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 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 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”.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Say hello from me!