The midday heat settled over the IST Masaki school courtyard in Dar es Salaam this past Saturday. The cheerful buzz of chatter and upbeat background music faded as I focused on the massage therapy session I had been offered. Some moments of bliss passed. A gentle hand on my shoulder prompted me to open my eyes and Christina, the founder and owner of Zen Spa smiled broadly. ‘Was that enjoyable?’ I felt totally refreshed, and what great timing to have stumbled towards her table so soon after participating in a sweaty Vinyasa class with Mukti yoga studio teacher, Laura Meloney.
Zen Spa was just one of the many Tanzanian businesses participating in the inaugural Wellness Expo. Christina had two massage therapists giving out free sessions, as well as other services and products to promote from her growing wellness spa and beauty salon. She was situated across from a table covered in verdant green. Mother and daughter, Divya and Veenita Bhatt had everything from herbs, to wheatgrass and cactuses sprouting from their table. Many of the plants were potted in quirky and ornate objects and ornaments. More plant life - in this case that of the vegetable variety - vibrated with colour and energy a few paces away at Lise’s table. Her newly founded initiative, Baobab Baby, is focused on sourcing the finest natural and local Tanzanian ingredients to make nutrient-rich baby food. Lise’s business offers easy online booking and a door-to-door service to ensure freshness, as well as convenience.
In conversation with Lise, Divya, Christina, and other expo participants alike, I discovered that the critical take-home for them over the day was rubbing shoulders with other wellness businesses. ‘We’ve been too isolated!’ I heard Life Coach and Empath, Shaz Alidina, exclaim as I nibbled on a banana leaf bowl of humus. For Grace, a Yoga for Wellness Tanzania team member, the event was not just about creating a networking opportunity for wellness businesses, but about raising awareness amongst Dar es Salaam residents. ‘People sometimes don’t even realise what’s right on their doorstep. There are more business like this developing all the time. We wanted to bring them together in one place so people could see how much wellness is really being offered.’
The expo was also an opportunity to join any number of a variety of yoga, Thai Chi and meditation practices. This was facilitated through Mukti yoga studio in an expansive sports arena on the school grounds. There was something for everyone - from the advanced to beginner yogi, from the first-time mediator to the experienced. A highlight of the programme was a Yoga Nidra class led by Ayesha Samji, owner and founder of YWT and Mukti Studio (Ayesha is also the central driving force behind the Wellness Expo). I spotted a few participants expressing heartfelt gratitude and joining in conversation with Ayesha as they finished this session. They were walking towards the food area, where benches and tables were lined up under shady awnings. Coconuts filled with fruit smoothies, veggie juices, sushi and papaya salad (a Thai dish, traditionally called, Som Tam) were just some of the nutritious options to chose from.
Satiated, one could wonder back to the wellness business vendor tables and listen in on the range of health talks ongoing throughout the day. From Diabetes to Hypertension, there were expert opinions and thoughtful reflections on what constitutes an integral and holistic approach to wellbeing. Steeling a moment of YWT operations manager, Jabeen’s time, I asked her whether she felt the day was successful. ‘We’re starting something entirely unique here, and people are benefiting - already, positive effects in terms of wellness business development and awareness are emerging’, she responded. ‘Stronger together, better for all’ was the mantra of the day, and given that, the next chapter in the Dar es Salaam Wellness Expo is most certainly something to look forward to.
The Wellness Expo was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Kilimanjaro Hyatt Regency and Alliance Life Insurance. The day ran smoothly with the assistance of a group of incredible volunteer team: Anna Haines; Berengere; Deborah Crowe; Jill Kuhn; Lorraine Dom; Marielle Harris; Pepi Ebner; Jabeen; Grace Kasinde; Maryam John; Marielle Harris; Ruby Crowe-Zervos; Maia Tumiotto; Anna Wilson; Chris Bartlett; William Turner; Milou; Dimple Tanna; Nadia Ahmed; Zameena Rajabali; Hasita; Rakhani; Grace; Gaveesha Hettiarachchi; Dev Tanna; Daisylin Mwaka; Angel Gyan; Mervin, Mario; Rahim Ranmall.
The wellness instructors on the day were: Arif Salehmohamed; Laura Meloney; Satya Rene Bangoy; Anna Chen Ernedal; Anna Haines; Petra Behnsen; Nina Butler; Ayesha Samj
The participating wellness businesses were
The Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam
Hitech Sai Health Care Centre
London Health Care Centre
Ojas Ayurveda Ltd
Shaz Alidina - Life Coach/ Empath
The Choma Hut
Kind Earth Eatery**
Body Fuel Gym
Pili - Sugarcane and Fresh Juices
Rafle items supplied by: London Health Centre; Pamoja; Thai Kani