Get this straight: Curls bounce again in Cairo

“Shaggy,” “messy,” “unprofessional”.  Pure curls had been as soon as regarded down upon in Egypt, the place Western magnificence requirements favoured smooth, straight locks. Now, issues are altering. For Rola Amer and Sara Safwat, their curls had been as soon as a career-hindering nuisance. Now a part of an aesthetic liberation motion sweeping Egypt in recent times, they personal a curly hair salon that caters to men and women like them. Amer used to spend hours straightening her bouncy curls, she advised AFP as she started her day on the Curly Studio, which grew to become Egypt’s first pure hair salon in 2018.

“Curly hair takes so much longer to chop than straight hair,” Amer mentioned, meticulously snipping her manner by a consumer’s curly mane in an prosperous suburb of Cairo. Three hours later, she will lastly present the consequence to her consumer, and each are delighted because the salon buzzes round them. It’s a far cry from Amer’s personal expertise a number of years in the past. “If I ever left my hair curly, I’d really feel shaggy, like I wasn’t caring for myself,” she mentioned. On this uncommon kind of salon in Cairo, the ultimate product suits every consumer’s curl sample, and rollers have changed straightening irons to forestall warmth injury.

Safwat, 38, defined the risks of straightening, adjusting her curly bangs as she spoke. “One time, a mom introduced her three-year-old daughter. She had tried a chemical remedy to straighten her hair, and now it was falling out,” she mentioned. The obsession with straight hair, rooted in what Safwat calls “fully false magnificence beliefs,” compelled generations of girls to burn their hair to a crisp utilizing chemical therapies and extreme warmth injury.

A marked change

Along with her curls thought of “unprofessional” Safwat says that, earlier than she grew to become a hairdresser, she would typically be requested in job interviews: “Will you be coming in to work like this?” Within the early 2000s, Lebanese singer Myriam Fares was one of many first curly-haired icons within the Center East.

Midway the world over, Black girls in america had been more and more embracing their curls in a pure hair care motion. Lots of the largest manufacturers constructed by Black girls on the time would ultimately discover their manner onto the cabinets of curly salons in Cairo. In 2012, Egyptian actress Dina el-Sherbiny grew to become one of many first to interrupt the taboo on display screen, flaunting her chestnut curls in hit TV sequence “Hekayat Banat” (Women’ Tales).

Ten years later, curly heads function in TV exhibits, motion pictures and the billboards that line Cairo’s highways, a marked change in popular culture. In Hollywood, Egyptian-Palestinian actress Might Calamawy even exhibits off her curls in Marvel’s newest sequence, “Moon Knight,” helmed by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab.

“There was an actual social motion,” Doaa Gawish advised AFP. In 2016, Gawish launched a Fb group referred to as The Hair Addict to assist girls give their hair a break from harsh chemical compounds and blow dryers. Inside months, the net discussion board had grown from 5,000 to greater than 80,000 members, because the native cosmetics market grew by 18 %, in response to Euromonitor Worldwide. Two years later, Gawish launched her eponymous haircare firm.

“Plenty of large cosmetics firms began releasing merchandise for curly hair, as a result of they might see it was a vital buyer base,” Gawish advised AFP. This base is steadily rising in Egypt’s sizable cosmetics market. With a inhabitants of 103 million, the nation has about 500,000 salons and greater than three million staff, as estimated in 2020 by Mahmoud El-Degwy, head of the hairdressers’ division on the Cairo Chamber of Commerce.

Trainer and pure hair influencer Mariam Ashraf has seen the market’s potential firsthand. Solely a passion at first, her Instagram movies rapidly grew to become “an actual supply of earnings”, she advised AFP earlier than filming a brand new clip for her 90,000-plus followers. “Manufacturers are contacting me increasingly to showcase curly hair merchandise,” the 26-year-old defined. “And now modeling businesses are contacting me for ads.”

‘Fragile masculinity’

However the world of pure hair care just isn’t accessible to everybody. Whereas the typical month-to-month earnings in Egypt is 6,000 kilos ($325), a haircut on the Curly Studio can value as much as one-tenth of that. Since he inadvertently found his curls throughout Covid-19 lockdown, cybersecurity professional Omar Rahim has been gladly paying to keep up his fashion.

At the moment, he maintains an intricate routine, regardless of jeers from his pals in a conservative and patriarchal society. “We’ve got an issue with fragile masculinity; individuals assume a person shouldn’t handle his hair or purchase merchandise,” he advised AFP. “I need individuals to know that that is regular, however I’m not able to battle this battle simply but.” – AFP



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