That was really quick. Perhaps the quickest hair cut I’ve ever had! It was almost sad. I’m an Australian who’s been living in Egypt for almost 2 years now and my work assignment is about to come to an end. I remember going to this hair dresser about 3 times and it has been an experience each time. I’m getting sentimental as I know this is perhaps one of the last times I’ll have such an experience.
Friday is the most religious day of the week in this Muslim country. The call to prayer is playing in the background – it’s pride of place is central to this all male domain.
As a Westerner, you immediately stand out in the crowded room of 5 hair dressers, around 8 hair dresser’s helpers and around 7 clients. Upon entering, you know you’re being watched. But, it’s a comforting subtle stare. It’s just that there’s not that many Westerners that come through the door, I guess?
I noticed that on my entry there was a call out to the same hair dresser that cut my hair last time. He didn’t have a beard (unlike most of the others). I guessed he was in his mid thirties. His slicked back hair finished with curls at the back. I think the reason he cuts my hair is he has a few words of English. But then again, I don’t know.
I was immediately ushered to the basin for my hair washing by one of the helpers. This must have taken place thousands of times as the towel is placed on my back and my head directed to the basin. The mildly warm water sloshed around and then shampoo was evacuated from the pump action shampoo bottle. I closed my eyes. I could hear the shuffle of feet as workers effortlessly made their way from the front room to the hidden back room, where there seemed to be even more people. How do they all fit in?
By grabbing both sides of the towel, I was lifted from my position and then my head wrapped and dried. My hair dresser (who was standing at my side) gestured towards the chair at the end, “come”.
It’s hot this time of year. Really hot. High 30’s, low 40’s. The last thing I want to deal with at the moment is longer hair. I knew the question that was coming so I just said “short”.
Oh no. What did I just say? Before I knew it, the clippers were out and he’d started on the back of my head. Normally my request is “no clippers”. Oh well, what can I do? It was time to go with the flow. Short means short. The clippers crept around to the sides, I hoped this trend was not going to continue for the top. It didn’t. Phew. Well, I did say short. The scissors came out and the top was trimmed.
Then the clipping stopped. I looked at my hair dresser and he said something to me. I said “yes”. But then tried to process, what did he just say? Did he say “shave?”. Oh no, I’ve done it again. At a different hair dresser in Cairo, I agreed to a shave once before. It cost my over 250 Egyptian Pounds (60 Aussie dollars) and took around 45 minutes. Although it was a nice shave (the first I’ve had at a hair dresser) I ended up in a bit of a spiral. Each time I thought he was saying we’re done, it meant a further step. After the facial, I realised I was being taken for a ride!
Did he say “gel”. If he said gel, that’s good. At least it’s not a shave. We continued to stare at each other in the mirror, now it was starting to get awkward. He swivelled the chair further in a clockwise direction and was looking to the other side of the room. “Please” and his open hand pointed towards the basin. Oh, thank goodness, it’s another wash. I got up with a wry smile and walked towards the basin but felt like a ditz. The room was accommodating, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Proceedings continued by all those around us, no one missed a beat. Ah, a hair wash. No extra time, no extra cost, no awkward situation. It’s all ok.
When I returned to the hair dresser’s chair, this time he definitely said “gel”. I smiled and the next thing I knew, I had a spike. Well, that takes me back. I had a flat top in the 80’s, I do remember having a spike before that.
I was shown the cashier. Ok, so now I knew it was a joke. The cashier looked up and broke a subtle laugh. Yes, it’s a spike. I’ll fix it as soon as I get out the door. It didn’t really matter. But he didn’t have to laugh at my hair!
Upon leaving the hair dressers, I looked back at the door. It said Quick Touch. It definitely was Quick but so many dimensions packed into such a quick experience. It kind of sums Egypt up for me. So much going on yet I don’t realise it at the time, it’s only upon reflection that it hits me.