Burgundy Roots Retreats
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. 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.
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