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Cultural Traditions in Sauna Therapy: A Global Wellness Journey

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No one knows when the first sauna originated, but we know it was sometime around 2000 BC. Since then, sauna therapy has evolved beautifully, making its way into our current world. 

 

We have a lot of ancient traditions to thank for it, from Scandinavian smoke saunas to Finnish pit saunas dating back 10,000 years. Besides Northern Europe, sauna therapy has existed in some form or another across North and Central America, Asia, and even the Middle East. 

 

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Each culture adopts its own unique sauna rituals and customs, but one thread ties them together: the goal of wellness. 

For those interested in the cost of setting up a sauna, check out this detailed guide from Nordica Sauna.

 

Today, sauna customs worldwide have become part of a worldwide ritual for holistic sauna wellness. Let’s look at some of the cultures that shaped these practices. 

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Japan

 

Japan has traditionally had bathhouses, aka onsens, but the sauna culture arrived from Finland in Tokyo’s Ginza district around 1957. Over time, Japan adopted many traditions similar to those practiced in Finnish saunas, such as rouryu

 

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Rouryu derives from the Finnish term “löyly,” which refers to the custom of pouring hot water over a sauna’s heating rocks. This produces steam, which aids in relaxation. 

 

The Japanese also use a term known as “totonou.” This word aptly describes the refreshing feeling that washes over while alternating between a sauna session and a cold plunge; again, it is a primarily Finnish tradition that’s practiced globally even today.

 

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Besides this “borrowed” sauna culture, Japan has its own sauna-adjacent therapy. Its onsens are built around natural hot springs and inspire time-honored cultural traditions. 

 

Bathing in an onsen inspires a closer connection with nature because they are often located in scenic settings. The hot springs have thermal properties, healing many of the same ailments as a sauna.

 

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Another sauna-like tradition in Japan is the “Sento,” which has a deeper spiritual and social connection. Built into a temple-like setting to honor Buddha, Sentos are communal bathing spaces where you can relax and socialize with others.

 

Finland

 

Finland is often credited with introducing saunas to the world. It’s no surprise that Finnish saunas were once known as a “poor man’s pharmacy” back in the day. Indeed, saunas weren’t just a medium for relaxation; they were and continue to be a cocoon of holistic wellness. 

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In ancient Finland, saunas were a part of daily life so much that there are over three million of them today (compared to a population of five million)!

 

The earliest saunas in Finland were smoke saunas, aka savusaunas without chimneys. They used a crude stove that took nearly six hours to heat up. Over time, they evolved to cater to modern sensibilities. 

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Today, at the heart of a Finnish sauna is a stove known as “kiuas,” which can heat the room faster and more efficiently. Finnish saunas available these days can be electric or traditional, requiring firewood to insulate the room. 

 

Cold plunges are among the most common practices associated with Finnish sauna bathing. Typically, it entails warming up in a sauna for 15-20 minutes before diving into a cold plunge. Traditionally, this would mean rolling around in the snow or leaping into a freezing lake. 

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This drastic difference in temperature helps your body cool off after an invigorating hot sauna session while also boosting immunity. Another brief sauna session then follows the plunge. You can alternate between these until you’re satisfied.

 

Another relaxing practice involves whipping oneself gently with birch branches while in the sauna. This act of gentle tapping on your skin is known as “vasta” or “vihta”. It promotes relaxation, exfoliates dead skin cells, and boosts blood circulation.

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Today, saunas worldwide follow this age-old Finnish tradition of cold plunges and “vihta” tapping.

 

Russia

 

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A Russian banya is a cross between a bathhouse, a steam room, and a sauna. Traditional banyas are wood-fired rooms that operate similarly to Finnish saunas. A stove occupies a corner of a banya, topped off with rocks or heating pebbles for insulation. 

 

Russia is home to many public banyas, but unlike northern Europe, they’re usually segregated by gender. 

 

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The Russian equivalent of the Finnish “vihta” is the “venik.” It refers to a bundle of soft tree branches, generally oak or birch, that you can use in the sauna to gently massage your body. During this process, you gently tap the “venik” across your body, from head to toe. You can also use juniper or eucalyptus tree branches.

 

Instead of cold plunges, the Russians punctuate their sauna breaks with an aromatic beverage like an herbal tea before returning for another session.

 

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Middle East

 

The Middle East treasures a long-held tradition of “hammams,” or public bathhouses. They originated sometime during the 15th Century, after the conquest of Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire converted old Roman public baths into these Islamic-style bathing venues, which exist to this day.

