Dr Galil’s hands are the tools of his trade. It is with these precision instruments that he welcomes me with an old fashioned hearty handshake, reminding me that manners are a signature of breeding.
Plastic surgeon and native of Zamalek, Dr Galil, 56, rode his bike as a boy from his parents’ apartment on Hassan Sabry to the Gezirah Club each weekend. In his time he has seen Cairo’s population boom, and in his own small way, has helped to sculpt the look and appearance of the populace.
Fifteen percent of Dr Galil’s work is pro bono, for the public good. Often the city’s poor are referred to him because of horrific burns, vehicle accidents, skin cancers, congenital anomalies of children and what Dr Galil sensitively refers to as “funny willies .
“God has helped me a lot, Dr Galil, a Coptic Christian, says, “and this is my way of giving back.
Plastic surgery has boomed in the US and Europe over the last 30 years, though it is no longer the preseve of the rich and famous. “Plastic surgery has become much more democratic. People are much more open and in Cairo the cost also attracts clients from around the globe, Dr Galil said.
Dr Galil, who speaks fluent French, consults reguarly with clients from France, US and the Gulf States.
“Some years ago an 82-year-old Italian lady visited my surgery on the Agricultural Street, Dokki. She came for a breast reduction which was related to back problems, and stayed for a tummy tuck and a face lift.
Medical tourism is an emerging market in Egypt. People travel to Cairo for dental work and, according to Dr. Galil, the procedures that he carries out are approximately half the cost, including follow-up care of those in Europe and the US.
“Roughly 50 percent of my clients are expatriats and 50 percent are Egyptian from all walks of life. The most common surgeries are eye-lids, breast surgery – both enlargments and reductions – abdominal liposuction and every year Botox injections increases by 100 percent.
I have a special interest in breasts. In fact, I am very good with these procedures. And interestingly, expatriots usually have breast enlargements and Egyptians breast reductions, Dr Galil said.
After finishing his medical training at Cairo University, Dr Galil completed internships at hospitals in Shobra and the Anglo-American, Zamalek, where he still works. In 1979 he moved to England where he said, You can learn in a month, what it would take a year to learn in Egypt. Surgeons are craftsmen and we learn by doing.
During his four years in the UK, Dr Galil worked at hospitals in Edingburgh, Liverpool, Kent and Leicester. After work he studied for exams, and though the hours were long and the work demanding, he looks back fondly on his training and calls the British system “marvellous.
Over a civilised meal at La Bodega, Dr Galil impressed on me the benefits to longevity contained in a glass of red wine and the quality of the Egyptian law which has stabalised his rent on the 330 square meter apartment in which he grew up. Having now increased by LE 16 per month to the princely sum of LE 58 per month.
An American, Raymond Stock, who has translated at least seven works by Naguib Mahfouz, passes our table and Dr Galil is immediately out of his seat. His arm cocked, palm turned upwards, he greets his esteemed friend and immediately introduces him to me. Dr Galil likes everyone around him to be comfortable and he believes that 85 percent of his clients are more satisfied with his work than he is.
“But a lot of people have expectations you cannot meet and that 15 percent have physcological issues which cannot be altered by surgery.
The older Dr Galil gets, the busier he becomes, often consulting up until eleven. “Except for a few years ago when 300 French families left Cairo overnight with the completion of the Cairo underground. The French are very plastic surgery orientated and it took some time to rebuild after that exodus, Dr Galil said.
He boasts of being the eternal bachelor and more and more he gravitates to his country house, with its pool and garden in Mansouria out past the toll station on the Cairo-Alexandria desert Road. Dr Galil and his exquisite manners, like many in the city are being pushed to the margins by overcrowding and pollution. Unfortunately that anomaly cannot be removed by the surgeons knife.