A salon cultural education
The girls and I wanted to get henna during our stay in the UAE. While we lived in Sharjah, we only ever had henna done on our hands at outdoor festivals or events (usually Global Day or Sharjah Heritage Days), so we weren’t quite sure where to go on our own. We decided to try a random salon near where we were already out and about in Sharjah and go from there.
Well, that first salon didn’t do henna (except hair henna). But they pointed us in the direction of another salon that did. We walked for a long time in the heat of Sharjah (30C+ in February!) and found the salon, but it was closed. We tried another salon and they did henna, but they happened to be out of it at that particular time. So we walked back to the car, drove a few roundabouts down, and walked around some more. Two more salons did not do henna. And then finally: one that did!
And the thing is, the henna itself ended up being only part of a really intercultural experience. The two salon employees were young Pakistani women. While we were having our hands tattooed, a few Emirati women came in for other services, including an extensive facial hair removal session. The girls and I were mesmerized by the facial threading (I can’t help surreptitiously staring – it’s practically hypnotic) and then I had to explain to them what waxing was. Meanwhile, the salon employees were chatting with the Emiratis in Arabic and with us in English (both languages a bit broken, but still impressive).
The television in the corner was tuned to a Pakistani channel and we let the ads for coffee, tea, cookies, and real estate wash over us. At one point, they turned down the TV volume and took a prayer break, right there in front of us as we sat, waiting for our henna to dry.
When we were the only customers left, the salon girls ordered in some lunch from (what I assume was) a nearby restaurant. Its delivery was announced a few minutes later by a furtive knock on the salon door, and one employee threw on a headscarf to open the door a crack and accept the food. They had ordered extra bags of chips for Miriam and Magdalena!
So yes, the fact that we succeeded getting henna on our hands was only half the fun. It was a memorable outing for us Palmer girls.