 

Hammams are more complex than they seem. They compartmentalize each process in the sauna bathing realm. First, one starts with a steam bath, similar to a wet sauna, which heats the body. Next, you proceed to another room where you wash or cleanse yourself. 

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The next step entails sitting in a room with a lower temperature to cool off. After a round of sauna bathing, you can unwind with a relaxing massage. 

 

Germany

 

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Have you heard of the German spa ritual known as “Aufguss?” Germany practices this intriguing ritual that has multi-sensory benefits. It transcends the focus on sweat and heat. Instead, the ritual believes in engaging all senses and combining them with thermotherapy for a well-rounded session. 

 

The word “Aufguss” translates into “infusion,” which is exactly what this spa treatment entails. There is an “Aufgussmeister” or a sauna master, who conducts the session much like an orchestra. Sauna goers are privy to a sensory treat that includes elements like:

 

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  • Essential oils and hot water poured over sauna rocks (similar to löyly)
  • Therapeutic music
  • Lighting

 

The Aufgussmeister directs the flow of the heat and aroma with rhythmic movements carried out with a spa towel. It’s almost like watching a show while relaxing, making Aufguss a cultural event meant both for entertainment and wellness.

 

Central America and Mexico

 

Sweat lodges, aka “Temazcals,” have been around in ancient Mexico and Central America for thousands of years. They originated as a ceremonial structure significant to Native American culture, where spiritual rituals were once practiced. 

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Sweat lodges have a low profile and resemble a dome-like structure made from stone. Aside from purifying ceremonies, these lodges served another purpose. They were used to cleanse the spirit and body of impurities like a typical sauna would.

 

Despite their geographical difference, sweat lodges share traditions similar to Finnish saunas. They entail pouring hot water over steaming river rocks, which generates a plume of steam. 

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This steam is integral to the purification process. Historically, this process was believed to liberate a person’s innermost self and help them deliver a message for the greater good.

 

Sessions inside a Temazcal also involve whipping yourself with a bundle of herbs as a type of massage. You can also rub your skin with aloe for a soothing experience. After warming up in the lodge, you can cool off by taking a dip in the ocean or cleansing yourself in the shower.

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How Sauna Traditions are Practiced Globally Today

 

Today, saunas have evolved dramatically to accommodate changing lifestyles. Many saunas have modern features, from premium electric heaters to lighting technology. 

 

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Despite these changes, the heart and soul of the sauna remain unchanged. Sauna therapy inspires you to unwind, relax, and be more mindful of your wellness journey. It uses many of the same practices that were privy to the ancient world, whether the art of löyly or cold plunges. 

 

To make your modern-day sauna experience more consistent, it’s recommended to practice sauna bathing at home. You can use reputable retailers like My Sauna World to order a home sauna and begin your wellness journey today.



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People & Lifestyle

Joselyn Dumas unveiled to elevate elegance with Caveman Watches

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Month after making NFL giant, Jeremiah Owusu as brand ambassador, leading Ghanaian made luxury watch brand, Caveman Watches, has announced celebrated actress, entrepreneur and media personality, Joselyn Dumas as brand Ambassador. (more…)

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Academic City, United Way Ghana partner to advance renewable energy education

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As part of efforts to foster a culture of sustainability among schoolchildren in Ghana, Academic City University College has partnered with United Way Ghana to launch “Green4Clean” project that aims to impart sustainable energy solutions, enhance energy conservation awareness, and develop practical skills that contribute to a greener future and sustainable Ghanaian communities.

The partnership is set to implement a comprehensive educational initiative running from June 2024 to December 2025, commencing with a pilot programme at La Enobal Basic School and La Presbyterian Basic School. The design of this project aligns with several Sustainable Development Goals, such as quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, and climate action.

The Project will be implemented under the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center of Academic City with engineering students providing mentoring for pupils of the basic schools to develop their own interventions and make them benefit their immediate community, themselves and their school. The interventions will also allow for the pupils to try out a lot of science projects including learning about robotics. The project is taking place under the Coalition for Climate Entrepreneurs Lab which is a U.S Department collaboration partnership at the Maker Space at the Center.

Ghana is actively striving to increase its adoption of renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote sustainability. The current landscape underscores the urgent need to educate younger generations about renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency.

