Haircut at Fawzi’s Saloon, a Ramadan Tradition

A year ago tomorrow (is that a phrase?), I wrote about my desperate need to find a local saloon.  Not for a beer, which would be haraam (forbidden) normally, but especially during Ramadan, but rather for a haircut.  As I explained a year ago you’ll find saloons all over Amman – a strange sight in this teetotaling nation, until you realize that the Arabic language has no “o” sound so must opt for either “salun” or “saloon” for the fancy french term that we sometimes use to designate a place of haircutting.   I think you would agree that saloon sounds much better than salun.

Anyways, last year I went to Fawzi’s Saloon, which is literally a 2 minute walk from my apartment.  I’ve been his customer ever since.

I was glad that I needed a haircut again this Ramadan, and I think I will make a haircut at Fawzi’s a Ramadan tradition even if I ever move out of the neighborhood.  Haircuts at Fawzi’s are always interesting.  His shop is tiny (1 bright orange and silver chair) and there is always something interesting to listen to whether it be conversation or the TV.  One of the first time’s I was at Fawzi’s he was shaving my neck with a straight razor when he leaned towards the door and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Ya, Jihaad!”  (Oh, Jihad!).  His 11 year old son appeared a few minutes later.  His name is Jihaad.  I started breathing again.  Over the year I have gotten used to greeting Jihaad when he is in the shop or, if not, asking, “Kiif Jihaad?” (How’s Jihad?)  Not a question you might usually ask in a barber shop in America.  Especially when someone is shaving your neck.

Tonight didn’t disappoint at Fawzi’s.  First of all it was 9:50 when I walked in the shop. Try finding a barber open at that time of night (and happy to see you) in America.  Actually during Ramadan this is an ideal time to have your haircut.  Shops are often closed in the morning later than usual.  And who wants their barber to be hungry, thirsty, smokeless and grumpy in the middle of the hot afternoon?  After iftaar (the evening time of breaking the fast) is the best time to get some things done during Ramadan – indeed many shops are open much later than usual and everyone is in a good mood late into the night.

I greeted Fawzi and Jihaad and another guy.  I wished them a generous Ramadan and they said that Lord willing, it would be.  Fawzi offered me a coffee, which I gladly accepted.  As he draped me in the usual barber’s cape (what is that thing called?) I reminded him that the first time we met was during last Ramadan.  We exchanged pleasantries about the past year and Fawzi began cutting my hair.  I like it because he now knows exactly what I want and we don’t really have to talk about it.  I also like the fact that we don’t speak english.  Well, sometimes Fawzi says “two” or “four” when referring to his shaving guides, or occasionally he’ll say, “down” when he wants me to tip my head – but that’s about it.

Tonight another guy came in and salaam alaikumed us. He apparently needed a touch up in the back which Fawzi cheerfully provided (after checking with me if it was ok).  The guy tried to pay, but Fawzi, of course, refused.  The guy then proceeded to groom himself in the mirror with one of Fawzi’s combs.  This is a common occurrence.  Or a guy might come in and use an extra pair of clippers hanging around to trim his own beard or mustache.  This doesn’t seem to faze anyone.  Tonight, the guy picked up a spray bottle and asked if it was water to which Fawzi replied that it was gasoline.  This got a lot of laughs.  There was then a spirited discussion about which was harder to go without during the hot summer days of this Ramadan – smoking or water.  People definitely had strong opinions about this and I could see both sides (if you are a smoker that is – but I was on the water side).  I’m not sure if the debate ever got settled and the conversation turned to whether or not the car one guy was going to purchase was a good deal or not.

The session ended as always with Fawzi and I exchanging the traditional greeting for those who have recently had a haircut which basically involves wishing God’s grace upon each other.  I handed over a couple of JD ($3) and we wished peace upon each others hands and hoped that God would allow us to see each other again.

It was 10:15 and I walked the two minutes back to my apartment with a big smile on my face.  There’s nothing really like a trip to Fawzi’s Saloon for a haircut during Ramadan.

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Arabic Language Correction

In my last post I gave the Arabic compliment and response you use when somebody gets a hair cut, but I was only half right. I copied the wrong response from my notes.  So here’s the correction.

When someone get’s a haircut you say to them:

نّيماً or “na3iiman” which literally means “Grace”

the response is always, اللّه ينعِم عّليك “allah yn3im 3layk” which literally means “God’s grace on you”

What a friendly way to say “nice haircut!”

Sorry for the confusion =)  And please, any speakers of Arabic feel free to correct me in the comments!

