After months of trying to eat a balanced diet, I realised a trip to Chenot Palace Wellness Hotel Gabala in Azerbaijan, is probably what I needed. Here’s the catch – I had to survive on 800 calories per day!

Packed my clothing according to the weather conditions – I usually do this a few hours before a flight because for some reason I’m too busy to pack! – and headed off to Terminal 2 in Dubai to board my FlyDubai flight to Gabala – they do direct flights certain times of the year.

I had no idea what to expect. I agreed to head out on this press trip to detox, and sure, enjoy a bit of serenity amongst the mountains, sun bathe, and catch up on reading. Once I met the other ladies I discovered that first off, they didn’t serve coffee – unfortunately Dubai Duty Free didn’t have coffee sachets – and secondly, I’ll be consuming only 800 calories per day. 800!

Now, to give you an idea about my daily eating habits. I love my gluten-free granola bowl with chia and berries for breakfast. This is usually followed by either a salad, sandwich or the previous night’s leftovers for lunch, snacks – dates with cashew nut butter or fruit – and maybe a protein shake after the gym, and finally dinner. The PM meal is the time of day when Mr. T Raf usually cooks. It’s hardly ever anything healthy, and almost always a quick meal because we’re too exhausted and want to cram in a TV show before bed.

Back to my trip at Chenot Palace. What did I sign up for? The Chenot Method devised by Henri Chenot over 45 years ago. The programme caters to individual requirements and comprises a combination of treatments and a stringent diet to eliminate toxins, while increasing vitality. The wellness hotel is quite a frequent visit for certain celebrities, especially in Merano, Italy.

This wellness retreat in Gabala, Azerbaijan, is secluded, sited near the Nohur lake, and absolutely serene. You can hear birds chirping in the morning, take a swim in between spa appointments, breathe in fresh air, and cycle around the resort when you aren’t at the gym or a yoga class.

I had nothing but a coffee the afternoon I was flying, and passed on meals onboard FlyDubai in the hope that my hotel suite would have a fruit platter or mini-bar I could raid! To my surprise, there wasn’t a mini-bar or any food in sight for that matter. And so, my detox began the night before I intended to.


You get to roam around the resort, and dine in, the plush robes. This is something I adhered to quite quickly, and so I headed out to breakfast the next morning in my free-flowing ensemble with the Chenot Palace bag and diary in hand. I tried my luck with a coffee – maybe they had one in the staff pantry, right!? Unfortunately, they didn’t, and I was served barley coffee instead. It is quite close to the real deal and doesn’t taste too bad. A bowl of tart berry compote accompanied my beverage, and I ordered the porridge too (meant for those on the Biolite menu who have to consume an additional 300 calories per day).

The consultations and treatments are held at the ridiculously massive spa that houses the medical wing, an indoor swimming pool, one of the best gyms I’ve ever come across that takes the term “state-of-the-art equipment” to a whole new level, and spa facilities (sauna, steam and hammam). Day one began with the lovely and chatty Dr. Saida who kindly mentioned my blood pressure was low. This is particularly due to me unwilling skipping a meal the night before. She then asks if I suffer from interrupted sleep to which I reply “Yes! Thanks to my partner’s snoring.” She giggles to a heart’s content as I ask for tips on tackling the one most annoying thing that wakes me from my deep sleep. I am taken to Dr. Ioannis Feroukas soon after for a bioenergy check-up. Two metal prongs are placed into my hands to analyse the functionality of my insides. A lot was revealed, and I was left in a state of shock, but Dr. Ioannis confirmed there was nothing to be worried about. “Just follow the plan properly,” he said calmly.

On the list is a hydro-aromatherapy bath – a relaxing 20-minute session of jets shooting into your legs, back, arms and tummy. The bath was fresh and invigorating, thanks to the essential oils, and the lights in the room were kept a deep indigo – according to my aura colour mentioned by Dr. Ioannis. I head to the next room for a Phyto-mud wrap treatment where it all got a bit messy but fascinating. The wrap entails a warm mixture of seaweed and good-for-your-skin ingredients that are applied to the body. This was followed by a wrap with plastic sheets and me sinking into the water bed for a deep 20-minutes nap. You wake up feeling refreshed, with smooth skin the minute you wash off at the in-room shower.

In between treatments, I sipped on detox water (with apple cider vinegar or lemon) and digestive herbal tea to commit fully to the detox. Now, the lunch scenario. Most meals are 3-courses beginning with fruit – which I polished off in a few bites – followed by a salad and main course. On day 1, I relished each grain of my brown risotto with tomato and black olive pesto – mindful eating at its best. Some of the highlights of my meals were the seitan burgers with roasted veggies, pineapple ravioli, and veggie noodles. All meals were free from chicken, seafood and meat; however, they do serve protein – and pizza! – on the Biolite menu.

The first two days I had a terrible headache and tried to spend as much time in the tranquil ozone-powered outdoor pool that’s free from chlorine and chemicals. Swimming here is a dream. The water is pure and feels as good as clean, filtered drinking water.

Treatments I absolutely loved at Chenot Palace

Your schedule becomes muscle-memory after a day or two, even though you are handed a daily agenda. On day two, I tried the Chenot Palace energetic massage using suction cups. My therapist massaged my back with a warm oil, followed by the application of a cup to draw impurities. Skin was yanked into various directions as she moved along the body without leaving even a single cup mark. The movements were slow and gentle, with a slight tingle from the cup. This soon became one of the treatments I looked forward to daily.

In addition to the recommended schedule you can opt in for other treatments, facials and massages too. Try Cryotherapy – if you haven’t tried Cryo in Dubai – where you enter the first chamber set at -10 degrees Celsius and finish at the third chamber at -112.1 degrees Celsius – all within three to five minutes, and in your swimsuit and sneakers. The treatment instantly relieves muscle pain, boosts blood circulation, reduces inflammation, and is said to assist with weight loss, anxiety and depression. You will feel like an ice cream in a pit of shaved ice, especially when your lashes gather icicles for a few seconds. The minute you step out you have enough energy to run a marathon and can zone in and focus on just about any task at hand – great for those who missed reading, or exercising, the first few days.

The verdict

On the last day of my trip my belly felt less bloated, my swollen feet had subsided, and my body appeared and felt toned and lean thanks to the cupping, wraps and hydro baths.

Of course, the real test was when I came back to reality and my daily routine. I couldn’t skip my freshly brewed cup of coffee at work. I did, however, ease myself into my “normal food habits” with a nutritious salad topped with grilled chicken. At the gym, I had plenty of energy to sprint and lift heavier weights, and while I did go up in calorie intake, I kept it wholesome and clean. That was until my partner ordered pizza! I try to incorporate a few elements from the Chenot Method, such as eating fruit before main course, and only during breakfast and lunch.

Maybe it’s time for a trip back?

Watch this Chenot Palace  video for a tour of the premises and my experience 

Got FOMO? The three-day active detox programme at Chenot Palace is available from Euros 1,580 (approximately Dhs6,790) per person. It may be a tad bit pricey, but trust us, it’s great for those looking to lose a few pounds, or even just re-you’re your system.