Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shave and a haircut, Abu Dhabi style

There's nothing quite like having a man who doesn't seem to understand a word you're saying holding a straight-edge razor to your neck, waiting for you to answer a question that you couldn't understand either.

Even a haircut can be an adventure in this town.

It's been a long time since I've given much thought to a haircut. I went to the same chain salon for years, and my regular "stylist" had my simple cut down to a five-minute job. Clippers, scissors, quick beard trim, here's $15, see you again in three weeks.

When it came time for my first haircut here, I was intimidated by the salons in the malls; they looked far too hip and involved for the likes of me. So I found a street-corner barber shop, figuring that's where I'd have the best chance of finding the quick and easy cut I was accustomed to.

Not so much.

At even the most simple-looking shop, a shave and a haircut can be a 30 minute experience. It starts with a scalp massage, and proceeds to scissors, clippers, trimmers and yes, the old-fashioned straight-edge razor, which the barber wields like an artist as he neatens the edges of your beard, the nape of your neck and around your ears. Even your eyebrows and nose hairs are clipped and trimmed to perfection.

All the while your head is swaddled in soothing lotions and balms and powders, all with a manly Old Spice kind of smell, each carefully cleaned away before proceeding to the next step.

This finesse and pampering goes on mostly in silence, the barber going about his work with impressive concentration. He pauses only to seek your approval for what you can only guess he's going to do next. (My first haircut here, I almost got out of the chair four times, thinking it was over. The barber seemed hurt, perhaps thinking I was unhappy with his work, but I quickly figured out that there was more to come.)

The cost for all this lavish attention that leaves you feeling like a car just out of the detail shop? About 30 or 40 dirhams ($8-11). Quite a bargain.


  1. I was thinking about getting my haircut today before heading over there. Now I think I'll save the extra $7 and hold out for this experience!

  2. NICE story! I was afraid you were going to have some horror story about the cut, like how you got a reverse-mohawk, or something -- glad you had an experience that'll allow you to look forward to your next trim!

  3. Robert,
    You've always been an Old Spice kind of guy, haven't you?

  4. Funny!, My dad was a barber in Clewiston and had his shop for over 45 years. He used the straight razor and the whole nine yards. He sure knew the town's gossip, kinda like Mayberry.