Hamdan, the Arabian barber

On the way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my daughter Lindsay, we stopped in Abu Dhabi for several days to break up the journey from Rome. The day before we left the desert emirate for Tanzania, I visited a barber shop to minimize the potential nesting area for whatever might crawl into my hair on Kili. Over the following ninety minutes I discovered that my barber, Hamdan, was a man who delights in removing hair. Any hair. All hair. I also discovered his English comprehension wasn’t great which at least partly explains why I ended up looking like Jack Nicholson.

I walked in and asked if I could get things tidied up. I’m quite happy with the way things have been for the past 30 years, and my hair doesn’t really inspire invention or creativity anyway. I’m the sort of customer that would normally put a barber to sleep.

Hamdan got to work. My part has been on the left side of my head ever since my mother decided that was where it belonged many years ago. When Hamdan parted my hair on the right and started cutting I figured the ‘new me’ wasn’t going to look exactly like the ‘old me’. With the part being moved involuntarily to other side of my head I decided the best strategy was to keep quiet; the initial guidance I gave Hamdan didn’t seem to influence his work.

In Abu Dhabi a ‘tidy up’ is apparently not limited to the hair on your head. Anything exposed is game. Hamdan asked if I would prefer wax or string to remove the hair from my ears. I had never been subjected to either so I asked for his recommendation. He said “string”, with enthusiasm. String doesn’t have sharp edges so I really couldn’t see how this was going to work. I’m still not sure exactly what happened because I was in such intense pain during the entire process.

The final indignity was the removal of the hair in my nostrils. Once again, an unsolicited procedure. Hamdan walked over to a spot reserved for his various instruments of torture. When he turned around to face me, he had two Q-Tips in his hands with hot wax on the end of each. Before I could protest he shoved them up my nose. Hamdan left me looking like a walrus for a few minutes to let the wax cool, then yanked them out in a single swift manoeuvre. More excruciating pain.

I stumbled out of the barber shop wondering what had just happened. Returning to the room Lindsay said I looked like a bird-of-paradise. I didn’t care. Hamdan was in the rear view mirror.

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