Last updated at 5:01 PM on 4th January 2012
The president of the Maldives today ordered the country’s resorts to reopen their spas just days after they were shut following Islamic protests.
Mohammed Nasheed relented on his Saturday decree and instead asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the luxury treatment centres are legal or not.
The Indian Ocean islands are a paradise holiday destination renowned for its pristine white sand beaches, turquoise waters and high-end luxury resorts that often cost $1,000 a night.
The order to close the Muslim nation’s luxury spas, health centres and massage parlours threatened to sever a vital lifetime to its tourism-dependent economy.
Mr Nasheed made his first decision following a mass protest on December 23 calling for a halt to ‘anti-Islamic activities’.
TOP THREE HOTELS TO ‘LOSE THEIR LUSTRE’
One & Only Reethi Rah
This chic resort located on one of the biggest islands in the North Male Atoll is still top dog in the Maldives. It offers the height of luxury and privacy for its guests and attracts a jet-set crowd for whom money is no object.
Cost: Reethi Rah is home to 130 luxurious private beach and water villas. Prices start at £959 per room per night in January.
Spa: The spa is one of the highlights of the resort. It features crystal steam rooms and ice fountains and signature treatments include a volcanic hot stone massage and an exfoliating scrub that promises a sun-kissed glow.
The stunning wooden villas at this popular eco resort will bring out the Robinson Crusoe in you – they’re all built over water and have direct access to the resort’s lagoon. Plus, everything is open to the elements and the villas have all been built using only natural fibres.
Cost: Soneva Gili offers just 45 villas. Each has its own private water garden and sun deck and cost from £685 per night in January.
Spa: The resort’s Six Senses Spa boasts glass floor-panels and an extensive a la carte treatment menu. Treatments range from a 90-minute coconut body scrub to an ‘Asian Fusion Journey’ which lasts nearly six hours and includes three different massages.
Set within its very own lagoon, this resort boasts pristine white beaches, friendly staff and laid-back minimalism.
Cost: Each of the over-water bungalows at the resort features a private pool and prices start from £1160 per bungalow per night in January.
Spa: The cutting-edge underwater spa rooms are a major selling point for the resort and certainly have the wow factor. Tropical fish float past large windows as you indulge in treatments such as Unite Me Crystal Ritual, which involves an application of a sand and lime poultice and a coconut oil massage.
Other tourist activities that have caused offense are the eating of pork and drinking of alcohol.
Importation of alcohol is already severely prohibited in the Maldives and Islamists are now calling for a complete ban.
The Islamic opposition parties have been pressuring Mr Nasheed over the issues for months.
Today, Mr Nasheed asked the Supreme Court to decide whether operating spas is against the principles of Islam.
He – and many of those involved in the £1billion tourism sector in the Maldives – will be hoping the court allows the businesses to stay open.
The Maldives is a mainly Sunni Muslim nation of more than 1,200 atolls housing a population of 400,000.
Mr Nasheed said that following the ban, ‘the silent majority woke up and they wanted to reverse the ruling or the cry of the extremists’.
‘Such extreme calls don’t really quite find resonance with the majority of the people in the country,’ he told CNN.
Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition coalition Progressive Party of Maldives said the government’s earlier move was aimed at leisure business owned by some opposition members.
Mr Nasheed conceded on Saturday that many members of the Islamist opposition own many of the spas.
Opposition leaders involved in the tourism industry include Qasim Ibrahim, the founder and chairman of Villa Group, which owns five resorts in the Maldives.
Ibrahim is also the head of Jumhooree Party, which participated in the December 23 demonstration
‘We never asked for the ban,’ PPM spokesman Ahamed Mahloof said last week.
‘We wanted the liquor and massage clinics banned in inhabited islands to prevent prostitution and spread of drugs and alcohol to locals.
‘Nasheed is misusing the demands to take revenge by imposing the ban on resorts owned by the opposition members.’
Among the high-profile spas that would be affected by a ban is The Four Seasons at Kuda Huras, which charges $600 for a two-and-a-half hour spa treatment.
Other resorts also charge similar amounts. The country’s tourism minister said the move has already prompted calls from resorts affected.
‘Several have raised concerns over our decision. We are considering allowing resorts to operate spas. They are also aware of the reasons that led us to take the decision,’ Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa said.