I am going to do a little photo blog for you in the coming week or so about Salons in Erbil. There is one in every neighborhood and almost one in every main road. It is superb business. As a matter of fact I went to a local salon--or beauty shop-- just last weekend for a trim and I came back with information about which person in the neighborhood is getting married, which is getting divorced, which in-laws are good with their daughter-in-law and which are really bothering her. I knew about how much gold one of the grooms did and even witnissed an arguments between a bride-to-be and her sister-in-law. What an experience!
Let me clarify something, there are salons in Erbil where you will not notice any of this. These include the Lebanese Beauty Center (on Shorsh road!) who pamper you to the extent that you feel like you are Miss Universe, then there are the ones in Ankawa and other places across Erbil. Some have a reputation for charging a lot of money-- I don't know if its for the coffee they serve you or for washing your hair twice even though you washed it before going there!
It is all about your financial capabilities, some people go and do their nails, because they "can't make it for lunch because of the manicure appointment!" I really don't like to see this emerging culture here, but it seems like it is already appearing. Then there are the neighborhood salons that provide the basic beauty necessities of any woman including an average middle class who might be a house wife or a government employee.
I wait for my turn--in this one there are no appointments, first come best served-- so I take the time to 1) observe 2) Ears drop. On purpose! I must admit after almost two hours I came out a whole lot wiser, and here is why:
The really pretty girl: This was a really realllly pretty (no. Beautiful) girl in her amazing Kurdish clothing, long black hair, asking to get her make up done, she was one of the bride's sisters I guess. She asked the beautician she wants 'natural make up'. But I can swear it took 45 minutes to complete and the base was three layers of foundation stroked by a brush that would otherwise be used for painting with water colors.
This really made me think of the word beauty among Kurdish girls today and our grandmothers years back. If you're a girl just take a look at the top of your dressing table or by your bathroom sink at the number of beauty products you use to keep "Beautiful". After I returned home I looked at a picture we have of my grandmother when she was young, it's an old black and white picture (that looks like its been brought from the world's oldest museum). She looks... beautiful. I observe her physical features closely and wonder to myself: What did beauty mean to my grandmother? How did she keep herself looking so great? There was certainly no Vaseline, Dove, Olay, Head and Shoulders, Pantene; nor was there Fair and Lovely, Maybeline or Loreal.
I do a little bit of research, using a close friend, Google, he tells me that beauty, including that of the radiant, natural looking skin that we all want is influenced greatly by stress. I don't need to research the cause of stress, from life's experiences I have learned a simple equation:
Increase Awareness + Increase Development = 2(stress) + decrease beauty
So according to the above equation, maybe my grandmother didn't have the stress that deal with in our everyday lives today. Which brings me to another equation:
Simple Life = Simple Stress + Healthy Skin = Natural Beauty
Continuing my research Google tells me that a healthy skin depends on a healthy meal. Today we eat fast food and canned fruits, and try to be on a diet at the same time. Whereas back then they ate natural, fresh food and didn't have to count the burning calories because it was burned during their daily chores--which certainly did not include sitting with the laptop on their laps clicking the mouse to see different Facebook statuses.
Here, I should bring your attention to yet another equation-- I know it maybe becoming a little too much for a single blog entry, but even before you learn these equations you practice them already:
Increase Technology = Decrease Beauty
Google informs me of another secret for natural beauty: Beauty Sleep. It is important woman sleep for a certain time of hours at certain times of the day. I know for sure Daya Gawra (Grandma, or Nana) was in her deep dreams by 7 or 8 p.m. the latest, and woke up to the sound of the roosters at sunrise. Today? well... most women won't sleep until after they see Mohanad (on MBC 4 every night) download YouTube clips and chat to friends they will see tomorrow anyway.. then maybe, just maybe they decide to sleep. Television and technology is definitely a factor behind less natural beauty. Then the next morning even concealer seems to be not working to hide the black circles.
Back then there was no pollution in the air by all the cars, according to Google this can be also harmful to the skin. Finally, Google tells me that water is an important factor for healthy, and naturally beautiful skin (probably one of the only source of liquids that my grandmother had access to drinking). This is when I ask Google does that include Cappuccino and Coca-Cola?!
Kurdistan fits into all the equations explained above. Beauty is, unfortunately, becoming a priority, we seem to be a society that judges on appearance most--if not all-- of the time.
* Mum isn't following anymore these days. So I hope there is one of you out there who is reading... :) I appreciate your time.
Pictures taken from Flicker by a user called Kurdistan. This blog entry was inspired by my Memoirs column in the "Globe" this week