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26 Apr

Confessions of a scentaholic

Schehrezade Spa in Karachi knocks in the heady scent of essential oils and explains why a massage isn’t completely effective without a blend that’s customized for you.

Forget retail therapy for just a second because as you enter the equally gratifying world of aromatherapy you’ll realize what you’ve been missing.

I know I’ve been long gone from this space, throwing myself completely into fashion, fashion week and the correlating work that has equated to something very close to stress-hell. But lucky for me that I chanced upon a heavenly space in Karachi – a haven of holistic health – that helped me keep my sanity intact when all madness was running lose. All of you addicted to their massages, those stress-easing sessions of aromatherapy or reflexology that cure you with the right touch, will understand what I’m saying. These healing hands are quite difficult to come across in Pakistan – they are mostly luxuries of the Oriental East – but you need to visit this place to become a believer.

Tucked away in one of the residential lanes behind Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine is Schehrazade Spa, a space infused with a heady concoction of house-blended therapeutic oils. For women who understand the importance of mind and body balance and who want to reap the benefits of alternative therapy, this place is the answer to their problems.

To be honest, I really don’t qualify as one of ‘those’ women. I’m someone who’d rather take a painkiller for a headache and a muscle relaxant for stress; anything for a quick fix but I’ve started singing a different tune these days. Just as having the right doctor – someone you can trust makes the world of a difference in any treatment – having the right therapist is just as necessary. And Farhana Millwala comes across as someone very sure of what she’s doing. A qualified aromatherapist, she has been practicing for over a decade in Dubai, now bringing her elixirs – the fragrant blends of oil – to Karachi with the help of her partner Shafaq Fatima.

Most of us in Karachi lose our sense of smell very early on. I think its defense mechanism otherwise our brains would go crazy processing the stench of a receding coastline, stinking fish and sea food waste and the general putridity in the air. But a whiff of Millwala’s little laboratory within the spa has the power to reverse that within seconds. She blends oils and scrubs herself, importing her ingredients from Germany and Australia.

Did you know that pure oils are not oily at all? Olive oil, which we all swear by, is beneficial but usually too heavy to carry on your skin all day. Grape seed or almond seed oil is a better base. Did you also know that only essential oils – the virgin extracts from plants and herbs – have the ability to penetrate the skin, which is why they are truly effective? Different essential oils have different properties: a whiff of chamomile (which actually smells horrible!) can put the worse insomniacs to sleep whereas pink grapefruit seed oil suppresses hunger. Victoria Beckham apparently swears by it and always keeps a smell-stick handy!

The scrubs are just as exotic, ranging from the regular honey and almond to various concoctions of coffee and orange, almond flowers, calendula lemon twist, even pearl dust and the purest mix of ubtan. Blended with the right oils, these scrubs are massaged into the body and then washed off under the most relaxing rain-showers. The experts recommend that you end this Moroccan Bath ritual in the Bukhoor chamber, which is an ancient Arab method of perfuming the body. All this exotica is quite aphrodisiacal, I’ve been warned, especially of you opt for an oil that is ideally blended for brides!

The Spa offers an entire range of services that you’ll find anywhere – I’d personally recommend the facials done by Shahana – but it’s the oils that make this place unique.

“We’re all looking for a good massage,” says Farhana Millwala, “but for most of us it begins and ends with the massage technique. That’s important for muscle relief – after all there are 7000 muscles in one foot alone – but it’s the essential oils that penetrate the skin and bring long-term benefits to the person. That’s what we are focusing on at Schehrezade Spa.”

It’s important to book an appointment with Millwala before walking in; she’s the one who’ll recommend your blend. And as not all hands are as well trained as the others, it may take you two to three visits to identify the masseuse of your liking. And once you like, you’re hooked. The prices at SS are just as light as the oils offered and the cherry on the pie is the Kids Klub daycare facility connected to the Spa. For minimal charges, you can deposit your kids with the professional care at KK while you retreat upstairs.

So when you’re getting your feet massaged in the quiet sanctuary of the spa – a hot cherry bag on your shoulders to relieve those aching muscles and an icy cold mint towel on your face to ease away the tiredness around your eyes – you can afford to literally leave your baggage at the doorstep and step into an hour or two of complete bliss.

The Haute Team