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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
It's Fishy: Strange Fish Pedicure Treatments at Citystars Cairo
Already extremely curious about fish pedicures, this reviewer was overexcited when news broke that Cairo would imminently have its very own fish spa in Citystars in Heliopolis. When the spa finally opened, we couldn’t wait to see what the big fuss was about.
It’s Fishy has opened on the ground floor of Citystars’ Phase 2 close to Golden Cinema and Choco Falls. It’s Fishy is an ultra sleek salon with trendy décor. It’s hard to believe that you’re in Citystars actually; it might as well be Fifth Avenue in New York City. This salon specializes in pedicures and manicures with the help of fish. Yes, you read that right. These fish are called Garra Rufa and they eat dead skin, leaving the good skin untouched. Before you get Jaws-related nightmares; the fish don’t actually have teeth. They just nibble a bit.
Before you step into the fish tank, your feet are washed and disinfected by the staff. They will hand over a pair of slippers that you can take home after your visit. There are eight fish tanks in the salon; two of them are behind a curtain if you want full privacy. As soon as you put your feet in the water, the fish rush over and start nibbling. It’s kind of how we imagine piranhas would attack when you take a nice, refreshing swim in the Amazon River.
The nibbling feels a bit odd at first; it tickles but in a very nice way. After a while you’ll get used to it. If you find it really uncomfortable; then move your foot gently. It's really funny to see the fish nibble on your foot and the result is not bad. Afterwards, our feet felt very soft and there was no trace of dead skin. When you are done, your feet get washed and disinfected again.
You can try a fifteen-minute treatment for 40LE and a 30-minute treatment for 80LE. Although the salon was impeccably clean at the time of this reviewer’s visit, there are some general concerns about the hygiene and safety of this type of treatment. It’s Fishy claims to change the water daily and wait at least ten minutes between clients while the water is being filtered. A little online research showed that the practice is actually forbidden in some US states, and recent British research warns that fish spas could spread diseases.
We aren’t saying that any of this would happen at It’s Fishy; it’s more of a general warning to keep in mind. So before you go, inform yourself about the practice. The staff is very nice and you can ask them anything you like.
As anyone living in this neighbourhood will tell you ad nausea, Maadi is a bubble. A nice, greener bubble than the other parts of Cairo where people walk their dogs, ride their bikes and actually like to sit outdoors. Maadi residents have their own distinctive qualities: allergic to leaving the ‘hood’, prone to quiet nights in and completely mystified as to why anyone would willingly live elsewhere. What is Dokki? Why does Zamalek exist? They scratch their heads in confusion.
Osana may be a good reason to move to Maadi. Located inside a large villa off of El Nahda Street, the space is surrounded by shady trees and soft grass and its various spaces work seamlessly with its surroundings, like the Earth studio (where yoga classes are practiced); a wooden shed with smooth wooden planks for flooring and a tree trunk right in the middle of it. Instead of cutting the tree down, they built the studio around it, which says a lot about the nature-loving, happy people who run this place – renowned photographer, Steve Double, his wife, Neena Serag, and Sumaya Holdijk, who has been a practitioner in places such as Nun Center.
The best thing about the venue is that it feels like a community space – not a sanitised, uptight spa or yoga studio. Once you enter the reception and are greeted warmly by one of the friendly front-desk staff, the space leads you into a small café full of vegetarian dishes, fresh and healthy smoothies and enough grains to make any clean eater squeak with delight. It makes sense that they’re promoting clean eating in a venue promoting yoga, meditation, energy healing and Chinese medicine among other perks, and it also makes sense that everyone surrounding you is positive and friendly, creating a familiar atmosphere that makes you feel like an old friend rather than a paying customer.
Their schedule has daily classes starting from 6:15AM with free self-practice (where you basically go to meditate or do yoga with others if you’re in need of a good space and positive company) and ending at 6PM, while also offering classes for all ages from kids to elderly. Drop-in costs 100LE and classes are taught by both Egyptian and foreign trainers.
This reviewer tried the alignment hatha-vinyasa yoga with Nicole; a one-hour session of mostly floor-based yoga postures focusing on – you guessed it – alignment and breath. Although it wasn’t an easy class – a beginner would struggle with the deep lunges and stretches – the instructor talked the class through the moves and was careful to correct alignments and push us gently but deeper into our stretches.
If you’re into holistic therapy and alternative medicine, then Osana’s menu will read like a dream come true, ranging from the luxurious-sounding gold leaf facial (350LE for 60 minutes, available Thursdays only) to the exotic jin shin jyustu (650LE for the first consultation of 90 minutes, available Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday), which involves the ancient oriental art of harmonising life energy within the body. There’s also foot reflexology, energy healing with crystals or reiki and a long list of massages (Thai, Indian, hot stone and much more) that will make you turn your one-hour class into a full day at Osana. And who can blame you? It’s hard to tear yourself away from the serenity of the space and throw yourself back onto the hot, dusty streets of Cairo.
An added perk is their communal events like their Tuesday farmer’s market, where you can pick up homemade cookies, coconut oil, leather purses and organic grains among other items. There are also diverse and new workshops and classes introduced regularly, such as poi practice, Islamic healing and baby massage.
All that and you can relax in their garden on their wooden lounge areas, while kids play in the grass and adults read their books in the sunshine. It’s that kind of place. Why would you want to leave?
Sign up for Osana classes by registering with your Facebook or Gmail account.