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The implementation of the “Green4Clean” project is expected to support the government’s initiative on renewable energy by:

  • Increasing awareness and education about renewable energy by providing students with a comprehensive understanding of various renewable energy sources, including solar and wind energy, along with their scientific principles and practical applications.
  • Promoting awareness about environmental challenges and the importance of sustainable energy practices within schools and the broader community, while offering hands-on experience through workshops, projects, and field trips to engage students in renewable energy technologies.
  • Encouraging collaboration among students, teachers, and industry professionals to exchange ideas and expertise. Advocating for the integration of renewable energy topics into the educational curriculum in Ghana is a key aspect of the project, aiming to equip young learners with essential knowledge and skills for the future.
  • Introducing students to potential career paths in the renewable energy sector by inviting industry guest speakers and organising visits to renewable energy facilities.

Speaking at the Memorandum of Understanding signing, Ing. Dr. Lucy Agyepong remarked, “Academic City is excited about the partnership with United Way Ghana to launch the ‘Green4Clean’ project. For us, we see this initiative as not just an educational programme but a significant step towards fostering a culture of sustainability among young children. With this project, we are equipping the young ones with the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to a sustainable future for Ghana.”

She expressed Academic City’s commitment to ensuring the success of the initiative, emphasising that it aligns with the university’s commitment to community development and innovative education.

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Kobina Ansah – A Lonely Journey of Fighting Rape Through A Musical Play

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The Ghanaian theatre industry is still a virgin industry and many practitioners are feeding it with content to keep the scene active. With National Theatre getting busy lately with varying stage plays, it goes without saying that this is an industry that has great prospects.
Plays come in various forms, one of such is a musical. Musical plays usually connote fun and excitement. They often evoke a sense of liveliness. Going to the theatre to see a musical means going to see something that one can always laugh about.
One theatre practitioner whose works are departing from the norm of musicals is Kobina Ansah. His works make one ask a lot of questions because they significantly deviate from what many expect of a musical.
The daring writer was the first to put up a stage play on LGBT in Ghana. His love for taking on hard subjects is unparalleled and his current play tells it all.
At first glance, the playwright looks like a calm gentleman. However, anyone who watches his plays will definitely conclude that he is not. He takes on uncomfortable themes many will shy away from. Little wonder he describes him as an “unconventional storyteller”.
He has a heart for women, and this is very evident in all his plays. In his new play, IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN, Kobina Ansah takes on a taboo topic in our society ~ rape ~ through an original musical. Unlike many upbeat musicals, this one is a moving story with 16 original songs that leave a lot to ponder over.
“I want to leave a lasting impact with my works. This desire sends me on an errand of taking on stories that may sometimes appear uncomfortable,” he explains. “I love to dream without borders and that is what I do with my plays,” he adds.
IN THE PANTS OF A WOMAN sparks the conversation of rape and the approach of society to such. It goes hard on toxic narratives that have empowered abusers and, in turn, dispempowered the abused. It shows at National Theatre on July 20th.
Source: Scribe News
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African Science Academy (ASA) students graduate and poised to impact the world with STEM

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African Science Academy (ASA) has held its 7th graduation ceremony honouring young women equipped with the skills and knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to drive innovation and development across Africa and beyond.

The ceremony showcased the resilience and dedication of these young women hailing from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Zambia and other African countries who, in the last ten months with resilience and determination have completed the globally recognised Cambridge International A-Levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, and Physics, all on full scholarships. The students also studied robotics and computer programming. During their speeches, the graduates articulated their readiness to apply their newly acquired skills and pledged to be good ambassadors of ASA.

In 2016, the Chair of African Gifted Foundation, Dr. Tom Ilube, founded ASA, an all-girls STEM-focused academy for gifted African girls from low-income backgrounds. The Founder of ASA, Dr. Tom Ilube, in his welcome address, emphasised the global impact of investing in African youth, expressing confidence in the graduates’ capacity to drive change. 

He said: “Do you know that it has been predicted that by 2050, Africa’s population will be 2.5 billion people, it will be a quarter of the world’s entire population. So whatever happens in Africa, impacts the entire world. If you have an impact here, it impacts the whole world.” Dr. Tom also emphasised that graduates of the African Science Academy will be creators of global technological trends and not predictors.

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In her opening remarks to the graduation of the Class of 2024, the Headteacher of ASA, Gifty Ghansah, praised the graduates for their tenacity and highlighted the comprehensive skill set they developed over the 10-month journey. She urged them to challenge the status quo and strive for excellence, asserting, “You have the power to make a significant impact.”

