A girl’s retreat is just what’s needed to escape the stresses of modern life. Kate Ginn joins in.
Around the room were women of different ages, sizes and natures. They were wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and cousins. They were also doctors, oil and gas specialists, businesswomen, teachers, stay-at-home mums and entrepreneurs. And all of them were also, as suggested by the title of the retreat they were attending, “more than just a woman”.
Being judged because of their gender, based on preconceptions or ideas, is something they have all encountered at least once in their lives. They were here to remember that they were more than a label.
Called “More than a Woman”, the day-long retreat last Friday (April 29) organised by Whispers of Serenity, a wellness and mental health clinic in Muscat, was designed exclusively with modern women in mind.
“The title of this retreat was chosen to represent the many qualities possessed by a woman in the workplace,” says Sayyida Basma al Said, the founder of Whispers of Serenity and a trained psychotherapist.
“A career woman is a mother, a spouse, a daughter, a role model, a multi-tasker and essentially so much more. This retreat acknowledges and celebrates the many roles women play in our society.”
The retreat was the second in a planned series, with the first one held in the beautiful surroundings of the Damaniyat Islands in March. This time, the venue was The Chedi hotel in Azaiba.
More than 20 women gathered, with some travelling from other GCC countries.
“I’ve come from Kuwait for this,” says Zainab, a vivacious dark-haired lady. “This is my second retreat. I went to the first one and it was so great that I said that I would not miss this one. I am learning so much about myself.”
On the agenda was a full day covering everything from meditation to laughter yoga and inter-personal skills to work-life balance.
First, it was time for a quick introduction and why we had all come. Usually, a Friday in Oman is reserved for extended family time.
The reasons ranged from changing routine, an escape from family and kids to wanting to rediscover their inner selves.
Some, like me, were simply keen to meet some new faces. “You are more than what you think you are,” Sayyida Basma tells us. “You are going to discover things that you have inside you. People say she’s just a woman, but you’re more than just a woman. Each of you are amazing and unique, never forget that.”
It was stirring stuff and you could feel a surge of energy ripple from woman to woman around the room like a Mexican wave. We were split into four groups and told to come up with a name to reflect how we felt. My group was christened “Dynamo”, while the other four were “Vibrant”, “The Unplugged” and “Strong Souls”.
We felt our name reflected our dynamic and strong personalities.
Then we learned how to look as good in the home or boardroom as we might feel, with colour analysis and body image from fashion stylist Charlie, who is originally from Belgium but now plies her trade in Muscat and Dubai.
It was quite an eye-opener. “I’m passionate about colours,” says Charlie, who is wearing a bright pink jacket, royal blue top, bright floral leggings and pink shoes.
“The right colours will make you look vibrant, your skin look good and eyes pop out.
“Colour is your secret weapon.”
It was not all about sitting and listening. There were plenty of activities spread out throughout the day to get our bodies and minds moving, including office yoga.
I also tried laughter yoga for the first time. It was, as you would imagine, a lot of fun. You don’t have to be happy to laugh, it seems, and forced laughter has the same benefits (increased endorphin flow) as genuine mirth.
On the subject of work-life balance and stress – something most of us can relate to – we got some insights from Dhikra Murad al Saidy, a psychologist at Whispers of Serenity, on how to set personal boundaries and ensure we don’t cross them, such as learning to say “no” and sticking to it (as women, we tend to keep taking on tasks, even when we’re already overloaded, apparently).
Fatima al Dhaheri, 33, who works as a television presenter in Abu Dhabi, had flown in with her friends to do the retreat. “I wanted to come to Oman. I haven’t been here before and this programme was very interesting for me.
“I learned that you have to care about yourself, whether you are married, have children or are single or have work. You have to think in a positive way and find balance.”
Hanadi has recently returned to work at the Ministry of Health in Oman after giving birth to her baby daughter four months ago. A busy mum – she also has a four-year-old boy – her new job will require a lot of her energy too.
“In the Omani culture, we always have the support of our extended family to help us take care of the kids, drop off and pick up from school and it’s really a blessing that we do have family around,” she explains.
“But sometimes you do feel that it’s all your responsibility. To meet up with a lot of women who are successful and big achievers in their own way makes you realise that you’re not alone.
“There are other people just like you. So you have a different kind of support network with women who have the same kinds of challenges as you. It’s amazing to learn from them and share experiences.”
Abeer, who is currently working for her family business in infrastructure, was also keen to meet like-minded women.
“You see that you are the not the only stressed or busy person or someone who finds it hard to balance things. There are people who are going through the same.”
It’s been a fun, tiring and informative day. And by the end, we all leave knowing that we truly are “more than just a woman”.
There are plans for more retreats, possibly one in Salalah, over the year. Keep an eye out for details.
More details about Whispers of Serenity clinic at:
Fashion stylist Charlie can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or search definitely.charlie on Instagram and Facebook