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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
The Nail Studio: Simple, Unpretentious Beauty Services in Zamalek
Up a flight of stairs, the nail parlour is marked by a pink and black sign and requires a knock on the door to be let in. The place itself is quite small, looking very much like an average apartment. There is nothing really ‘chic’ about the interior; it is actually rather shabby and considerably crammed. Walking deeper into the space, towards the wide armchairs with a basin placed in front of them, we sat down for a simple manicure (60LE) and pedicure (60LE).
While the chairs were comfortable, they desperately needed new upholstery – both because it was quite worn and the style outdated. Assuming only one lady would be handling the job, we were surprised to discover that there would be two of them. The foot bath – essentially a sink fixed into the ground – was filled and our feet placed in it. The makeshift plug caused some problems where the water occasionally drained, leaving our feet barely submerged. However, we eventually managed.
While our feet soaked, we picked the nail polish colour. They don’t stick to a specific brand, which is nice because of the random variety. So after deciding on a colour, our designated manicurist joined the pedicurist at our side. Providing a small bowl with marbles at the bottom, solely for aesthetic purposes, the water was tepid and did not feel that great.
Having tried manicures and pedicures all over Cairo, this one was not exceptional; it was just about average. The instruments used were not sterilised, something that’s otherwise pretty standard, and while the job was ‘done’, it was not relaxing or entirely pain free. In terms of the manicure, we were asked if the skin should be removed from all around the nail or just the sides and even though we chose to stick to the sides, she still went all round.
We decided to try out the foot scrub (55LE) which came recommended. Again, while the job was done efficiently, it's nothing we couldn’t have managed doing on our own. Also, since she’d over-zealously cleaned our big toe, the scrub stung a bit. The quality of the polish-application isn’t great; uneven and lacking sheen, we’ve done a better job ourselves on occasion.
They offer other treatments besides the basic mani/pedi such as Callus Therapy (80LE), a Spa Shower Salt for the feet (30LE) and Legano Spa Salt for the hands (30LE). There are also massages and Moroccan mud facials for 60LE and 40LE respectively.
The Nail Studio shouldn’t be written off entirely, but rather should come with the warning that the service you’ll receive is as simple as it gets.
After a hard week of tapping away at the Cairo 360 keyboards, we were looking forward to finally giving our nails some attention at the hands of Tarek El Tahan beauty salon in Dokki. We arrived without an appointment, and although it was fairly late in the day we were seen to straight away. A brusque receptionist greeted us at the door; after she had ascertained that it was nail care we were after we were introduced to a very sweet woman who made us feel most welcome.
Over the rumbling sound of hair dryers, a stereo played a selection of 90's classic power ballads, but there wasn’t the usual salon chit-chat going on – this is a walk in, walk out sort of place. The salon is clean and bright and features all modern appliances, with generic hair products available to buy at the till. Most of the salon is given over to hairdressing, so the nail-care area was very cramped with all sorts of equipment that we had to clamber over in order to sit down. Throughout our visit, the staff had to lean over us awkwardly to get to equipment behind our chairs, and we were made to feel in the way of everybody.
There was only a small selection of nail varnish colours for us to choose from, but it was all of good quality and they even stocked the cracked effect polishes. However, as they only made one chair available to us, and we had come in a pair, we had to take it in turns to be seen to, while the other sat in a rather uncomfortable hair-washing chair.
We opted for a French manicure (40LE) and pedicure (40LE). The technician was thorough and happy to take care of any issues we pointed out. On a few occasions we cowered as she attacked the skin, but it turned out that she did know best; the results were better than we could have managed at home, although at some points it was quite a brutal affair.
Sticky creams were applied on our hands and feet after the procedure, but this was all the additional care we received. The polish results were not particularly smooth or neat, and while the attendant hadn't offered advice during the session, she did agree afterwards that something other than a French manicure would have been better.
We were offered a drink which we assumed was complimentary; however, afterwards we were told quite curtly that it would be at an additional cost. The incident, featuring both the manager and the receptionist, ruined any relaxing experience we were hoping for, and made us feel rather unwelcome; the cherry on top came when the seemingly competent hair dressing staff looked on in embarrassment as their boss argued with us over providing a receipt. We left the salon feeling drained and harassed.