Wednesday 13 March 2013

Ramblings from Saudi: How to Get a Haircut in Jeddah

Getting a haircut in Jeddah should not really be a problem. There are plenty of barber outlets staffed by mostly Indian (or South Asian?) nationals. There are also hair salons, usually manned by Filipinos. And of course there are also Turkish barbers.

But me being adventurous (yeah, right!), no, I choose not to go to Indian barbers or Filipino hairdressers despite knowing that most of them can speak English. Instead I choose a nice Turkish salon near to my apartment. 

The first time I went there was about a month after I arrived in Jeddah. I was confident that the guys at the salon would be able to speak English. But what was I thinking? Apparently they can only speak Arabic... and Turkish, of course. So the first time I was there, both of us used sign language. Well, not the sign language per se, but communicating with our hands was more like it. Eh! But then again I guess that's why we call it sign language in the first place, right? Hmm… never mind, I’m sure you get my point. 

In any case, the result was not bad considering that neither could understand each other's language. And oh yeah, the head and neck massage was nice too. All in (haircut, hair wash, shaving, goatee trimming and the massage), it cost me about SR35 or about USD9. 

The second time I went to the salon was about 3 or 4 months after the first visit. As usual, there's communication breakdown but somehow I managed to pick up what the guy was trying to say in Arabic, "same cut like the first visit?" Well, at least that’s what I thought he was trying to ask me. After all, all that I did actually pick up was, “blah blah blah… awal blah blah blah…?” 

Yeah, that’s one heck of a huge stretch, I know, ha ha, but seriously there was like a light bulb suddenly switched on in my head and I went like, "Ah-ha! Na'am, yes! Just like the first visit!" At the same time I was dead impressed with his memory considering that my first visit was already like ages before. 

The third time at the salon, I didn't get my usual guy. And so it was back to the sign language again. But while busy cutting my hair, his mouth was also busy lecturing. Obviously I didn't understand him but I could still work out what he was blabbering about. "Blah blah blah blah blah… ma fi Arabi, mushkila… mushkila…" Blah blah blah blah blah no Arabic, problem… problem… 

His lecture was enough to make me think twice of going to the salon again. Not because I disagree with him (I do agree that I need to start learning Arabic) but hey, who likes to be lectured, eh? Certainly not yours truly :-) 

So the last time I needed a haircut, I trudged the shops lining up my office building, going from one Indian barber shop to another one but both were full of customers at the time. So with full reluctance I ended up going to my usual Turkish salon again, fervently praying to get my usual guy instead of the last one. 

Unfortunately the usual guy was not there and the lecturer was the only one working at the time. Not wanting to be lectured again I frantically made an emergency phone call to a friend, Bahrom, who is originally from Madura in Indonesia but has been living in Jeddah for like a zillion years. 

Me: Bahrom, emergency ni Bahrom. Potong pendek apa ya dalam bahasa Arab? (Bahrom, this is an emergency, Bahrom. What’s “cut it short” in Arabic?)

Bahrom: *laughing* Ini nak potong pendek apa pula ni, boss? (What is it now that you want to cut short, sir?)

Me: *desperate laugh* Potong rambut la… ni dekat salon Turki ni. Takut kena lecture lagi nanti…! (It’s for the haircut… I’m at the Turkish salon now, afraid of being lectured again…!) 

Bahrom: *laughing even louder* Bagi tau saja "boussu dessir" (Just say “boussu dessir”) 

Me: Boussu dessir? Apa maknanya tu? (Boussu dessir? What does it mean?) 

Bahrom: Potong pendek la… (Just cut it short) 

Me: Oh okay… boussu dessir… boussu dessir… 

Me: Urm… potong sikit saja apa pula? (Urm… what’s trim it just a bit?) 

Bahrom: Oh itu "boussu souwayyah"… (Oh that’s "boussu souwayyah…") 

Me: Boussu souwayyah… boussu souwayyah… okay, okay, thanks a lot! 

Bahrom: Ma fi mushkila… no problem… *laughing again*!

After hanging up, I typed out the words in the “Note” application in the phone for practice (and for future reference, of course!). I kept on repeating the words in my head again and again and again like a mantra until the time came for me to get into the hot seat.

Once I got seated, I put up a confident face and told the lecturer, “Boussu souwayyah” while gesturing to the top of my head, and “boussu dessir” while pointing to both sides of the head.

In my head however I was silently hoping that he understood what I was asking for, which was *ahem ahem* something not dissimilar to Mohawk cut a la Beckham style! :-D 

Surprisingly the lecturer smiled at that and just said, “Toyyib… okay…” before getting down to business.

And guess what? There was no lecture at all this time around! Wha hae!!! 

And so throughout the “ordeal” I just sat there quietly, feeling contented (and possibly looking a little smug at the same time! :-D) like a student having just scored an A+ and getting the recognition from his teacher. 

Towards the end however, the lecturer asked me, “You want to shave…? Wash hair…?”

Believe it or not, he asked me these questions not in Arabic but in English... which to me, could only mean one of these two possibilities:

(1) Either he appreciated my effort and wanted to reciprocate in kind; or... 
(2) He finally realised that I totally suck big time at Arabic, and has totally given up on me.

So much for feeling being an A+ student, haha!

Oh well, at least I got the Mohawk style a la Beckham that I wanted.

This is the second blog entry under 'Ramblings from Saudi' series.

'Ramblings from Saudi' is a series of blog entries originally written when I was living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for one year from 2007 to 2008. While the entries under this series are not exactly travel entries, (I hope that) they tell stories about life in Saudi Arabia in general as I personally experienced them.

For other 'Ramblings from Saudi' entries, click here.


Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. Ha ha ha I have been through a similar event. Knowing some local words will make them love us. I always got good price when I spoke a little Arabic in Mekah or Madinah :)

    1. Hahaha! Betul tu. Tapi di Mekah & Madinah biasanya peniaga tegur kita dulu dlm Bahasa Melayu. Waktu nak haggle the price baru la keluar ayat2 Arab sikit macam "Ya Salaam", "Too expensive, haraam... ya akhi", hahaha! :-) Dekat Jeddah pula banyak peniaga dari Indonesia, hehe!

  2. jika ada orang asing yang datang ke Malaysia dan berusaha untuk bercakap Melayu dengan i, memang i akan tolong/layan orang itu dengan lebih tulus dan mulus. heheheee

    nways, nice story bro. i enjoy reading this one :-)

    1. Thanks, Mas. Mmg betul la tu kan? Mesti lagi happy nak tolong. Apalagi kalau yg cun... #oops! ;-)

  3. gitewwww hehehehe....
    bawak gambar beckham agak2 kalau tak berjaya di'explain'

    1. Tak boleh obvious sangat cakap/ tunjuk nak copy rambut David Beckham, takut barber tu tersedak dan tergolek2 ketawa menghina, hahaha! ;-)

  4. Where is this hair salon located? Loved your blog, btw :D

    1. Hi there Salvi, I'm not sure if it's still there but it's located on Al Makarona St., in front of an Indonesian restaurant near to Falasteen St and Marriott Hotel :-)

  5. Saya sedang membayangkan Bang Rusli dengan rambut mohawk. Tapi tak bisa. Tak dapat bayangannya seperti apa. Hahahahahaha... :D

    1. Kayak Beckham lah, kayak siapa lagi sih! :-p

  6. Anonymous07 May, 2013

    boussu suwayyah boussu suwayyah

    ajarkan saya arabic language bang..

    1. Saya ga pandai sih. Kena tanya itu Intan lho :-)

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