Seaweed & Co Zanzibar

with Inga kommentarer

My inspiration is flowing back like a tidal water at full moon. Having worked with natural skin care for so many years, I have for some time now found myself gradually lo losing interest. The industry becoming more about beauty, fixation on looks, so many fake products out there….Anyway, my monthlong stay here in Zanzibar has really lit my spark and again I just want to dive in full heartedly and learn more. Inspired by the plant life, the abundance of herbs, spices and fruits, the local traditions, the initiatives here to bring the knowledge to the rest of the world and at the benefit och the island.

I previosly wrote about my visit to Mrembo spa, http://lifebylisen.com/mrembo-spa-in-zanzibar/. Now I have visited another great skin care project, also working with natural, handmade organic skincare inspired by the traditional knowledge carried by the women on Zanzibar: The Seaweed Center in Paje. https://www.facebook.com/seaweedcenterzanzibar/ (website under construction, I’ll get back about that in later post).

kelly logo

Seaweeds, Mwani in Swahili, specifically Euchema Spinosum and Euchema cottonii, are harvested and exported world wide and used mostly in the cosmetics industry, where it is used as a thickening agent. Being one of Zanzibar’s key exports since 1990’s it is used mainly in the cosmetics industry, in medicine and in (!) beer, also used to some in food, for its gelatinous quality. There are 20 000 seaweed farms on Zanzibar. Every morning as I walk along the powdery white beach looking out over the azur blue ocean I see women and children stooping in the shallow low tide collecting the valuable crop.

From planting to harvest takes two months, and needs daily attention. 4 kilos fresh seaweed when dried is reduced to 1 kilo. The farmers get 500 TZS per kilo, which is 0.23 dollars. A whole lot of work, and knowledge, for a whole lot of nothing.

Why seaweed

So, the idea with Seaweed centre, is to develop a high quality seaweed skin care product that can be sold for more. This initiative began as an NGO a number of years ago but wasn’t quite developed to the extent that it could have, until: Kelly Atkins and Klaartje Schade came along. Kelly had been working as a volonteer in other project and when presented with the Seaweed center intrigued by it and and saw the potential they could reach. Kelly was soon joined by Klaartje Schade, who had come across the center when working as a financial banker. Kelly had a career as business adviser at the Chamber of Commerce in London.

Kelly and Klaartje
Kelly and Klaartje

It’s been two years and the center now employs 14 members of staff, who shine with obvious pride for being part of this. The staff speak excellent english thanks to weekly lessons. Mustafa, one of the tour guides who used to be a fisherman, is now current in three languages: Swahili, English (which he also teaches) and French. Next on his list is Italian.

Fatima and her staff sorting the dried seaweed   in the shade of an Indian Almond Tree.
Fatima and her staff sorting the dried seaweed in the shade of an Indian Almond Tree.

 

The mamas ready to go out to the farm - it's low tide.
The mamas ready to hit the farm.

The day I arrive there is a South AfricanTV crew here to do a piece on the farm. The staff is all very excited, enjoying a moment of fame!

The mamas making the most of playing movie stars!
The mamas making the most of playing movie stars!

Here on Zanzibar there are quite extreme tides: at low tide you can walk out towards the horizon, the white sand and the bright sun makes the landscape resemble a desert. This is when the seaweed farmers prepare the farms and do the necessary work. Only an hour later, the high tides gushes in and covers the landscape with it turquoise water and the sea is filled with Kite surfers  happily enjoying the strong winds. Harvest is done al year except during rain season.

Kelly showing the new drying set up.
Kelly showing the new drying set up.

There are many steps to be dealt with along the way – finding ingredients produced for cosmetic quality, finding packaging (remember this is an island in the Indian Ocean and what may be easily accessible to us in the west to produce anything  really, is not in the least obvious here). But I see the determination and persistance in Kelly’s and Klartjee’s eyes. With a whole lot of patience, they have already come a long way and are already doing so much good for a lot of people, I know they will reach their highly set goals.

Low tide in Paje
Walking out to the farm.

