Tuesday May 21, 2019 By: Alexandra Kinias
Most children love school excursions and field trips. Spending a day or few days with classmates in different environments, exploring historical sights, visiting a farm and playing in the fields is a delightful experience, filled with small adventures and memorable moments. As adults get wrapped up in their everyday life and responsibilities, nostalgic happiness takes them back to fond memories from their childhood. That’s why study tours for adults are attractive to many. They provide opportunities to relive their childhood memories, and make new ones. Egyptian American Raghda A. Maksoud combined her passion for essential oils, aromatherapy and travel, and organized Egypt Study Tour, the First Essential Oils Study Tour in Egypt, in partnership with the National Association for Holistic Association (NAHA). The study tour included visiting four main essential oils producers in Egypt.
In addition to providing participants with new learning experiences, Raghda also aspired to offer them a unique cultural experience. “The main target of Egypt Study Tour was to visit different farms,introduce the growers, distillers, farmers and factory owners to the Aromatherapists, to learn about the Egyptian aromatic plantations and essential oils industry, the hard work and investments behind processing and the production of a small bottle of Aromatherapy or essential oil. In addition, to also visit the country and live the Egyptian experience,” explained Raghda, Owner of Ebers Consulting.
The idea of organizing an Egypt study tour was born in October 2018. Raghda wanted to give NAHA members the opportunity to explore and live “the whole seed to bottle experience.” When she discussed her idea with NAHA executives, she received immediate support and a green light to go ahead with her plans. She immediately put her idea into action. “I started putting an itinerary together, contacting growers, distillers, farms, security officials for approvals, calling travel agents to help me arrange all the logistics. Everything went so smoothly. All the distillers I contacted in Egypt were thrilled to host an event for the NAHA group in Egypt.”
Within two months, Raghda created the itinerary and planned the trip. The announcement went out in December 2018 and within days, 20 participants signed up. After all, it’s not every day one gets a chance to visit the birthplace of essential oils. To the surprise of the organizers, four participants from South Korea and one from Lebanon signed up for the tour, in addition to 15 participants from USA. Egypt Study Tour was the first ever technical Aromatherapy and Essential Oils study tour of its kind for NAHA to be organized in Egypt.
The Egyptian adventure started at JFK on April 19th, 2019. “Many people from every walk-in life gathered for a trip to Egypt, the land of the ancient civilization. Arriving to sunny Cairo, and greeted warmly by our tour guide, with flowers and heartfelt smiles, made the 12 hours long trip and the hard work that preceded it worthwhile.”
Over the following week, in spite of the tight schedule, the participants lived a fairytale dream experience. The study tour included visits to four family owned and operated enterprises nested along the Nile in breathtaking locations. They experienced Egypt and its hospitality with all their senses.
With a fulltime Egyptologist assigned to the group, the bus ride to their destinations in the delta region and along the Nile, was condensed lessons about Egypt’s rich history, its culture and social life. They visited and toured the farms and factories of Hashem Brothers in the delta region where they grow aromatics carnation, Neroli, Geranium, Jasmine and many other aromatic flowers and plants. They learned from the owners about the distillation process, how the hydrosol is separated from the oil. “We had an amazing experience walking in the fields. As we walked through the farms under the Neroli trees, the wind blew and flowers showered us. It felt as if it suddenly started raining Neroli flowers.”
Their second visit was to El Shabrawy Group in Tanta, a historical facility that dates back to the sixties. They toured the farms, the distillation and extraction units for violet, jasmine, Neroli, petit grain mandarin, to mention a few. On Shabrawy’s farm, the study group helped in harvesting the last Neroli trees and listened to presentations about extraction, distillation and the different botanicals. From Shabrawy farms, they leisurely walked a short distance through the delta farms to A. Fakhry & Co. They listened to another presentation by the owner Mr. Hussein Fakhry about the history of the industry and the new techniques of distillation. They also toured the fields, the distillation unit and warehouses. “We started the tour by rose picking competition, Rosa Centifolia. It was fun, but it also made us realize the amount of work behind the rose picking, and the number of roses needed for distillation. I won the completion,” added Raghda proudly. “After the competition we strolled in the farm. We walked through fields of the clary sage, jasmine and geranium. We touched their soft texture and inhaled their heavenly aromas. By the end of the day, their taste buds were ready for try a hearty traditional Egyptian meal prepared by their host and served to their delight.
The ride to Beni Suef to visitFridal F Tarek Abou Bakr & Co Farms was longer than the previous two visits, but nonetheless, the end result made the trip worthwhile on many levels. In addition to the presentation offered by Amr Abou Bakr, the second-generation owner, about the company, visiting the vast geranium and jasmine fields, attending cumin and chamomile distillation lessons, they also visited the organic cattle farm that belonged to the family, where cows are fed organic food mixed with spent materials from the distillation. In Beni Suef, they also visited smaller distilleries owned by the locals whose main process is distilling coriander leaf oil. Back from Beni Suef, they visited the company’s facility in October City where they were also introduced to the production units of the flavors. They also attended lessons on how to use GCMS and other physical tests, used as tool to identify and develop the different flavors.
Along the education and study, the tour also included visiting Egypt’ s attractive sights. They visited the Egyptian museum, the old city of Cairo with its mosques and citadels, walked in Khan El Khalily. And of course, no trip to Egypt would be complete without visiting the pyramids and riding the camels, an experience documents in tens of photos the participants shared on their social media.
“The whole study tour was more than an amazing cross cultural experience of growth, education and understanding. Many beautiful hearts and souls got together for the love of aromatherapy and history. With that being said, we are preparing for Egypt Study Tour, Part Two. We cannot wait to announce that,” concluded Raghda.
Photos Courtesy Ebers Aromatherapy
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It’s a treat and a history lesson for me every time. Thank you.