Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ladies Only

Get a bunch of ladies in one room and I guarantee, regardless of their nationality or language, tongues will start flapping immediately.  I used to think that this concept of "flapping tongues" was something unique to the South, but let me tell you - Egyptian women can "flap" with the best of them!

I experienced my first ladies-only salon ("coiffure" in Arabic) in Egypt yesterday.  It was a teeny, tiny little place tucked in a corner not far from our house.  I was a little uncharacteristically nervous walking into a new coiffure like that cold turkey, but then I gritted my teeth, plastered a smile on my face and walked in the door.  

Most coiffures in Egypt are full of men.  I know this sounds strange, but there are men washing hair and men fixing hair and men cutting hair.  There are men serving hot tea or coffee, men arranging fancy hegabs (veils), men taking money,, men, everywhere!  

There is only one section of every coiffure that men are not allowed...has something to do with "sweet" (Egyptian waxing), but I think I'll leave that one to your imagination.

So to walk into a ladies-only coiffure was a bit nerve-wracking but also a bit exhilarating.  Because I know how the ladies in Egypt are, they're like ladies everywhere that I'VE ever been - friendly, talkative, curious, ...    that's just how we ladies do things.

I go to the coiffure to get my eyebrows done.  This is one of those things that you dread and then when you're done, you are SO glad that you went through all that pain.  And I felt a bit like that yesterday, or at least a little bit.

I think they may do eyebrow waxing somewhere in Cairo, but I have yet to try this.  They've done it the old-fashioned way in every coiffure I've been to in Egypt so far.  Old-fashioned is basically some good old tweezers, combined with threading and tiny scissors for trimming.  

We'll come back to the threading...

Let me just say that I LOVE the fact that I can go home with perfectly shaped eyebrows that #1 I didn't have to lift a finger to do and #2 I paid less than $2 to get done!  Granted, you have to watch these ladies very closely because they often finish one eyebrow before they start the other.  So very careful checking to see that the eyebrows match is required.  Otherwise you might get that permanent raised eyebrow look (don't lie, you know what I mean).

Now, about the threading.  This is the pain that I mentioned earlier.  I have a kind of love-hate relationship with threading.  Basically I LOVE that it gets rid of all those little hairs around the eyebrows that are impossible to get with tweezers but I HATE that it makes my eyes tear up and basically I feel like in that moment I will seriously die from the pain.

Threading is exactly what it sounds like (or at least I hope it does).  Basically the lady takes a long piece of thread and folds it over twisting it around and around.  Then she catches the fine hairs in the twisted part and yanks...yup, I said YANKS.

Oh, the things we do to be beautiful!

I usually do my eyebrows first.  And then - if I feel like I have the nerve - I ask them to do my upper lip.  This is the part where I think I might die from the pain.  Because there are moments where all I can think is escape!

But enough about pain.  I wanted to talk about the ladies too.

In a place like this, I am glad that I can speak Arabic.  Because even though it takes a little while for the ladies to warm up to me (granted, their tongues are still flapping a mile a minute the whole time - just not to me), once they do they definitely make up for lost time.  In about 5 minutes, this one lady had the whole story - how long I'd lived in Egypt, how old my son was, who my husband was, if I liked Egypt or America better (classic question asked by many Egyptians I meet for the first time).

I laugh now as I think about it.  She would have made a great reporter actually.  Because there I was with my feet up (oh, I got a pedicure as well - also for somewhere around $2) and couldn't move, so what else is there to do but answer her questions?

Well, finally the work was done.  And it was time to leave.  

Just another experience in Egypt to remember!  


  1. Very great blog, 10. That blog has created good, congratulations!
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  2. I love your post, it made me laugh as well. Your description is so humorous. It will be interesting if you write more about dealing with women in Egypt and how do you find cultural differences.

  3. Thanks Roody. I'm happy to have made you laugh. I keep meaning to write more about the women here so thanks for the encouragement.


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