At this stage Kelly and Klaartje have, together with their staff, developed a number of seaweed plantations, developed new methods for drying for higher quality, a production center with potential of expanding within the next few years. They are also in the process of creating new products, constantly exploring the local (along with the seaweed) ingredients such as vanilla, cardamon, coffee, coconut (soon they will be producing their own organic coconut oil), baobab, nutmeg, tumeric, lime, eucalyptus, hibiscus…

Next goal is to get the new packaging ready and send off the first delivery to their distributor in Hungary, who will sell them to various countries in Europe. Lucky for us who live there so we can enjoy the Zanzibar touch.

Also Kelly and Klaartje are looking to produce their own organic natural materials rather than buying them from suppliers. Ingredients they work with are, apart from sea weed, coconut oil, salt, sugar, coffee, aloe vera, honey, lime spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, lemongrass and turmeric. To mention a few.

Tending to the crop
Tending to the crop

At this stage Kelly and Klaartje have, together with their staff, developed a number of seaweed plantations, developed new methods for drying it for higher quality, a production center with potential of expanding within the next few years. They are also in the process of creating new products, constantly exploring the local (along with the seaweed) ingredients such as vanilla, cardamon, coffee, coconut (soon they will be producing their own organic coconut oil), baobab, nutmeg, tumeric, lime, eucalyptus, hibiscus…

Next goal is to get the new packaging ready and send off the first delivery to their distributor (in March) in Hungary, who will sell them to various countries in Europe. Lucky for us who live there so we can enjoy the Zanzibar touch.

Also Kelly and Klaartje are looking to produce their own organic natural materials rather than buying them from suppliers.

Local ingredients Seaweed farm

Here on Zanzibar the products are sold to hotels and spas who offer the handmade soaps, scrubs and gift boxes to their guests.

This is Bi Mtumwa. She is 87 and cooks great food for the staff every day. She has more energy than a 25 year old and is full of laughter and mischief. She asked me to take a picture of her drinking tea. So I did.
This is Bi Mtumwa. She is 87 and cooks great food for the staff every day. She has more energy than a 25 year old and is full of laughter and mischief. She asked me to take a picture of her drinking tea. So I did.

Next in the product line is shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, after that, there will be facial cream, body butters, body lotion….

I am really taken by the vibe here – the staff have really taken their job to heart, made it a mission to move forward with Kelly and Klaartje. They present the products to visitors with such pride, and I do recommend the guided tour where Mustafa, a former fisherman who is nu fluent in three languages (Swahili, English and French, about to embrace Italian) or one of his colleagues takes you out during low tide to the plantation. You will learn everything about how to plant, clean and harvest, get to taste it. Yes – it is an extremely nutricious food!   I am also hoping they will develop some food products…great for hair, skin, nails and bone. Seaweed makes you strong!

Next year I will be back here on the island and I promise I shall follow up and post right here how they are progressing. Already looking forward to it!

Stay happy!

 

Lisen

 

 

 

Mrembo spa in Zanzibar

with Inga kommentarer

Infused in cloves, sandalwood, cinnamon, rose, citrus, coriander, honey, baobab – , moringa and coconut oil. My skin feels like a rosepetal and my mind is completely relaxed and happy. I have been massaged, scrubbed and pampered beyond belief in true Zanzibar style.

After 10 days on the beaches of Zanzibar, Jambiani beach to be exact (South East coast) with sun, white sand and salt ocean swims, I have arrived in Stone Town for a few days of exploration. My friend Helen Ingvarsson, who is an excellent tour operator (see her info below and keep it for next time you are in Zanzibar) had recommended Mrembo Spa t to me quite some time ago and being the spa – addict that I am I have been loking forward to this afternoon for months! Today was the day.

Mrembo spa

Mrembo Spa is located in central Stone Town, look for Soko Mohoko on Google maps – it’ll take you to a small street in the souk, it’s on your left side on the middle of the block. It was founded by Stefanie Schoetz, who arrived on this fragrant sunny, vibrant island in 2001. Stefanie was intrigued by the abundance of herbs and spices and how they have been used traditionally for beauty and wellbeing. This knowledge is not easily available to foreigners in order to keep it pure and intact, but, the elder women of the society who pass on the traditions, decided to trust Stephanie who plunged in whole heartedly studying for a long time. With time, she created a spa, where the knowledge can be accessible and available to anybody interested. Using only local ingredients such as spices, herbs, coffee, flowers, nuts, oils (baobab, moringa, coconut, sunflower), honey and aloe vera. All products are handmade and all the therapists are local (many businesses here prefer to hire staff from the mainland, leaving the locals out of chances), and they have been trained by international professionals.

