Ras Al Khaimah has a lot to offer the rest of the UAE when it comes to chilling out: rolling sand dunes, spectacular beaches and lots of trails and nature to explore. And as of 2020, it also hosts the Middle East’s first year-round holistic wellness and detox destination: The Lighthouse Retreat.
I spent a day at this beautiful spot, located on the water behind the Al Hamrah Golf Club, beside the course. The 12 hours I spent there had the exact intended impact: I arrived frazzled and fragmented, and left calm and centered, returning to my nearby hotel for one of the best nights of sleep I had in ages.
There are seven days of options to choose from; ours started with a challenging outdoor hatha yoga class filled with sun salutations (don’t worry, our instructor Sam Nassiri adjusted the class upwards to advanced once he saw we were all regular yogis) and ended with a short nap during Yoga Nidra (a melt-in-to-your-mat guided meditation).
In between there was sound healing conducted by wellness manager Lisa Hamilton Smith that centered me down to my cells; a freeing, embodying Five Rhythms Dance Session led by wellness coach Anna Petroiska and a bit of free time for a standup paddle around the island and some heart-to-hearts with the friend who accompanied me. There is lots to explore at The Lighthouse Retreat, but also hideouts where you can take a breather, whether it’s in a hammock tied to the palm trees or on a comfy armchair facing the sea.
There are loads of other options to choose from, with sessions including ice baths, reiki, healing circles, hiking and more, and I can’t wait to return and try them out. Each day of the week has a schedule. It starts early, so if you are traveling from another emirate you may want to check into a local hotel. (And when the day wraps, you may be feeling so chill that a long drive home might not be ideal).
We had a gorgeous breakfast and lunch, which was mostly raw and plant-based, although there is a liquid detox option that includes juices, soups and smoothies. (There’s no coffee, so if you are an addict like me, you will do well to caffeine-dose before arriving.)
In my experience so many hotels in the UAE try to do wellness right and rarely hit the mark: what you get is someone’s idea of wellness, usually centered around a spa, and that results in an experience that costs a lot of money but is ultimately unsatisfying.
With its ability to focus, The Lighthouse Retreat is the real deal, and at Dh750 to Dh945 depending on the time of year, for a full-day experience it’s an incredible value. You could pay more than that just for a massage at a local five-star.
Co-founder Simon Dunn, a former professional golfer, and his wife Laura, a reiki master, clearly know their stuff, and it shows. It turns out their past selves are their current ideal customers, and they came up with their vision for the retreat after multiple trips abroad in search of their own much-needed balance.
“We were both at breaking point, mentally and physically,” explains Simon, who has also qualified as a yoga instructor. “We needed to press pause, get some headspace, and detox our bodies and minds. So, trips to wellness centres were booked. We didn’t quite know what to expect, and the results completely blew us away. The yoga, exercise and clean eating, combined with the healing sessions, gave us clarity and balance as well as amazing physical benefits; reducing blood pressure, clearing our skin, and flexing and strengthening our bodies.”
I’ve been to my share of top retreats abroad – Ananda Spa in the Himalayas and Chiva Som in Thailand – and The Lighthouse Retreat stacks up with what they’ve got on offer and the quality of the sessions, with the added bonus of being much accessible. This is just a beautiful, tranquil, rejuvenating spot run and staffed by authentic wellness practitioners who really know their stuff. I know I’ll return to again and again.
• The Lighthouse Retreat is only 45 minutes from Dubai, located at Al Hamra Golf Club, Lower Level, Al Hamra Village, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. A two-day stay is recommended, with five to seven for maximum results. Guests must arrange their own accommodation. All activities, refreshments and food are included. The retreat runs seven days a week, from 7am to 8pm.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.