Mrembo (meaning; Sophisticated woman, woman who likes to pamper herself.) is a small traditional spa, with one located in the heart of Stone Town close to the Catholic church and one at Mtoni Marine Resort, offering ancient beauty rituals from Pemba and Unguja. Only locally grown flowers, herbs and spices are used in their 100% natural remedies and they date back hundreds of years but still used today by elderly Swahili coast women.

The recipes were gathered by the owner, Stefanie Schoetz, throughout her years on Zanzibar studying most of the herbs and flowers and their uses at Kidichi and Kizimbani spice plantations on Zanzibar where they are mostly grown. Bi Kidude and other elderly local women have contributed with their knowledge to find out more about the recipes and ingredients. Most plants she has planted in her private garden by now though and every day she supplies them personally to Mrembo where they are used in their various treatments.

But Mrembo is much more than that...
It is a place where you can spend an entire day pampering yourself with various treatments, sip ginger/lemongrass tea and learn about Henna and other Zanzibari traditions whilst listening to the melodious sounds of Taarab music. Being introduced to the mysterious smell of  “Udi” incense made out of sugar, rosewater and musk you can shop local crafts made of Ukili (wild date palm), Kanga wear and all  scrubs, oils, incenses, soaps and fresh flowers used at Mrembo, tastefully wrapped to make the perfect gifts to take home.

One of the beauty treatments practiced at Mrembo is called “Singo, which is a natural scrub traditionally used when a Zanzibar girl gets married. She will undergo a daily “Singo” of her skin, with a natural scrub prepared from fresh Jasmin, Ylang Ylang flowers, rose petals, mpatchori (not the famous patchouli but a sweet smelling herb growing mainly on Unguja), mpompia (geranium), mrehani (sweet basil) and liwa (sandalwood) which are blended together in a traditional “Kinu” blender with a little rosewater. The scrub exfoliates your skin, leaving you glowing and soft as silk. The various flowers used in this traditional scrub make your skin smell fragrant all day long.

Another highlight is the “Vidonge” Clove Scrub from Pemba which is refreshing and gives you a boost! It is made out of the clove stems and buds after the distilling process when making the famous clove oil. The left over clove rests are pressed into a ball and when you add a little water a fantastic scrub appears.

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Signature Treatments

“Singo” Traditional Body Scrub
This flower scrub originally used when a Zanzibari girl gets married, begins with a 45 minute aromatherapy massage using Ylang Ylang, Rose, Lemongrass or Jasmine oil. After this we apply the Singo Mix which is made of dried Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Rose and Kilua flowers, Mpatchori, Mrehani (sweet basil leaves), clove, sandalwood, Mpompia (geranium) and rosewater (according to the  original recipe). The result is a wonderfully scented flower scrub leaving your skin soft and fragrant all day long...

“Kidonge” Clove  Scrub
This traditional scrub originates from Pemba and is an ancient beauty ritual used mainly for men. Pembans are known for their interest and know how of numerous herbs and spices. Since most clove plantations are on Pemba, the main factory for oil distilling is here. Left over clove buds and stems are pressed into a little ball after oil distilling with “Marashi” rosewater. Before applying the scrub, this ball is soaked with scented oil of your choice. The result is a coarse scrub which boosts your energy, gives a unique heat sensation and leaves you feel fresh and invigorated. We usually start this treatment with a 45 minute aromatherapy massage and end with this wonderful scrub…

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Taarab Music Shop

There is a special room created at Mrembo for Matona and his band “G-Clef” for the selling of  Cd’s of various Taarab artists, and to rehearse for their various tours and gigs around Zanzibar and worldwide performances.

Here you can learn about the various instruments used in Taarab music including Oud, Quanun, Violin, Tabla and Nay while having a pedicure or henna painting made out of the dried leaves of the Henna tree mixed with lime juice and tea so as to make to color darker and more intense.

Taarab - Music of Zanzibar
The word Taarab is of Arabic origin and comes from the word Tariba which means to be moved, agitated or to make music.
Historically Taarab was first introduced to Zanzibar in 1870 by Sultan Seyyid Bargash who brought a group of Egyptian musicians to his court. Bargash sent a Zanzibari musician, Ibrahim Mohammed, to study in Cairo and upon his return he formed the Zanzibar Taarab Orchestra. Taarab currently experiences great changes with growing success of modern Taarab. This has shocked fans of traditional Taarab (Taarab Asilia) since powerful amplifiers and less poetical lyrics are taking over.

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In Zanzibar henna, locally known as ‘hina’ in Swahili symbolizes the world of beauty, joy and happiness. It is an acknowledged local decoration said to change a woman to look more attractive. It is obtained after pounding the dried leaves of ‘mhina’ plant (LawsoniaInermis) which is then mixed with water to form a paste. Lemon juice, if wished can be an additional ingredient to make the dye more reddish and suitable for use.

Today henna occupies a special place in marriages and festivals in both rural and urban Zanzibar and Pemba. It is decorated on the soles of the feet, ankles, palm and nails. Once the first layer is applied, one has to wait for it to dry before a new layer is applied. The more complex the design is, the more attractive the woman becomes.

After adornment follows a week in which a woman does what Zanzibari people call “giving henna its deserved rights”. A woman dresses in her finest. Khangas of the latest issue, jewels and gold ornaments are put on. A Zanzibari bride is sent to her “somo” (teacher) a week before the wedding. There she is adorned in elaborate designs of henna. During this period men are restricted in seeing her.

Zanzibari women use henna to express their happiness and to mark religious or traditional occasions. They also adorn themselves with henna to gladden and welcome home their spouses who have been away for days. Men compliment their spouses by buying them new pairs of khangas ( piece of cloth worn by local women), shoes or jewelry.  

Henna is not without being associated with social taboo. According to Swahili customs, unmarried girls are forbidden to decorate themselves with henna as married women do. Odds are that younger woman can easily tempt man which is considered to be the domain of their elders and disapproved by society. Some men forbid their wives to apply henna as it is also a source of mischief as a famous Makunduchi-born poet, mwalimu Hija Saleh said:

Zinanishangaza hina zipakwazo mikononi - Hennas surprise me those painted on hands 
Utaona lako jina limekoza kiganjani - You will notice your name in bold on someone’s palm
Ukiyachungua sana silako utabaini - If you investigate deeply it’s not yours you’ll realize
Napindi uulizapo jina hili ni la nani? - And when you ask whose name is this?
Utaapiwa kiapo lazima utaamini  - It will be affirmed as yours and  believe it, you will!!       

Read more about Henna history (PDF)

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Khanga – The pride of the Swahili Woman

There is an old Swahili song which goes: Mimi kama kanga; nafa na uzuri wangu (I am like a khanga-cloth; I die in all my beauty).

Khanga embodies art, beauty, culture and customs of coastal women. The word Khanga comes from the Kiswahili name for the spotted black and white Guinea Fowl. This is because scarves with a print similar to that of a Guinea Fowl were marketed during the same period, and this design became very popular.

Khanga themes and sayings are frequently concerned with personal feelings and relationships of love and jealousy, or based on social, cultural and political references.

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Mrembo Spa Stone Town  Tel + 255 - 777-430117   Located past the Catholic Church (Minara Miwili), Stone Town.
Mrembo Spa at Mtoni Marine  Tel +255-777-430117  At Mtoni Marine, 10 km North of Stone Town.
Email  Web  Po Box 992, Zanzibar - Tanzania

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