“We are not health freaks,” Sahar insisted, “We just have a keen interest in diet as we firmly believe that we are what we eat.” Loubna nodded in agreement, adding: “We wanted to raise awareness and improve eating habits by insisting on premium and organic produce. But it is not only about healthy food and culinary delights; our aim is to provide a holistic approach of health for body and soul.” Speaking against the backdrop of Wadi Food’s olive oil and condiments booth were Sahar Kamal Zaghloul and Loubna Olama, the creators of the recently launched Healthy Living and Farmers Market.
By sheer coincidence, both ladies, whose daughters are friends, thought of the same idea and independently approached Nadia and Sara Badreldin of Arkan Plaza to host the event. It was the Badreldin who suggested they join forces. “After working together we discovered we complement each other, and we make a good team,” said Sahar. “Actually, it’s our differences that are our forte, as we tend to challenge each other to come up with interesting ideas.”
At first glance you would think Sahar and Loubna are worlds apart: the former is a stylish, fashion guru while the latter is veiled and though well groomed, is conservatively dressed in a long coat. However, there are many similarities between them than meets the eye. Both are alumni of the same high school (PSS), AUCians, dynamic with a positive attitude, share deep spirituality and possess a strong work ethic.
After working on the theme for a few months the pilot event was launched last November in Arkan and was an instant success. “Before the day was over vendors and shoppers alike asked us when is the next event!” exclaimed Loubna. “We were pleasantly surprised by the pilot’s success and knew we had a winner. We’re repeating it in December before Christmas, and hope to have it on a monthly basis.”
The theme was both interesting and challenging, as it was the first time to be introduced in Egypt on such a wide scale. Healthy living, especially when it comes to diet, is not exactly a priority among average Egyptians. They almost did not make it. In June they started off with six vendors, but they are now working with over 60. Another challenge was introducing health grains like quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice, which were hardly known in Egypt. With the help of one of the vendors, a cooking station was set up during the pilot event and shoppers sampled the different grains; quinoa was a hit.
The core theme remains fresh vegetables, fruits and top notch agricultural produce; there are interesting varieties like kale, bok choy, endives, avocados, yellow squash and green cherry tomatoes. Sahar jokingly said they made allowance for the festive season in the upcoming event by including some decadent, albeit premium, cookies, pies and other Christmas goodies.
The event boasts heavyweights like Isis, PICO, Wadi Food and Makar Farms, Nefertari, Areej Aromatherapy and Luna, in addition to hydroponic startup projects like Egyptian Hydroponics, Shaduff and Bustan. However most of the exhibitors are small-scale, home-based initiatives from ladies that produce jams, pickles, honey, pies and cookies like Minnie’s Dried Fruits, Fakeeha, Bel Hana Wal Shifa, California Kitchen, Cookies ‘N More, Yum, among others. There are also the natural beauty and homemade soap producers like Black Lotus, Body Bakes and Sinai Sea Salt who are all recent start-ups which found a good marketing and promotional outlet in the event. The ladies stressed that their underlying message is advocating social entrepreneurship, encouraging the empowerment of women at a grassroots level and stimulating economic development through the creation of job opportunities in rural and low-income communities.