A visit here is a far cry from the clinical, often rather anonymous spas with mass produced skin care products from big commercial brands we have in Europe and the ones I’ve seen in the States. It’s full of life, fragrance and character. This is just as much a sensual and pleasurable experience as well as cultural.

Mrembo spa henna

Mrembo Spa now provides livelyhood for 10+ families. Goes right along with my favorite philosophy: Do Good, Be Good, Feel Good!

So…you understand I was curious! I have been making skin care products and written books on this with recipes inspired by nature and various traditions, so I am pretty passionate! Mrembo spa also have a shop selling their own brand of products, ”Pure”.

Handmade coconut soap
Handmade coconut soap

Ok – so, I arrive at appointed time, 2 pm, am greeted and led into the shop by Ali, who invited me to have a seat, served tea and gave me some time to catch my breath and absorb the atmosphere. I started chatting with a woman sitting on the floor, Fatima, who was stirring something in a big bowl, it was Body Butter with bees wax, one of the bestsellers in the shop.

Fatima making body butter.
Fatima making body butter.

Next, Tatu, my therapist, approached me with a big smile and led me into the treatment room so I could get ready for my SINGO scub, with fresh flowers and herbs, mixed with cloves, rice powder and coconut oil. The scrub is proceeded by a long massage with a beautfiful oil blend scented with rose. This scrub is traditionally used by the young Swahili women on their wedding day. I am neither young nor getting married but nevermind! It was sheer bliss.

Tatu with the magic hands...
Tatu with the magic hands…

After massage and scrubbed, my skin scented like that of a young bride, a facial awaited. Tatu began with cleaning my face with flowerwater (baobab oil, rosewater), followed by another cleanse, massage, hotpack, sandalwood – oat – honey facial mask. Footmassage while the mask did its job. Then again flowerwater.

And…that’s not the end of it. Off to where they do pedicure – massage, scrub with salt and fresh flowers – Fatima (not the same one I mentioned at the beginning of the text, there’s two Fatimas and Mrembo) took care of this while Tatu gave me a scalp massage. I am flying on a pink cloud right now.

Skärmavbild 2016-01-12 kl. 05.23.36

Back in the shop more production was underway – coconutoil and spice scrub. At home, when I make scrubs with dried flowers and herbs, I just mix them to a powder in a blender. But here is a different story – all spices are put in a big wooden mortal and ground by hand. This is really tiring work, I know, I tried and I get tired after two minutes. To get the right texture takes much longer…

Making coconut oil
Making coconut oil

 

Making Coconut oil

Pounding spices for scrub
Pounding spices for scrub

Tomorrow I have a date with Stefanie and will hear and learn more about her work, thrilled that she takes the time.

So, all this to say, next time you’re in time – book an appointment, spoil yourself, take a workshop and learn how you can make some of these products at home and enjoy being you!

http://mrembospa.com/

Some more Zanzibar highlights:

Hotels in Stone Town: Great rooms, great locations, superb coffee. http://www.stonetowncafe.com/

Want to splurge? Go here: Legendary hotel and restaurants. I’m eating at Emerson Spice tomorrow, lucky me. http://www.emersonspice.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/emersononhurumzi/?fref=ts

Shoe shopping: Surti & Sons have been making leather sandals for three decades. Their shop and workshop is conveniently located in the Souk, and have clients from all over the world. My friends in Cape Town just asked me to buy 4 pairs, and I bought 3 for myself! I’m set for life. https://surtiandsons.wordpress.com/

Best beaches (according to me) are those on the South East coast which is less exploited than the others. Here you find endless stretches of beach, the hotels are integrated with the local villages it is very peaceful. I have stayed, and will return to in a week, Uhuru Beach Hotel. Run by an English women since a year back. It’s literally on the beach, simple, beautfiful, friendly, calm and extremly reasonable prices.

http://www.uhurubeach.com/

 

If you need somebody to create the perfect stay for you – help with choosing hotels, creating tours etc, contact Helen Ingvarsson. Swedish lady who lives here and know all the inns and outs of the island and knows how to get away from the tourist traps and find the authentic Zanzibar: helen@lovezanzibar.com Say hello from me!

Stay happy!

 

Lisen