“The journey through this program has not just equipped you with technical knowledge and skills, but also, it has forced resilience, creativity, and a problem-solving mindset. These attributes are not only the foundation of your future careers but also crucial in addressing the global challenges we face today,” she noted. Touching on the uniqueness of the 2024 cohort, Ms. Ghansah highlighted perseverance, eagerness to learn and excel, and the can-do spirit, adding that the collective support among themselves “will remain a very beautiful memory with me.”

The British High Commissioner to Ghana, her Excellency Harriet Thompson, highlighted her admiration for ASA’s students, noting their abilities as sources of optimism and hope for the future. “Every time I come here (ASA), I am inspired by you students. You are doing amazing things. I always leave ASA feeling optimistic. No matter what challenges have been on my mind through my day job or when I watch the news, I always leave ASA thinking it is okay. The world is in good hands because of ASA,” she remarked.

In his remarks, the Regional Director (Middle East and Africa) at Apple Inc., David Chisholm, shared insights from his career, urging the graduates to find joy in their work, build positive relationships, and maintain a balanced life. Additionally, he praised their sincerity and urgency in contributing to their community while reminding them of the significant responsibilities laid on them by their families, community and girls who will follow them through ASA.

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Among the other dignitaries who graced the ceremony with their presence were the trustees of the African Gifted Foundation (AGF), the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Business and Financial Times (B&FT), Representatives from UN and UNFPA, Technip FMC, University of Warwick, Aya Data, alumnae of ASA, parents, among others.

Head and Deputy School Prefects, Emmaculate Wey Amu Adiba and Bernice Blanney Tetteh, expressed gratitude to Dr. IIube for the opportunity given them as well as Ms. Ghansah together with the ASA staff for their unwavering support. 

“We are who we are today because of our founder Dr. Tom Ilube, who made it possible for this prestigious institution and hence these butterflies of change to come into existence. We owe our growth and membership as a part of this community to our dear headteacher Ms. Gifty Ghansah. We also thank every member of staff for all their advice,” she said. Highlighting the challenges, they prefects mentioned adapting to the new curriculum at ASA as one of them, which they eventually overcame with the support of their able teachers and fellow sisters.

As part of the ceremony, students received several awards with Precious Agyei from Ghana, receiving Best Student in A-Level Further Maths and Overall Best Student in Academics.

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Categories Awardee
1 Best Student in A-level Maths Belise Hirwa Umurerwa
2 Best Student in A-level Further Maths Precious Agyei
3 Best Student in A-level Physics Nicole Mutesi  & Mirabel Ukazu
4 Overall Best Student in Academics Precious Agyei
5 Outstanding Development Award Mary Amissah
6 All round Student Award Belise Hirwa Umurerwa
Non –Academic Awards
7 Most disciplined student Bernice Blanney Tetteh
8 ASA Resilience Award Sylvia Akanpawine & Mavis Marfo
9 ASA Ambassador Bernice Blanney Tetteh
10 Exceptional Dedication award Belise Hirwa Umurerwa & Mariama Ayaaba Alhassan
11 ASA Excellence Award Emmaculate Wey Amu Adiba
12 ASA Award for Integrity Bernice Blanney Tetteh
13 ASA Ambition award Jane Seyram Ocloo
14 ASA Caring Community Award Belise Hirwa Umurerwa
15 ASA Empowerment Award Precious Agyei
16 ASA Innovation Award Nuna  Aseye  Afi  Nyamekor,  Mirabel  Ukazu  &
Zakia Mahamudu Sisse
17 ASA Creativity Award Neolla Theodette Uwabeza & June Njiru
18 ASA Diversity Award Chinelo Adaugo Nnamdi-Kanu

 

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KNUST TEAM SWEEPS FOUR WORLDSTAR STUDENT PACKAGING AWARDS

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KNUST TEAM SWEEPS FOUR WORLDSTAR STUDENT PACKAGING AWARDS

The 2024 Overall Winner Gold Medal for the International Packaging Design Student Competition organised by the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), has been presented to Ms. Edna Akyaa Amo-Duah on behalf of a three member team from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), at an impressive WorldStar Global Packaging Awards ceremony held in Bangkok, Thailand under the auspices of the 31st Propak Asia Packaging and Processing Exhibition.

