The highway connecting mind, body, and soul is a journey that requires maintenance and daily efforts. There are endless experiences and methods out there for everyone to seek out, and for them to determine just which one may click with them. One such person who found her own path, jumpstarted with the motivation on what it is she herself would like to see implemented, and stemming from her burning desire in connecting people with each other, was none other than Nouran Salah. This globetrotter, a certified specialist in applied functional sciences in Gray Institute, USA, has been redefining the very essence of what a holistic retreat entails. Blending in mobility, meditation, and strenuous activities with a heavy dose of adventure in ethereal nature, Nouran has touched down on almost every location within Egypt. Her retreats are not of the conventional types we hear about, as her modus operandi involves stripping away our comfort zone to its bare skin. In addition, Nouran also has five years of pole dance and active mobility movement experience under her belt. Upon hearing of her, we wasted no time in getting to know the bold and venturesome character behind the retreats. And so, without further ado, check what we found out below.
I started traveling since I was 19 years old, which isn’t really young, but coming from a conservative family, I wasn’t allowed to travel before then. So i started traveling solo 12 years ago, and I took a vow with myself that by the age of 30, I will be done traveling to 30 countries abroad, and finishing up Egypt entirely (literally).
I don’t travel to have fun; all of my travels were missionary, looking for value out of every trip. I always tried to apply for exchange programs, volunteering camps, and short term studies, because I always wanted to go on a mission and come back with value. My trips included a lot of circle talks discussing how we can have a social impact on the world, how we can reach the best versions of ourselves, and how we can build our own startup. Other trips were about the importance of the feminism movement, in which I took a role of being a host trainer, sharing my social activism movement in Egypt around the world, and encouraging others to take part in this fight. And other trips included an incredible amount of connection to strangers, and putting myself in the most dangerous situations one could ever imagine, just to learn more about the human heart, limits, and to test my very own strength and intelligence in dealing with difficult situations.
All of my educational years at school and university never taught me any of those I mentioned. I learned all of that by putting myself out there in what we can call the danger zone, which is far away from comfort, just to learn more about myself and my capabilities. Some years ago, I started a blog called ”see the world through my eyes,” and shared all my creepy stories around the world, along with the conferences, trainings, camps, and diplomas that I took part in. I started including people to my trips, because I wanted people to experience what I experienced that I found very valuable and soul fulfilling. I started with my mom, and made her stay in hostels, meet locals, go on hikes, and go through all those risks of last minute bookings. She came back and told everyone about how fulfilling the trip was, and she really thinks that this trip was incomparable to any other. The same also happened with my sister, who is an extreme introvert. She came back with hundreds of stories to tell, and keeps repeating till this very day.
I have always received a very common message on my Instagram after posting about my trips, ”I WISH I CAN TRAVEL WITH YOU.” I received this so many times, and it inspired me a lot that I had to start something, but I never knew what it was. Until, I was invited to go on a retreat last October, 2020, to Nuweiba with a yoga instructor, and my goal was to go and do more advanced yoga, and to connect with people. The yoga was done nicely, but apart from that, the trip was so dead and soulless; no added value at all. It was too difficult to connect with anyone, despite of how, in general, I am a real social butterfly. Something always felt wrong. I felt very disappointed at the potential of how this retreat could have really transformed lives, but the moderator in my point of view, failed miserably.
I went back to Cairo and thought a lot about what went wrong. Why did I feel this way? And then I starting writing down all the pros and cons of this trip. This is when the eureka moment hit me, and I decided okay, now it’s time to deliver all that I’ve learned in the past 12 years from my experiences around the world, and to cater a retreat that could change lives, and add value to each and everyone. I started in November 2020 by going to the White and Black Desert in Bahareya Oasis. The trip included a lot of hiking, cave meditation, cleansing rituals, a lot of yoga, less food, camping in the middle of nowhere, circle talks to learn about each other, and rotational rounds in the 4×4 cars everyday, to force you to get to know other people. The feedback was mind blowing! Everyone loved it so much! People came back from the retreat telling me how this made them realize that, we really don’t need a lot of food to survive. How they should include movement in their daily lives (most of them ended up signing up for my online classes), how they connect more with humans and meet new people often, how they need to get to know more locals, and more importantly, how they need to give back.
