If, like me, you find the majority of workouts tedious and spend most of your ‘treadmill time’ watching the time, then you are ready to make the switch to Zumba. This fast paced fun workout to Latin inspired music has become a worldwide phenomenon and the ‘Zumba craze’ has finally hit the shores of Doha.
Zumba was actually invented accidently by dancer and choreographer Beto Perez in the 1990’s in Columbia. Little did he know that the day he forgot his aerobics music would change his life, and the workout world, forever. Perez, forced to improvise, took his Latin salsa music tapes from his car and structured the workout around them; suddenly Zumba was born.
Fikria El Kaouakibi is the only Muslim Zumba teacher in Doha. Originally from Morocco she explains what motivated her to become a teacher. ‘After my husband finished his PhD in Belgium he found work in Oxford, England. I became secretary of the Oxford Arabic Women’s group there and I saw there was a lot of depression. We were away from our families and there were a lot of women that had no access to a place to exercise. Living in a mixed society there was not much for ladies only. So when I heard about Zumba, that you have a mixture of fun and exercise, I knew I had to learn how to do it so I could help these ladies. That’s one of the main reasons that I started.’
When she arrived in Doha in September 2010 Zumba was far from her mind. ‘When I came here I forgot all about Zumba, as I didn’t think people here would know it. I thought I might teach English. Then just before the summer holidays the ladies from my childrens’ school asked if I could teach some Zumba, so we did a ladies night and that’s how it started here,’ she says.
Fikria now runs regular ‘ladies only’ classes, which are open to all nationalities and she speaks openly about her target audience. ‘My main goal is to get Arabic women involved in exercising. I don’t teach Zumba for commercial reasons, I have studied and I praise God for what I have, but living in a fast paced society women have to run the day to day routine and we ignore our bodies,’ she explains. Passionate about Zumba Fikria is convinced it has a multitude of benefits. ‘It’s mental as well as physical conditioning, as you have to have a healthy mental state as well as physical. It’s a fact that you burn calories but it’s also fun way to exercise,’ she enthuses.
Classes are indeed fun and I speak from personal experience having now attended for over three months. Not only have I miraculously gained a sense of coordination but I also recently found the courage to surrender my coveted ‘back-row’ slot in class. This is all thanks to Fikria’s superb teaching style; her enthusiasm is infectious and she’s constantly smiling and encouraging the class. ‘I tell people not to think about the moves, as you don’t have to do it exactly the same, as long as you move with me in the same direction. Everyone has different fitness levels and Zumba is good for all fitness levels; when you think that it’s too hard you just slow down,’ she says.
Incorporating both dance and aerobic elements Zumba includes influences and moves from hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, martial arts and belly dance. In Frikia’s class there are also Bollywood hits where you get the chance to don belly-dancing skirts over your gym gear and wiggle your hips in true Bollywood style. Fikria explains that she tries to incorporate something for everyone. ‘I try to give people a combination of everything and I go all around the world with the music using African, Country, Latin, Indian and commercial music,’ she says.
The Zumba craze is set to reach ‘Curves’ shortly, as Fikria has been contacted to start classes there, and she is also now running classes for children, as well as working for Weill Cornell Medical College as an Administration Secretary in their research division. 2012 is going to be a busy year for her. ‘I have seen there is a need and demand for Zumba, logistically I would like to centralise somewhere so I could have more people. I don’t have the perfect room yet,’ she says. Wherever Fikria teaches we know her winning smile and her sense of fun will follow her. If you do one thing this year step away from the boring treadmill and dance your way to your nearest Zumba class; you won’t regret it.
For a list of Zumba classes in Doha log onto www.zumba.com