore? The flagship resort opening later this year will be Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea.
If the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 serves as a blueprint for economic and social reform, stories from the past also fire our imaginations. For millennia, the region has been crisscrossed by Nabataean traders and pilgrims (and the Queen of Sheba), and this Bedouin heritage inspires everything from the rich colors and patterns in the internal design to the quirky adventures awaiting guests.
“Our architectural approach pays homage to our panoramic dune surroundings and Nabataean heritage, and it’s our job to bring it to life with innovation and memorable guest journeys from arrival to departure and beyond,” says Sammar Hattab, Director of Marketing & Communications. Incidentally, Sammar is one of the first licensed female private aircraft pilots in Saudi Arabia, having originally completed her training in Jordan in 2004. With Saudi and Colombian roots, she also has four languages and a Six Sigma in DevOps under her belt.
Sammar continues, “The lessons of the past serve as the bedrock for building a brighter future. From innovative sustainability workshops at the Earth Lab to our biohacking bundles for quick health fixes, rich culinary culture, and the luxury of feeling well-rested in our beautiful villas, this is where your Six Senses experience truly comes alive.”
The heart of the resort is the Oasis, designed by British architects Foster + Partners to reflect a desert flower. The canopy of petals is a self-shading structure, blurring the lines between the natural finishes inside and the native plants and water features outside. The base structure is a modular system that was precast offsite to ensure energy-efficient construction and minimal contact with the ground to leave most of the site undisturbed, natural, and authentic. Butterflies and birds are already in abundance, the latter accompanying the magical burnt orange sunsets with sweet harmonies.
Marketing Assistant Leena Bakhsh, who studied and worked as a journalist in Mecca followed by two years working in hospitality in AlUla, explains the plan for the Oasis: “Just as the region’s incense and textile traders traveling to Asia, Africa, or Europe gathered around the fire to share food and stories, our Oasis will incorporate this community aspect and extend traditional desert hospitality. The Artisan pods will host our sadu weaver friends, and there will be many opportunities to meet with the local community and explore the region’s cultural heritage through dance and music.”
Red Sea Global’s commitment to its regenerative tourism vision is well documented. The aim is to increase conservation value by 30 percent over the coming decades.
Who better to ask about our own sustainability credentials than Tara Hammond, who you’ll most likely find in the Earth Lab? Starting her career in sustainability at Six Senses Zighy Bay back in 2008, when few hospitality companies outside Six Senses even had such a role, Tara now heads up the team at Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea. With her Indian and Irish roots, a childhood spent in Italy, and a life in Bali, she now brings her eco-credentials to become one of the first Directors of Sustainability in a resort in Saudi Arabia.
“Red Sea Global chose Six Senses as the most aligned with their vision. If we succeed, it will be a blueprint for regenerative tourism in this part of the world,” says Tara. “Let’s start with our electricity, which is completely powered by our own dedicated solar farm. There are currently 11,228 panels generating up to 5 megawatts of power. This saves around 7 metric tons of carbon a year. Red Sea Global also taps into the biggest planned battery storage system in the world, and the hope is for the entire development project to run completely off-grid. Electric vehicles are powered by renewable electric energy. There’s a saying that you have to create your own sunshine until the clouds disappear, and I guess that sums up my optimism for the positive impact we can make here.”
As you descend to the spa, the honeycomb walls mirror the familiar undulating patterns of the dunes, guiding you to a salon, barber, biohacking recovery lounge, and onwards to three single, two double treatment rooms (the Frankincense Suite offers Rasul treatments), and a hammam. As with all Six Senses spas, the unique destination has led to unique, locally inspired touches. As she opens each door in this wonderland of wellness, Area Spa Director Adeline Wee isn’t giving everything away, but it’s impossible not to feel excited.
“For starters, there’s a sound and meditation dome installed in the sensory suite, which will take guests on an immersive journey through the power of sound frequencies and guided relaxation,” says Adeline. “Anti-aging facials feature Biologique Recherche, already a firm favorite among Six Senses regulars, while each separate changing area has its own infra-red salt sauna, sauna, cold plunge pool, steam room, and relaxation area.” Malaysian-born Adeline has lived and worked in 10 countries, firstly in marketing before pursuing a path in herbal medicine and naturopathy. Her eight years working for Six Senses have brought her full circle to combine her learning with hospitality. The “heartbeat of the spa”, as Adeline calls it, is the vitality pool and Juice Bar, which doubles as the Alchemy Bar. Cool and shady, this indeed features one of the best dune views in Saudi Arabia (if not anywhere). Upstairs is for the active, with a fitness suite, personal training space, and as many classes as your leggings can stand, including aerial yoga and spin cycling.
As for treatments, the Sumptuous Oud and Myrrh Hammam brings local Arabic influences into the wellness journey, along with the Desert Bliss treatment, where you lie on a special quartz bed. The bed warms around you to induce a deep state of relaxation, combined with chromotherapy, which uses the healing power of color and light. If you’re feeling the effects of jet lag or a little out of balance, or even if you just have a spare hour while you’re here, Six Senses Spa is an absolute treasure trove of wonders. “We’re truly honored to bring pioneering wellness to the first resort to open as part of the Red Sea project.”
In Saudi Arabia, the food deserves its own standing ovation. The multitude of dining locations – including Al Sarab at the pinnacle – ensures that every day is a unique culinary adventure.
Along with the Pool Bar & Grill, Gelato Pod, and Merkaz Restaurant and Brew Bar, the all-day Bariya restaurant spills out onto a convivial terrace. People can also come together to learn local gastronomy secrets from Ayse Aktan at the Cooking School. There are even classes for little ones.
Ayse is our first plant-based, gluten-free chef working in a resort in Saudi Arabia. Following some personal lifestyle changes in 2017, she has since worked across the Middle East to show people that healthy, healing food is also flavorful and scrumptious. Her top three? “I make cashew cheese with a hint of basil or cilantro, and red paprika. I also love fermented food, and I’m fairly sure my kimchi dumplings will feature on the vegan degustation menu. Don’t forget my cakes! My raw cakes use local mangos, dates, and raw cacao or carob and are sugar and gluten free, and vegan.”
Join Ayse at Merkaz, where she is changing hearts and minds one plate and one mouthful at a time or, for a truly special evening, learn a few secrets from Executive Chef Simon Joublanc during his Chef’s Table. Born in France and trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Simon is looking forward to creating something truly unique, “It is a special responsibility to showcase Saudi cuisine and culture, combined with our ethos of sensory, fresh, and local food that tastes and looks good. We’ll tailor our Chef’s Table to our guests but I’m looking forward to introducing desert techniques such as Hamed lamb, which is slow cooked in a roasting pit and filled with markha, a herb only sourced in Saudi Arabia. Our fruits, such as watermelon and mango, will arrive fresh from Umluj, and in time we’ll also harvest fresh produce from our kitchen garden.”
As dusk melts the sun across the dunes into the Red Sea, the change in light triggers night-time birdsong and a final swoop before roosting. Quieter and gentler but no less joyous. This is a reminder that whether an ancient trader, modern-day pilgrim, or curious holidaymaker, there is something quite special to sing about here.
Lose yourself in the magic of the desert and enjoy 15 percent off our Best Flexible Rate with our Desert Escape offer.