Sunday, January 9, 2011

GUEST POST: Feeling Old and Good in a Saloon

A grande richiesta, reduce dal successo della soap opera omanita di Ramadan, ho l'onore e il piacere di ospitare nel blog un VIP della comunita' espatriata di Muscat.

... rullo di tamburi ...

Collega Americano

che ci narrera' dei suoi piu' recenti trascorsi in materia di parruccheria (se questa parola esiste)

Have you ever noticed how many barber shops for males there are in Muscat? Oh, wait a minute, they are not "barber shops" here...they are "saloons." I have no idea where the idea of calling a barber shop a "saloon" came from, though I can venture a guess. In my country, as in every other proper English country (i.e., NOT India), a "saloon" is a tavern, usually one patronized by the lower classes of society. Maybe there's a subliminal message in there someplace. Anyway, I digress.

I do not ever recall being served an alcoholic beverage in an Omani "saloon." That being said, while waiting to be preened by one of the hundreds of Turkish, Lebanese, Tunisian, Syrian (or Indian) barbers in this city, I have been asked for a loan, I have been asked for a job, I have been asked for a job and a loan. I have even been the object of indecent proposals. However, what happened to me at the saloon in MQ several days ago has never, ever happened to me in my life.

I moved to Oman two and a half years ago. Before that, I had spent the better part of eight years in, or moving back and forth to, Saudi Arabia. For one or both reasons, my arrival here signalled the simultaneous arrival of "capelli bianchi" above my ears. It has now reached a point where even my mother is saying, "You should color your hair." Can you imagine something more embarrassing than that?

With mother's advice ringing in my head, on my return from Christmas break, I went to the Turkish saloon in MQ -- the one directly across the street from Highest Mountain Nepalese (I mean Chinese) Restaurant. From the exterior, the saloon looks like an automobile workshop. In fact, it looks like an automobile workshop inside as well. But, I digress. The usual cast of characters were there: two or three Omanis, probably students because they only wore caps, coming in to be plucked, preened, polished and pruned with greater attention to detail and finesse than any woman I have ever met, and the barber, whom we shall call Ishaq.

After the Omanis had left, which took about 2 hours as they kept shouting out orders, one after another, at Ishaq ("Take off this hair from my eyebrow," "Ya akhi my beard is not straight, make it nice and sexy"), I told him why I had come.
"I need you to help me."
I had such a serious look on my face and looked around to make sure nobody was there to hear me. "I need to dye my hair, this part, over my ears."
He looked at me with an equally serious look. He gave me the look that I have seen before in retirement homes, when a man suffering from senile dementia asks why his dead wife is not cooking him his favorite dinner that night. He started shaking his head.

"But your hair is already white. Why do you need to color it?"

After some due diligence, I came to understand that young men in Oman go to the saloon to color their hair white to give them gravitas, to make them look more distinguished and educated. Question: How can anyone tell the difference when they always wear their caps????


Anonymous said...

I have three comments:
1) Crying with laughter.
2) Your observation re: India NOT being a real English country - sublime.
3) Please do tell us the outcome - what colour is it??

Anonymous said...

"Saloon" is probably just "salon" spelled wrong, as in "Beauty Salon" and "Hair Salon", which I is indeed used in "proper English" countries, if you count the UK as one.