Spring Retreat POSTPONED until Autumn

Dear Zende Creative followers,

It is with immense regret that I have to announce that the first Zende Creative Retreat will have to be postponed until Autumn 2014 due to venue issues and the organiser’s health problems. Our initial experience will go a long way towards ensuring a successful retreat in the autumn, offering a moment of peace and creativity among the rush of our everyday lives through poetry, calligraphy and adventure.

We have been delighted at the response so far, with interest from as far afield as Canada, the US, the UK, France and the United Arab Emirates. All those who have paid deposits already will receive a full refund unless they expressly wish to keep it for the next Zende retreat.

We would like to thank you for all the likes, shares, comments and interest that you have all shown and will keep you all updated as we secure our venue for autumn. Stay tuned for the new dates and further articles, poems and artwork in the meantime!

Warmest regards,

Medina (aka Cavemum)


The Alpujarras: A Bounteous Host

The mountain range where the retreat will be held, Las Alpujarras de Granada, are an extensive system of interlocking valleys that stretch all the way from Granada to Almeria. The Emirate of Granada was the last Muslim province of al-Andalus after the Reconquista took back the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, and remained entirely Muslim – apart from pockets of Mozarabic (Arabised) Christians – for 400 years. During this time Hispanic Arabic was the main language spoken in the province, which originally incorporated Jaen, Almeria and Malaga, which today constitute their own provinces. With its hidden valleys, coves and forests, the Alpujarras were famously the last refuge of the Moors who refused to go into exile after the fall of Granada in 1492.

January: Almond blossom season in the Alpujarras

January/February: Almond blossom season in the Alpujarras

On the southern slope of Mulhácen, Spain’s largest peak (named after a Moorish ruler, Mulay Hassan), Órgiva enjoys a more temperate microclimate compared to Granada itself, with milder winters (we rarely see snow settle) and spring and autumn that are closer to a sunny summer day in England – or even warmer. The mountains still display the terraces dug by the Muslims here hundreds of years ago, and are still planted with the trees they brought here: almonds, oranges, mandarins, lemons and figs, among others. Only a half hour’s drive south takes you to the Costa Tropical, where local farmers produce bananas, mangoes, custard apples and other exotic fruits.

Gardens at the Hotel Taray

Gardens at the Hotel Taray

The Zende retreat we will be set in the Hotel Taray, a beautiful botanical garden hotel in Órgiva, which features both double and triple bedrooms, two gorgeous terraces (one which is part of the restaurant so you can breakfast with views of mountains and palm trees) and a conference room which we will use for the calligraphy classes. The poetry classes will be based on the upstairs terrace but can move about to find inspiration from different sites of the hotel and in the gardens, for instance, taking a ‘Gingko Walk’ as haiku poets would do in Japan to connect with nature before writing.

Views from upstairs terrace

Views from upstairs terrace

There is a stunning swimming pool with a smaller pool for children, and by the end of April the temperatures should be high enough to swim in. Our intention is to book the whole hotel, in which case we can plan specific times for those who wish to have separate swimming. In between classes and after lunch there will be time to stroll, lounge, soak up some sun, read, scribble and generally take advantage of this idyllic setting.


The Hotel Taray has an excellent new restaurant, Flor del Limonero, as well as a laundry service, money exchange, and some of the friendliest staff ever. For more information about booking your place on the retreat, please have a look at our Bookings page

Creativity: The Breath of Life

For most of us, living in the industrialised, automated, pre-programmed world might be productive, but it is also a drain on our vital energy. We get exhausted, sick, depressed, anxious, listless.

We perpetually look elsewhere for that magic ingredient that will return us to the natural joy we remember from childhood – films, music, art, shopping, other people’s output.

By contrast, the meditative practice of calligraphy brings our focus back to the beauty and harmony around us, while diving into our poetic depths reminds us of the beauty and harmony within.

Our worried, chattering minds are stilled. Without hardly noticing it, we achieve a state of tranquility and centredness that so much of our ordinary lives combats with caffeine, to-do lists, and social whirl.

Zende Creative Retreats are a specially formulated treatment for the condition of the modern human, administered in deliciously palatable, intensive dose over the course of four days.

We will be drawing on the deeply transformative Islamic arts of calligraphy and ecstatic poetry and combining them with intellectual enrichment, performance, yoga and a spectacular natural environment to give you the ideal opportunity to find your inner calm again.

We are currently devising a schedule for our first retreat, which will take place from the 24th to the 28th of April, to be held at the Hotel Taray, set amid luscious botanical gardens, in the Alpujarran mountains.

The Alpujarras - land of plenty

The Alpujarras – land of plenty

So far the programme will include calligraphy workshops daily with Asghar Alkaei Behjat (Nastaliq style) and Abd al-Lateef Whiteman (Andalusi style), ecstatic poetry workshops with Nimah Nawwab and Medina Tenour Whiteman, talks and performances from Abd al-Hayy Moore, Nimah, Medina and others, a seminar on Andalusi thinkers and writers by historian Tahira Larmore, a qasida (Andalusi traditional poem) singing workshop, yoga at dawn and lots of opportunities to take long walks in the Alpujarran mountains, discovering rivers, waterfalls and ancient Moorish sites with Ahmed Zaruq Summers of Granada-based tour company Al-Andalus Experience.

Click ‘follow’ to receive updates as we finalise the program and complete the web shop to book your place on the retreat!