Successful Ramadan Trip to the Saloon

A little while ago I posted about my desperate need for a Saloon this Ramadan.  Not for a pint, as you might suspect, but for a haircut.  Huh? A haircut at a saloon?  Yes, well, in fact this is the common (and amusing) misspelling and mispronunciation of “salon” in Arabic. You can find many saloons all over Amman, usually with an accompanying sign with amusing pictures (to the American eye anyway).  Previously I posted 6 pictures of nearby Saloons, asking for your input on which one I should go to.  There was a lively discussion in the comments about which 80s superstar some of the Saloon sign models looked like with nods to the Baldwin brothers and Rick Astley.

Your input was helpful, but in the end I went my own way (anyone surprised?) and chose option #6 – Fawzi’s Saloon.

Go to Fawzi's for a fine haircutif you are ever in Ashrafiyeh!  (Men only please)

Go to Fawzi's for a fine haircut, if you are ever in Ashrafiyeh. Men only, of course!

It may have been the allure of the Burt Reynolds ‘stache and ‘burns, but in the end it simply came down to geographic proximity and time.  Fawzi’s was closest – literally a block down the street.  Time was of the essence as I didn’t get out earlier in the day, so I had to wait until around 9 PM or so for barber shops like this one to reopen after iftar (the meal to break the Ramadan fast – many shopkeepers go home for an hour or two).

It was worth the wait. Sorry no pics – I’ll try to get some when I take Noah.  Fawzi’s is a small one chair shop.  And what a chair – it’s orange and black and chrome – like something from California in the 70s.  Lots of mirrors, some Qur’anic verses on the wall, a seating area for 3-4 people, some Arab language newpapers and a anti-smoking pamphlet next to the two ashtrays filled with cigarett butts.

A couple guys were sitting on the couch watching what I call theArab version of a soap opera on the small TV mounted on the wall between two mirrors.  Fawzi had a young guy in the chair – toucing up his sideburns with a dab of foam from a brush and the flick of an old-fashioned straight razor.  Nice!  We all exchanged pleasantries on the way in, but after that we were pretty much quiet until Fawzi finished up the two guys ahead of me.  Everybody was watching the TV.  Me too, but I was only catching every 10th word or so.  OK . . . maybe every 20th word.

The haircut was great. Fawzi was a good sport about my limited Arabic.  Actually I think it helped that I thought he said he had 11 sons, when he told me his oldest son “had 11 years.”  LOL.  We both got a big laugh out of that once we straightened it out.  We actually had a fair exchange re. our families and where I was from in Arabic. The haircut was good – but the shave was even better.  He did a really good job. That was actually the first time I ever had a shave like that – somebody holding a straight razor to my neck.  And  in the States I’m not much for the teeny-boppers at Sports Clips messing with my beard with clippers.  But I had an inkling that Fawzi was somewhat more experienced.

So here’s the results.

Shave and a haircut . . .

Before . . .

...and after!

...and after!

Haven’t gotten the final word from the wife as she was asleep when I wondered in an hour and a half after I had left for a “quick” haircut.  The beard might actually be a little too short – but it’ll grow back =)

The best part – the haircut and shave (with tip) – drum roll please . .  . 3 JD or right around $4.25!  Not the proverbial 2-bits, but pretty close.  Nice!

So let me know what you think.  The proper response in Arabic when you see someone who has had a haricut is “نَعيماً” or “na3iiman” – whether you think it looks good or not =).  This word means “grace” in Arabic.  I’m not sure if this means you look more graceful now or if God has been gracious in allowing you to have a haircut (which sounds about right in my case).  And then the person with the haircut would respond: ” الله ينعم عليك ” or ” Allah yan3am 3layk.”  Which I think literally means “God be gracious to you.”  So much more civilized than “nice haircut!”  and “thanks, man!”

 

Looking for a Ramadan Special at the Local Saloon

Ramadan Kareem! This is one of the traditional greetings exchanged during the Muslim holy month of fasting.

The response is: Allahu Akram! (Arabic speakers or people in the know, please correct me if I am wrong about that). Somebody explained to me that the greeting means “Ramadan is generous” or maybe “Have a generous Ramadan.” The response means “Allah is the most Generous!”

Indeed, Ramadan is known as a time of generosity and blessing, both between people and from God. It is during this time that Muslims should make their Zakat gifts (gifts to the poor or charities, one of the so-called 5 pillars of Islam). Zakat offerings made during Ramadan are apparently blessed by God even more than usual. We were also told that the poor may come to your door, especially at the end of the month. People will give them small bags of food and possibly even small amounts of money.

Of course, in the States we are conditioned to never give money to the poor as they may go and spend it on booze. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen here in Jordan, but it’s far les likely. First of all, drinking alcohol is considered haraam (forbidden) in the Qur’an. Secondly, all liquor stores (and believe it or not, there are a fair amount here in Amman) are required to shut down during Ramadan. Muslims are forbidden (as usual) to drink alcohol during this month, but also cannot eat, drink, smoke, or have sexual intercourse during daylight hours. We are on day 5 of Ramadan 2008 and it has been quite interesting to observe the fast from an outsiders perspective. I’ll continue to post more about Ramadan throughout the month.

