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Hadra Ahmed

Most people get a feeling of relaxation when someone spells out the word ‘spa’. The thought of spoiling oneself with aromatic bath, facials, manicures, pedicures, massages and many more is seductive: a mother who would like to take a break away from her children for a while; a traveler struggling to come off a terrible jet lag; a workaholic who sometimes had it enough; lovers and friends looking for a special moment; all find it irresistible.  But the question of where to go and how to find the right place is something that many of those with a spa appetite struggle to answer.

And if it is in a bustling city like Addis Ababa, the ‘construction capital of Africa’ as one Ethiopian economist famously called it, the emergence of a new and innovative spa hangout comes as pleasing news for many who can afford to pay. That is exactly what the new Tilla Spa and Fitness Health Club brought to enthusiastic spa goers.

The beauty is in the details

Tilla Spa and Fitness Health Club is a place designed with a purpose in mind of taking one out of the ever exhausting hustle and bustle of Addis Ababa to give a day-long vacation, the sort of sanctuary one could aspire to get healthy, athletic, and sexy at the same time, in the same place.

Unlike other places that provide the same service, Tilla (an Amharic word literally meaning shelter as in from a scorching sun) has combined trainings with nutritional advice and follow up to guide whoever wants to lead a healthy life style. For a range of high quality spa services designed for those who are willing to pay – often upper middle and upper class urbanite Ethiopians and expatriate community, Tilla justifies the argument that increasing numbers of affluent dwellers of the Addis Ababa city are getting used to paying for a connoisseur service, be it spa or restaurant.

But with Tilla the difference is visible. It begins from the outside unique architectural design of the five story building housing the spa, located opposite Bambis Supermarket. The building’s architecture design, was done by Issa Diabaté of Koffi & Diabaté Architectes Agency, led by African architects from Côte d’Ivoire.  Inside, each and every area is equipped with state of the art wireless music system designed to stream five different melodies in five different areas managed by the spa reception – the spa area will have a relaxing music, both international and Ethiopian; the reception, health café and the hair salon will have a different tune but with higher tones compared to the spa area, while the gym area will have various genres ranging from rock, dance, pop, and house. In the aerobic studio the music will depend on the sort of fitness class held at that time. All is sound proof.

The making of Tilla has a supreme taste for interior details too – designed by Dos Architects, a renowned English architect firm, its uniqueness is visible from the placement of changing cabins to the direction of the Jacuzzi, from the furnitures to the gym equipment, from the placement of ladies and gentlemen sauna and steam to the different choice of showerheads for both (for women, it matters how the water from the showerhead flows!), and from the resting chairs outside the steam and sauna to the spa pedicure chair foot rests – the beauty of Tilla is in the details often ignored by even upper end spas in town.

From Theranaka to the 4th trimester healing hour

It is probably very common to hear a Swedish massage on offer here in Ethiopia – from the high end spas to those mysterious massage houses. But definitely not Theranaka body massage,  African fusion full/back body massage, Avocado & Shea Butter body massage, African wood massage, tri-scented Shea body nugget massage, African awakening massage and hand and foot rituals. And yes, who has heard of Mama Mio, maternity spa treatments, the “4th trimester healing hour,” spa services in Ethiopia?  Not to mention body bootcamp treatment (bootcamp for butts, bootcamp for tummies, boobs), and Dermalogica treatments.

Once inside, it is simply easy to lose your sense of choice, but “our staff will assist members with the planning and scheduling of an exercise program wellness activities and spa treatments, assist in structuring a program suited to one’s needs and lifestyle”, Simone Lipari, Spa manager, told this magazine. “Tilla is also an exclusive environment where one can receive professional attention in an atmosphere that is suitable for the needs of our clients”.

For men there are only two treatment (massage rooms); a sauna and a steam with each accommodating a maximum of eight and five people respectively; and for women there are three treatment rooms; a sauna and a steam accommodating the same number as the men’s. Unusual for a high end place here in Addis Ababa, there are only three pedicure, two manicure, and three hair style booths with two washing stations. “Quality” not “quantity” is what the members-only Tilla is preparing to give its prestigious clients, says Simone.

What is perhaps the most cautious concept of Tilla is however not its careful selection of equipments, but its ‘eat healthy’ motto. After an enduring century marked by mass production of food through the use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers, the idea of eating healthy and organic has become the fashion of the day, and Tilla is on board. Its two health cafés are there to serve customers organic-only light meals from smoothies to salads.

Soon Addis Ababa will be home to a spa chain with soon-to-come branches in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana and where it is possible to get healthy, athletic, and sexy at the same time, in the same place.

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