My visit to an Egyptian barber

Game of Thrones has reached Egypt. An early episode from season one was screening on the television screen in the corner of a Dahab hairdresser where I had come to have my shaggy traveller’s beard trimmed.

Familiar faces from the mythical Seven Kingdoms of Westeros filled the screen. “Salam alaykum, Lord Varys” intoned a character. The Arabic translation would’ve been the simple part of bringing the show to the Middle East. I wondered what they have done with the frequent explicit sex scenes. Simply cutting them wouldn’t work as many of the scenes have dialog advancing the plot – “sexposition” as it has been dubbed.

The show seems to be well liked in Egypt and my barber was watching the television while he worked on trimming my beard. This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it wasn’t for the way he took a straight razor to shave my neck while his eyes were fixed on the screen.

There were no major incidents though and my neck was left smoothly shaved. The straight razor had been preceded by an electric shaver which brought my shaggy two-months of beard to a manageable stubble. He splashed some aftershave on my skin and I thought the procedure was over.

Things were just getting started as he applied baby powder to my forehead, cheeks and ears.  Was I about to make a television appearance? No – despite the fine appearance of my freshly trimmed beard, my face was still too hairy for local standards. My barber took a long piece of what seemed like dental floss and twisted it against my skin removing the fine fluff that had been happily growing undisturbed since my childhood. As thin as the hairs were, their removal was quite uncomfortable. I winced while squirming in my seat, tears squeezing through my scrunched-closed eyelids.

“Brave boy!” encouraged my barber, jovially patting me on the shoulder, “Almost over!” The finale was the dextrous application of the barber floss to remove a few stray nostril hairs. Yikes! Looking 20 years younger – according to my barber – and a mere 20 Egyptian pounds poorer, I emerged from the hairdresser with a trimmed beard as fine as any in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

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