Combining the social club feel with a psychiatrist’s clinic, hair and beauty centers in Egypt have taken on different personalities reflecting the stereotype of residents of the suburb in which the salon is located.
A Maadi-dweller’s weekly agenda is usually marked with a date in a hidden basement full of people.
An outsider would look on and feel lost.
“They all know each other, Maria explains.
While Ahmed prepares the best cappuccino in town, and Abdo is giving a pedicure to a man in a suit, screams can be heard behind a scaffolding wall. Nail polish bowls, magazines and a Christmas tree all fit in this tiny, cozy, private space.
“Friendly and natural, is the way Hoda describes her customers. Maria adds that they mostly drop in in their training suits, have their morning coffee, and leave.
Abdo thinks that neighboring Qattamiya, full of newly-weds, attracts a young clientele. Staff engages actively in friendly discussions but Abdo admits that when the topic deviates to dogs and vets, he cringes.
“It hurts my heart to see that people die because they can’t afford medical treatment while dogs go to doctors? he says, “so I just keep quiet; I don’t want them to think I am insensitive to dogs.
This place sets young fashion, Maria says sarcastically. “They speak of a Christian Dior belt that costs LE 1,500 as if it’s a bargain for LE 15. But compared to the Mohandiseen Branch, “this is nothing, she proclaims.
In Mohandiseen, people talk diamonds. A stereotypical older client would walk in with full make-up early in the day, all decked up in diamonds and evening clothes.
“It’s as if they just walked out of an old Arabic movie, where they speak about ‘my Grandpapa Ismail Pasha and my Grandmama Farida Hanem’ says Maria.
“It’s funny, interrupts Abdo, “because the real aristocracy is in Maadi, where people act much more naturally.
“In Gold’s gym in Giza, he continues, “people work out in full make-up, they have to look good, they are not allowed to sweat; whereas in Maadi, people go to the gym to actually sweat.
“Mohandiseen residents are the best tippers though, says Hoda, “but they also talk to you from the tip of their nose.
“I will be seen in Mohandiseen goes one popular song, and it is true.
Mohandiseeners will go to a trendy art gallery and get their hair done in the same place, just to drop in a few foreign names as they have their morning coffee the next day at the office. “I am sure to run into a friend there, says a regular.
The “in crowd which fills pages in local lifestyle magazines, will frequent a popular Mohandiseen “hair hangout where they can order from CafeMo.
Also on offer is a basket full of fruitful gossip to feast your heart on. Of course when you hear something at the hairdressers, you know it’s true. Just as you would when your neighbor’s driver tells you about their marital problems; or when the housekeeper in the opposite building tells your housekeeper, who tells you, that your neighbor is having an affair. It’s all true.
Back to the laid back side of town, a popular Maadi beauty center gives regulars a freebee therapy session. It is just as good as going to a psychiatrist. No chaise longues involved here, but there might as well be.
Puffing away on a cigarette sipping coffee, people spend hours, even a whole day, getting it all out. It doesn’t matter who does the talking, clients and staff are friends here, exchanging personal problems and getting advice. It’s so friendly these sessions can even drag on to dinner and drinks.
“Batta’s , in Giza however, reflects another growing trend in Egypt. Instead of magazines that filled the store in the past, copies of the Quran and religious texts take up all the space on the tables.
Cheap and fast, this place is like a fast food joint. Talk here is on the serious side; religion, social affairs and charity work seem to be popular even in the few minutes spent there.
And we shouldn’t forget the Heliopolis scene.
“These are people from my grandmother’s time, Hoda sighs, “the ones who still pay LE 6 rent for their huge apartments. They still live in the 30s and always complain about how expensive it is go get a manicure here. They’re the worst tippers, but are very punctual and nice with the staff.