Sophia Bakkal and Rachel Dowes, co-founders of Beyond Wellness, share the inspiration behind the amazing work they do in the region and beyond in the realm of holistic wellbeing
“Living in Dubai for the last 11 years, we have fallen in love with the city and it has become home to our families. While we have travelled and worked all over the world, there are few places we would rather be. The UAE is such a diverse cultural melting pot, rich with opportunities, especially in the wellness arena. We’ve both worked in the UAE’s corporate world, experiencing six- to seven-day working weeks ourselves and we’ve seen expats doing the same to support their families while living away from them. But we are now witnessing a shift. It is wonderful to see both individuals and the businesses they work for beginning to make wellness a priority. And what better environment to do so than the UAE.
“Here, we’ve hosted wellness retreats beside the ocean and also under the desert stars. Unlike other places around the world, the concept of wellbeing retreats is relatively new here, so the impact and personal transformations we witness with our guests are often so much more dramatic. This makes our work very rewarding.
“Beyond Wellness is inspired by our personal transformation journeys over more than 15 years. Having explored close to a hundred renowned retreats around the world, it became clear that the majority of these focus on the physical being while forgetting that the spiritual, emotional and mental health aspects are equally important. Furthermore, while many retreats felt hugely transformative at the time, the crucial long-term support and community element beyond the retreat was missing and so it became easy to slip back into the old habits. Hence, Beyond Wellness was born.
“An entirely new concept, we offer a 360-degree mind, body and spirit experience encompassing physical, mental and spiritual wellness in its entirety. With a supportive global community and a team of wellness experts, we are always on hand to support our clients not only during but also after the retreat.
“Beyond the UAE, our retreats are set in some of the world’s most tranquil locations. We believe that being close to nature is important for self-healing, so all our experiences are held within natural beauty. Our Maldives retreat is the most popular simply because there’s nothing quite like seeing dolphins swimming by during a yoga session or meditating at night on the beach and witnessing bioluminescent plankton lighting up the ocean.
“In the UAE, our three-day programme is the most popular. Since the natural environment is so important for healing, our last retreats were hosted on the lush grounds of Park Hyatt Dubai and by the seaside at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas. All our guests are treated to a three-day wellness programme, where they get to relax, unwind, connect with themselves and each other within a five-star environment and participate in a selection of transformational activities, such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, life coaching, hypnotherapy, integrative energy healing or crystal healing.
“The pandemic brought about a dramatic rise in the levels of stress, anxiety and depression. With the current climate and with personal health on everybody’s mind, wellness tourism is expected to be the biggest travel trend in 2021. Our retreats are also inspired by these trying times. For instance, with the increasing pressures, couple and family retreats are in great demand and soon, we will be offering our first men’s retreat in the UAE.
“With countries around the world preparing to open their borders once again, we are gearing up to cater to an unprecedented demand for wellness travel. This is very promising for us.”