A month later, I catered another retreat to Sinai, which was four cities in four days during New Years. My retreats are no chill or relax. My idea was always to go back to basics. To go back to our origin, to get in touch with real human nature, which was based on hunting and moving all the time. This is how our bodies are created and programmed, and this new world is destroying it. And, this is why we are full of diseases and body issues. I am always keen to get people to find a healthy path to stick with, and to grow within. Then, I catered another retreat to the Nubian village to learn a lot about their culture and their way of living. It doesn’t necessarily mean to only visit museums and have Nile tours, but getting in touch with the culture is so important. The fact that I know a lot of locals in all governorates around Egypt, helps me cater the best heartfelt retreats. I was able to get them to eat in local Nubian houses, and to meet as many people as possible on the islands. On our last day of the retreat, we went to a village, gathered a lot of kids, and spent three hours with them teaching them how to draw, danced with them, and gave them clothes, shoes, and toys. Giving back and charity are also great foods to the soul, and this is why I include it in all of my retreats. It gives you the chance to learn about the locals, get into their houses, experience how they treat the women, and how the children are raised. You will only get to see this by helping them.
The last retreat in April was in Siwa, and here I invited an Argentinian entrepreneur to come along as a host for the retreat, and to host two sessions about the life of an entrepreneur. It was also to show how to make each one get in touch with his/her limiting beliefs, and what is stopping them from reaching the best versions of themselves in their career life, because I realized that a lot of people are lost in their jobs and need guidance. Her presentations and exercises were incredible, and very effective indeed. Also, in all my past retreats, I invited a meditation expert from Italy, Ana Giselle, who was able to make the participants disconnect from reality, and connect deep within themselves through various ways of meditation. In the other retreat, I invited a physical education expert from Russia, Marina Kostrova, who taught the participants a lot about their bodies, joints, and muscles, and taught them the safest ways to work out.
For the next retreat to Serabit Elkhadim and Ras Sudr, I realized that a lot of people aren’t able to express themselves, or explore all the sides and shadows of their own selves. I decided to host an acting instructor coming from Dubai, to teach people the basics of expressions, and by the end of the trip, to create an acting performance.
Another reason why I created those retreats is because I really want people to explore Egypt fully and wholeheartedly. I have been to 20 governorates, such as Minya, Qena, Sharqia, Gharbiya and Kafr Elsheikh, and toured them thoroughly! I met locals in each city, stayed at their houses, visited every mosque and church, every museum and palace, had a bike ride in the whole city, visited their villages, ate their food, and learned about how women are raised and treated in each one. It’s all different, and very interesting. Since the pandemic started, and we weren’t able to travel abroad, I realized this was the best chance to take Egyptians and foreigners, if possible, to places they have never visited before, in order to learn that Egypt really has a lot to offer. And, you don’t need so much money to enjoy your life.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t plan retreats abroad, because it is actually on the plan. But, Egypt will always be the highlight. I want people to discover more about the capabilities of their mind and bodies. How many hours their body is able to walk, how they’re able to carry their heavy weight and actually do a rock climb. How they can spend five days with one big meal and a tiny snack daily. How they can spend a full day cycling to different spots, how they can spend less hours sleeping and chilling, because their adrenaline rush can’t stop exploring. How they can go upside down, even if they exceeded their 40’s. How they can totally step out of their comfort zone, and become so vulnerable with strangers who provide them with the best lifetime advices. How they realize they have so much to offer the world with their skills, and giving some time to people who need your fresh presence. How they hike for seven hours, then dip dive 14 meters down the sea, all in the same day. How they can go silent for a whole day, just to control their monkey minds. And how they can spend nights in places that have wild animals and not be scared. Those retreats are solely about empowering the mind, and the body.