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India's Ancient Beauty

By: Bryan Durocher
Posted: September 25, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
A room at the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, India

Each room at the elegant Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra in Agra, India, offers a stunning view of the Taj Mahal.

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I was given a choice of one of nine essential oils to add to the 100% virgin olive oil that would be used for the massage, including rose, geranium and clementine, but I opted for an incredibly fragrant sandalwood. The therapist was one of the most adept I’ve ever experienced, and the massage included lots of circulatory-enhancing strokes that revived me from my travel-induced sluggishness. The 90-minute treatment ended with a special face, scalp and hair massage using the olive oil, and I then remained in my private suite for a luxurious steam, sauna and shower. When Denise and I reunited, she reported a similarly excellent experience, and we both felt completely invigorated.

As for the takeways, in the midst of the chaos of New Delhi, a peaceful spa oasis was welcome indeed. Our treatment fortified us so we were able to face the crowds and noise to experience some of the wonders the city had to offer. And while thoroughly separating the sexes at Amatrra was probably based on cultural and religious guidelines, I appreciated the fact that the men’s amenities, such as the robes and briefs, were not an afterthought, as well as that the accommodations for male guests were as well thought-out, appropriate and luxurious as they were for women.

Finally, while the full impact of some of the treatments, such as the Astroveda concept, eluded me, I did appreciate the unique indigenous touches of the aromatherapy additives, face and scalp treatment, and the initial foot ritual that were part of my massage.

Rock star service

From New Delhi, we traveled to Agra, the site of the Taj Mahal. This time we had to navigate a tumultuous domestic airport in New Delhi for the short flight, but once we arrived, we were treated to incredible service. Our hotel, The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, is located just a little more than 650 yards from the Taj Mahal, and it’s been rated as the sixth best hotel in the world by readers of Travel & Leisure magazine. We arrived on Thursday, and the Taj Mahal is closed on Friday, so our driver phoned the hotel, and the moment we arrived, we were ushered to a golf cart and whisked off to tour the monument while the hotel staff saw to our luggage.

The Taj Mahal itself is magical and breathtaking. Often cited as one of the seven wonders of the world, it was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife and was completed in 1653. Pure white marble, exquisite ornamentation, precious gemstones and its picturesque location make this one of the most romantic and mesmerizing places on earth. Denise and I decided right then and there to incorporate Taj-inspired mosaics and marble into her new spa.