When I arrived at the newly renovated Prima Oasis Spa Club hotel, the first thing they do is pop a cocktail in my hand, and fill me with trays of watermelon, sweets and peanuts, and then they say “come over here and have a massage by one of our masseuses” who are all waving next to their massage tables on the veranda overlooking the Dead Sea.
Next thing you know, I was face down and getting beaten up by Nata, (one of the above-mentioned experts) who had her elbow in my shoulder, saying “Wooy, wooy, you are so knotted up.” She kneaded it and rubbed it out, and told me that there were mostly Israelis coming to the hotel, with a few French and German and Americans.Then I jumped into the pool. The whole setup looks like a faux Thailand with little thatched sun shades and massive beds. The soothing music of gentle rock waifs over the water, with majestic desert cliffs rising just behind the hotel.“We made over the pool area, gave the rooms a facelift and renewed all the public areas,” says hotel general manager Kfir Elkarif.
The Prima hotel chain has combined two existing hotels, the Oasis and the Spa Club, into one property with 242 rooms and suites. They also made it the sole adult-only hotel on the Dead Sea, a move that they hope puts them in an exclusive league. It remains a mid-range hotel (four stars) who are targeting the ages of 40-70 with spa treatments, wellness seminars and inclusive packages of lectures and live music.
We were there to witness the launch of what is now called the Oasis Spa Club. The whole hotel has this 1980s vibe to it, from the multi-colored wave design carpet to the small rooms with vigorous air conditioners. It’s been renovated with a fresh coat of paint, but it’s the same old hotel with tiny windows overlooking the street and across it the Dead Sea beaches.
The theme that I kept getting at the Oasis Spa Club is common. This is a place for the common folk. It kind of reminded me of a police officers’ convention.
Later on, we went down to the meal. The food was common, too. Not as good as a wedding, but better than a bar mitzvah. Elkarif, the ubiquitous general manager, says it was barbeque night.
They had brought in the carcass of a cow and a fellow in a white chef’s outfit was hacking away at it and serving tasty chunks of meat. The selection was wide, and even included sushi. The live musician blowing the saxophone added a calming atmosphere.
After dinner, we head out to open-air patio surrounded with date palms and listen to the live music, since there is nothing else to do in Ein Bokek. They were playing 1980s music, but after one song the lead singer’s guitar popped a string. It took about 10 minutes to fix it. But then they were back playing good old rock and roll: Dire Straits, Queen and Elton John.
Evening at the hotel
MY PARTNER and I were dancing. We were the only ones. The other guests were dressed in relaxed outfits, like shorts, t-shirts, and even Hawaiian shirts and flowing dresses. In the back, Arabs and Jews alike were enjoying themselves. One group of Arab men sat in the back smoking a hooka, the men in t-shirts and shorts, and the ladies all wrapped up in head coverings. As I walked by, one of them looked at me, gave me a fist and said “Hazak!” (mighty). I wasn’t sure if he was threatening me or complimenting me on my dancing skills.
We were late already and went to the spa, which they kept open. It was all lit up with candles, nicely decorated in Moroccan-style tiles and niches. Soon, I was floating in a pool filled with Dead Sea salty water, eyes shut and letting the stress leave me. A Watsu instructor came in and showed us how to do one of those pool massages. My partner was swinging me around the pool, with other couples. Then I felt a heavy weight on my stomach and a chime reverberating under the water. Only when I opened my eyes did I see it was a huge brass Tibetan bowl and the Watsu instructor was beating it with a stick to get it to chime. And that was pretty cool.
I thought I’d check out the Hamam. It was empty. I threw loads of water on the hot marble slab and relaxed and sweated out my life’s tribulations. Finally, I headed to the sauna, where my partner was proving their hard coreness in approaching 10 minutes in the oven.
We returned to the room and found that the bed had been turned down and little chocolate hearts wrapped in gold foil placed on the sheets.
In the morning, we forwent the guided walk along the gorgeous promenade by the shore and chose a late breakfast. The hotel is actually not on the beach, which is across the parking lot, down the main road and then on to the beach. They offer you towels and folding chairs that you must schlep with you.
Hotel manager Elkarif says they want guests to leave their bags in the room and come down to enjoy the activities.
“We have hydropilates at the pool, yoga at the sea and lots of lectures. We have entertainment. It’s not a Club Med, but every evening we have live music,” he said.
He said it wasn’t the facelift, the new furniture or chandeliers they were counting on to draw new customers, but rather the new concept of a spa without children.
“I think that is our forte and the main benefit we want to market,” he said.
I’m definitely returning.
The price for double rooms midweek is NIS 860, including breakfast, and NIS1,280 on weekends.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.