But now, I have to get to the main point of this post. Yes, it is only 5 days into Ramadan, but I have a very significant need to got to a Saloon. The situation is just getting to me a little bit and it’s time to find one. It’s so bad, in fact that my wife is insisting that I go. Yes, even though it’s Ramadan. (Guys – you know it must be either really bad or your lucky day (depending on your perspective) if your wife is insisting that you make a stop at the Saloon! (And yes that is what they call them here.) So I set out to find one, and to my surprise found a bunch of men’s Saloon options right near our apartment. (They have separate Saloons for women).

A Saloon for Men

A Saloon for Women

Oh, and did I mention the reason my wife is so anxious for me to go to the Saloon?

In desperate need of a Saloon

In desperate need of a Saloon

Basically, I am in desperate need of a haircut and shave! Yeah, “saloon” is their word for “salon,” which in my book is really quite hilarious! The problem is that there is no “O” sound in Arabic, so they substitute one of their “U” sounds which ends up sounding like “saloon” in American English.

They come in men’s and women’s varieties and although the barbers at the men’s saloon will trim Sadie’s bangs we were told that Victoria should never step foot in one of these male-only establishments. You can often see a group of guys sitting around in their favorite barber shop late at night, watching a game on television or just shooting the breeze. I was going to get my haircut before Ramadan, but thought I would find it a far more interesting experience (and conversation) during the month of fasting. So sometime in the next few days I’m going to head out to the Saloon for a Ramadan Special. Which means something entirely different here than it might in the States.

Based on sign alone which Saloon would you choose?

Option 1 - The blue script says Men's Saloon. The red script is a little too fancy for me - maybe Hadr Eemquubeh. Maybe. Anyways I think I need to let my hair grow a little longer on top for this guy.

Option 2 - Naqoola Saloon (That's what the Arabic says - notice the difference from the English) Now there's a clean shaven man!

Option 3 - Samih's (Sammy's) Saloon for Men. Clean shaven with a little gel - nice!

Option 4 - Taylor's Saloon for Men - What?! No preview of coming attractions (or attractiveness) on the sign?!

Option 5 - The Shouq Walram3eh (maybe) - from the pictures on the sign perhaps a unisex salon - strange for these parts. I like the moustache and the VW bug.

Option 6 - Fawzi's Saloon - I'm liking the moustche theme - and the sideburns!

Let me know where you think I should go and I’ll give an update on the experience afterwards!  BTW all of the shops were closed with the heavy metal grates beacause: a) it was early Friday morning when I took the pics, (everything opens later on weekends) and b) all the shops around here have those metal garage door-like closures – as much to keep dust and dirt out as for a security measure.

Working on the perfect . . . tan?

With Summer going full-tilt here in Jordan, my entire family has gone a skin tone or two darker in just a few short weeks (will have to post pics soon, I know).  It’s not that we are laying around the pool, or sunbathing on the roof (likely frowned upon in our neighborhood), no it’s more like standing in the bright Middle Eastern sun for a couple of hours each day waiting for taxis, or just houghing it from point A to point B.  Even Victoria and Noah, the fairer pair of our clan, have gotten a bit darker. Of course with Noah a good portion is probably dirt!

And despite all the warnings about skin cancer and such, I must say I am a little happier to be a little darker.  Even with today’s health conscious American society, it seems we still deep down inside like the glow of a “healthy” tan. We’veevendeveloped sunless tanning creams to chemically alter our skin tone without the cancer risk.

Enter here a recent article I read about a similar phenomenon here in the Middle East.  Cosmetic companies have been (for years apparently) selling creams and lotions that promise to provide that just-right skin tone along with a healthy glow.  But thet aren’t hawking sunless tanning creams, in fact it’s just the opposite.  Apparently skin-lightening creams are all the rage in this neck of the woods.  Yeah – that’s right skin lighteners!

I had never heard of such a thing – what about you?  If you google skin lightening (or whitening) cream you will find all sorts of links to different products in a matter of seconds.  These creams are the source of no little controversy as some say that the companies are marketing a product that encourages racism.  Others say this is simply an example of the corporate world scratching where there’s an itch (and profitable market).  These folks say that fair skinned people often wish to be darker and darker skinned folks often want to be lighter and cosmetic companies are simply playing to particular markets.

What do you think?  Are skin lighteners promoting some sort of racism?  Is there anything wrong with an olive-toned Middle Eastern woman wanting to be a couple of shades lighter?  What about all of the professional tanners back stateside?  Are the two situations analagous?  Let me know what you think!