Sanctum Amsterdam brings silent fitness movement to UAE with four-day desert retreat

Move to your own beat with wireless headphones, akin to a silent disco, at Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi

Sanctum sessions combine several fitness disciplines, including yoga, martial arts and HIIT. Photo: Instagram / wearesanctum
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Sanctum, a mindful movement community from Amsterdam, is dancing its way into the desert with the first session of its "cathartic workout experience" to be held in Abu Dhabi.

The fitness group and wellness movement from Amsterdam is hosting a four-day retreat at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara in the UAE capital from March 30 to April 3, offering participants a weekend getaway that combines physical and mental fitness.

The Sanctum method

Co-founded by Luuk Melisse, a professional dancer, and Gabriel Olszewski, a former marketing executive, Sanctum is a high-intensity mindful movement that aims to "empower the body and expand the mind".

It involves repeating primal, dance-inspired moves, combining multidisciplinary forms of conditioning such as kundalini yoga, martial arts, animal flow routines and breathwork with elements of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

The sessions are accompanied by music and spoken poetry, with each participant wearing bespoke wireless headphones similar to a silent disco set-up. The whole idea is for participants to "release and let go".

"The blueprinted Sanctum sequence encourages expression without judgment. Individuals will push their physical, mental and spiritual boundaries, to release, heal and self-celebrate," says Melisse.

"The method uses the physical body as a vessel to reach the mind and unlock individual potential on a more holistic level, reaching physical and mindful euphoria."

What to expect at the Abu Dhabi retreat

Melisse himself is leading the retreat at the desert resort, which is an idyllic location for a rejuvenating getaway. Sanctum promises four days of meditation, relaxation, fitness and "awakening".

The retreat costs Dh11,500 per person or Dh18,700 for two people. The package includes a three-night stay at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara.

Aside from daily Sanctum sessions with Melisse, there will be other activities such as mindful hikes, desert walks, stargazing and a massage combined with sound healing. Healthy gourmet meals will be provided as well as access to a sound therapy concert and energy centres healing workshop.

Origins and expansion

The concept came about in the midst of the pandemic, when people suffered from heightened mental and emotional challenges.

"After the pandemic, we can see increasing depression and anxiety levels. All this triggered people to look for experiences that do not only focus on [the] physical body, but can also allow them to improve their mental state," says Olzweski, who initially hosted online classes on Instagram.

The Abu Dhabi retreat marks Sanctum's permanent expansion plans to the UAE, albeit without a physical location. "We do not plan to own any location, but to host our regular weekly classes in a more nomadic manner," Olszewski says.

Classes will be held on rooftops, in art galleries and in outdoor spaces, he adds. No exact date has been confirmed as of writing.

Bookings for the Abu Dhabi retreat can be made by contacting

Updated: January 26, 2023, 10:01 AM