Inspiring WOC Female Founders: Wafa Salam Kensho, Retreats Founder

Ever thought about escaping to experience a slice of real raw culture and beauty in the world? What if you could make that into a real business and lifestyle for yourself? Meet Wafa, a Muslim Algerian who organises once-in-a-lifetime, stunning eco-friendly retreats in Jamaica & Morocco. She spoke to us about how her wanderlust and identity was redefined from one chance meeting which led her to her dream job. 
  1. Tell us a bit about yourself. 

My name is Wafa and I was born in Algeria, in northern Africa. My family—mom, dad and one older sister—eventually decided to emigrate to Canada; first to Montreal, then five years later to Toronto. Growing up in Toronto post 9/11, I went through a phase where I felt uneasy and conspicuous as a Muslim in public.  A chance meeting in Toronto’s Kensington Market changed all that forever. I was walking to one of my favourite shops when I heard someone call out “Muhammad!” I wasn’t sure if it was meant for me, but I looked back anyway and saw a tall, middle-aged Rastaman looking directly at me. He asked, “Are you not a follower of Muhammad?” Tentatively, I admitted I was and then he grinned and said, “How are you doing today, Muhammad!” I laughed and we began talking. We enjoyed a great conversation, but one thing he said to me I will never forget: “You should be proud of being a Muslim. No matter what happens, don’t be a follower! I’m a Rasta and I wear my dreadlocks with pride and joy! Be proud of being Muslim!” His wisdom and conviction resonated with me deeply and I’ve held my head high ever since. 

 2. You organise absolutely stunning retreats to Jamaica- tell us a bit about how that came about and your own connection with Jamaica? 


At the time, I didn’t know much about Rastas, but that encounter inspired me to learn more about Rasta philosophy, reggae music and the peoples of the region. I was at this time a history student at the University of Toronto, and I was naturally fascinated by the parallels I saw between Caribbean and Middle Eastern development. At 21, on a summer break from school, I travelled alone for the very first time. I taught English in Peru and stopped by Jamaica on the way back home. It was an amazing experience. Five years later, I returned to Jamaica and a friend introduced me to members of the Muslim community there. I remember driving through St-Elizabeth, Jamaica’s countryside and bread-basket, and seeing a sign in front of a house. It read, ‘God is God and God Naah sleep.’ This was definitely my kind of place. There is an easy directness, humor and rich spirituality there that is uplifting and compelling. I was determined to return the following year and I decided to try a Facebook post asking if any of my girlfriends would join me. To my surprise, seven women and two children came along for an unforgettable excursion. We were sitting on the porch of our rented country home one beautiful, peaceful night and I said to them ‘I really like this.’ They all smiled and said ‘Wafa! You need to do more of these!’ And this is how Burgundy Roots Retreats came to be. Come, let me show you what it feels like to be truly free in a safe and supportive environment. See my website for details on the next retreat.

3. What kind of things can people expect when they go on a retreat and is it aimed solely for Muslims? 

We’ll visit Jamaica’s very first mosque, pray in peace, remember Allah, and enjoy an exquisite five-course farm-to-table meal at Stush in the Bush organic farm. You’ll also have the opportunity to take in Jamaica’s unspoiled nature and swim in breathtaking waterfalls, beaches and lagoons. We’ll hike up the famous Blue Mountains, where we’ll visit one of the island’s oldest Rasta communities and dissolve all ignorant misconceptions about the island and its proud people.

This won’t be about all day tanning, beachside braids and gift shop Rasta hats (not that there’s anything wrong with that); we just want to rejuvenate you in a different way. After all, we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us, right? We want to share the glory, struggles and beauty of this island- a BEAST of an island, as you will find out!

4. How has COVID impacted you and your business?

Alhamdulillah, it hasn't. I organize a few trips a year and my next trip won't be until next summer.  It's actually been my busiest and most successful year ever alhamdulillah

5. Tell us about your skincare routine?

OH MAN! It's been a lifelong journey but I finally found what works for me.  I use medical grade skincare and get a facial once a month. A good friend of mine is a dermatologist and he recommended the Zein Obagi skincare (I use the anti aging kit) and my face has been amazing, clear, supple and flawless. I also do 2 to 3 laser treatments on my face a year, its important to attack the skin with retinol and  lasers a few times a year, its like are fresh button. I'm so happy I'm able to share all my new findings with my followers because I've spent a lot of money in the past and I'm hoping it can help others.

 

Find out more about Wafa's retreats at @burgundy_roots or visit www.burgundyroots.com

 

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