The shushing of waves sliding up the sandy shore. The soft ruffling of the wind through the leaves of the trees. The sweet chirruping of brightly coloured birds. The occasional growl of thunder like a lion in the undergrowth and the edgy lullaby of the call to prayer. Not the usual sounds of the gym! But this week is different. I’m in Hammamet, Tunisia on a wellness week, an energy and fitness retreat. Call it what you will, it’s a restorative indulgence that both challenges and recharges the body, mind and spirit.
Our days begin on a decked wooden terrace overlooking a perfect turquoise infinity pool that in turn hangs over the welcoming waves of the Mediterranean lapping the beach below. To the amusement of the other hotel guests, we pound the boards energetically in our daily morning Zumba class. Upbeat tunes dance out of the sound system; we jump and shake and shimmy with enthusiasm. Then it’s straight into a low impact class like yoga or pilates, to stretch out our muscles and build our suppleness and flexibility, or a fun choreography class to learn the moves of a popular dance style such as the West African azonto. With the rest of the day at our disposal, until two further classes in the evening, there’s plenty of time to relax on the beach or by the hotel pools, or explore a little. The ancient fort and the narrow streets of the medina in nearby Hammamet, perched right on the coast, are interesting places to while and haggle away a few hours. Further afield are the postcard-perfect town of Sidi Bou Said, all gleaming white walls, graceful arches, enticing Arabic doors and bright bougainvillae; the stunning Roman amphitheatre of El-Jem and the alluring rows of shops in the old souk of Tunis.
But it’s our teachers who have made this a special week. The enthusiasm, commitment and downright hard work that Chloe and Tara put in make the exercise sessions a genuine pleasure, however much the moves might test us. From serene stretching to zest-for-life Zumba, from the surprisingly demanding ‘willpower and grace’ to the high energy fun of the dance circuits and routines, every class is joyful and tough in a different way. And the energy and ‘have-a-go’ attitude of everyone on the holiday, a mixed bunch of women of all ages (from 20-somethings to 80-something), shapes, sizes and fitness levels is inspiring. The whole week is a boost on every level and I will be heading back home feeling rested, fitter and healthier. Count me in for next year!