 

This esteemed prize celebrates students commitment to designing outstanding packaging. The competition aims at encouraging and showing the talents and innovative ideas of students in the field of packaging. In addition to the Overall Winner Gold Award, the packaging design by the KNUST team consisting of Edna, Barthelomew Nyarko and Maxine Naa Adoley Allotey-Quist received a Gold Medal for the Best Food Packaging, Silver for Sustainable Packaging and Bronze for Packaging that Saves Food. The WPO Vice President for Education, Mr. Kofi Essuman, presented the four medals to Edna, 

The competition attracted 253 entries from 25 countries of which 137 were selected for finalist awards. Each entry was judged and scored by a global panel from 49 countries. The KNUST entry designated Alpha Biopac stood out above all the entries. It is a robust, eco-friendly and sustainable box made from water hyacinth fibreboard. It is intended to enable effective handling, storage and transportation of smoked fish.

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The second Overall Winner Silver Award – a Sushi Takeaway packaging – went to Jeremy Marchant of the University of New South Wales, Australia.  The bronze award winning entry, an innovative carton-in-carton Health and Personal Care sunscreen packaging was presented to California Polytechnic State University. 

Ghana presented seven entries from KNUST, University of Ghana, University for Development Studies, Ho Technical University and Koforidua Technical University. All these packaging designs received awards at the 5th Students Packaging Research and Innovation Challenge organized by the Institute of Packaging, Ghana and Royal Crown Packaging Company in 2023. Qualiplast Ghana Ltd, Kasapreko. The Packaging Innovation Challenge was sponsored by Access Bank, ePac, Brand Innovation and Premaxks Communications. Six of the entries reached the Finalist Stage of the WorldStar Competition and received certificates of recognition.

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               Alpha Biopac for packaging; storage and transportation of smoked fish  

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Edna Amo-Duah with the Medals

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Scent of Africa Unveils Fik and Gleti – New Fragrances Celebrating African Heritage

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Scent of Africa proudly launched its latest luxury his and hers fragrance duo, Fik and Gleti. The exclusive cocktail launch event took place at the upscale Tribeca restaurant in Airport Residential, known for its Hawaiian influences. This new duo is the fourth pair to emerge from the famed Eternal Legends Collection, inspired by African mythology. Like its predecessors, Fik and Gleti were developed by international perfumers and produced in Ghana. It features indigenous ingredients from across Africa and is encapsulated in an extraordinary, award-winning bottle design.

Under the stars in the exceptional outdoor space, the event welcomed Scent of Africa’s VIP clients, celebrities, influencers, and brand enthusiasts. Key highlights included the exciting official reveal of the fragrance duo along with its advertisement campaign, both at the event and simultaneously on the brand’s digital platforms. The event also featured other perfumes from the collection—Rakh & Nefee; Hagé & Laïka; and Bézi & Bellua —which have made waves across the world. Guests were particularly drawn into the world of Fik and Gleti, learning about their unique stories and indulging in their distinctive olfactory creations.

Fik pays tribute to the Efik people of Nigeria, drawing inspiration from Abassi, the god of the sky. This fragrance embodies elegance and charisma, crafted for the man who effortlessly attracts and unites others with his charm. Fik combines the emblematic aromatic freshness of rosemary and myrtle from Tunisia with the spiciness of ginger essence from Nigeria. The masculine florality of Egyptian geranium is made sensual by fir balsam, creating a captivating, masculine trail.  Perfumer Nelly Hachem-Ruiz describes the magnetic woody fragrance as “a vibrant and mysterious twilight where the triumph of wild nature prevails.”

Gleti is inspired by the moon goddess of the Fon people from the Dahomey kingdom. This fragrance embodies femininity, captivating all with her radiant beauty and empowering presence, designed for the woman who naturally stands out and influences those around her with grace and elegance. Gleti encompasses a juicy and faceted pear, which is wrapped in the petals of a bouquet of white flowers. The Tunisian Neroli returns the ball to the Egyptian Jasmine for a beautiful ballet of feminity. Ylang of Madagascar and Egyptian Cassie crowns it all with a solar and luminous scent. The association of comfy musks with contrasted woods comes to give the character. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet describes Gleti as “an olfactory jewel, made of noble materials for undisputed nocturnal elegance.”

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Tanal Ghandour, Founder of Scent of Africa said “We celebrate our growth with the launch of Fik and Gleti, our newest fragrances in the Eternal Legends Collection. We are proud of our achievements and the international acclaim Scent of Africa is receiving. As we continue this journey, our vision is to showcase African artistry to the world with each step. Thank you to our team, partners, and supporters.”

The trailblazing Eternal Legends Collection has enjoyed significant success, contributing to the global fragrance industry through African innovation and artistry. To connect with the brand online, visit www.scentofafrica.com/storelocator and follow on social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube) using the handle @scentofafrica. Discover these fragrances as they rise from Africa and spread their essence across the continent and the world.

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