June 16, 2021
2 Min. Read

The academy of bridal bliss

Muna has led more than 150 young Zanzibari women to a career with her „Muna Beauty Academy“. Bridal looks are her specialty. 

On her official company photo she looks like Audrey Hepburn. When you see Munawar Suleiman Mbarouk, known to everybody simply as Muna, teaching young students at her academy, she still looks beautiful but certainly not like Audrey Hepburn. This transformation from good-looking to super star appeal, from ordinary to extraordinary, is Muna’s best-kept business secret. 

The 44 year old mother of two has not only carved a successful business out of her skills with a thriving salon in Kikwajuni but she went further. A dedicated modern Muslim woman she felt “obliged to give back”, as Muna puts it herself. “Young girls need to be able to stand on their own feet. They need a job, a profession, an existence”, she says. And that’s exactly what Muna is giving them. Since she opened her “Muna Beauty Academy “in 2013 with her own funds and without any government support, more than 150 young Zanzibari women have received diploma here. Three-months courses have qualified them as make-up beauticians, hairdressers or in henna applications, an ancient and much-loved oriental tradition in Zanzibar - a must for any wedding.

“Henna is ngumo”, Swahili for tough, says Muna. Red or black filigree ornaments are applied on a female’s feet, hands or anywhere she wants it, and there’s the challenge of allergies. “We do a test 24 hours before any session”, says Muna. What’s so special about the natural dye? “It is meant to attract your husband.”

A career in beauty is ideal for many Zanzibari women. “Some have dropped out of school, not because they are stupid but because of life situations”, says Muna. Others are happy to be able to work from home - for similar reasons. 

Everybody knows Muna in town. Her woman clients come from politics and commerce, from elite and normal families, and as any decent salon all over the world it’s a gossip and networking hub par excellence. But, since it’s Muna’s, it’s also a place where women do really help each other when in need. 

Talking of beauty skills, Muna is unparalleled. “Of course it’s possible to change a face or lip contour with make-up”, she says when I ask her why all her brides look totally different after her treatment. And why the rigid look, with layers and layers of make-up, false eyelashes, tons of eye-shadow and Cleopatra eyeliner? “Well, we like it dramatic”, says Muna and laughs.  

What’s in fashion?

  • Green dress, brown eye-shadow for the Nikah; smoky-eyes for the reception
  • Nude lips
  • The less gold you wear, the more henna you use; on your arms up to the shoulder
  • Whether “up-do” or loose, every day a different hairstyle
  • French manicure, or henna nails
  • Amouage perfume
  • Biggest faux pas: light face, dark hands 

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