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Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
Markaz Man: Pampering for Men in Haram
Sadly, for a city that once boasted a vibrant hammam culture, it isn’t real. Cairo’s remaining hammans are crumbling in disrepair and tolerable at best, where only the daring go and the fastidious stray. Besides, what’s so romantic about submerging into a hot tub with six or seven others shedding their skin and sweat?
Luckily, however, beauty parlours and barber shops are starting to offer a hammam alternative like the one year-old Markaz Man, or 'Man Centre', in Haram. On top of a cheap cut (20LE) and a close shave (15LE), the Man Centre provides an affordable, private hammam experience – strictly for men.
For 100LE, patrons at Markaz Man get access to a steam room, a thorough body scrub and massage, all in the comfort of one’s privacy. Lined with hieroglyphic wallpaper and tiled in colourful mosaic, the backroom of the parlour is fit for a Pharaoh.
The treatment begins with a change into shorts and a visit to the steam room. In lieu of a hot tub, patrons sweat to the spurts of steaming vapour and cool down in a tub made for one.
After a few minutes, the attendant beckons us to a pleather table for a four-feature scrub down. First, we lie belly-up and then face down as he scrubs vigorously from head to toe, revealing how long it’s been since our last shower. After a quick rinse in the adjacent shower, the attendant paints our bodies with a Moroccan clay mixture and then pops us back into the steam room to bake.
After ten minutes, we rinse and lie back onto the pleather surface where soapsuds wash away our inequities, turn over, repeat and rinse. In a final act, the attendant pumps a honey-like conditioner onto our skin that lathers and tingles our pores. We rinse and then return to the steam room to warm up.
If that were not enough, we undergo a thorough pampering massage with a cooling cream. The attendant’s fingers press deep into our folds and joints, waking up every bone in our body. After a final rinse, with our arms splayed out, we are then perfumed like a bridegroom before his honeymoon.
Throughout the treatment, during rest times, the attendant maintains the clean space.
At the time of review we also sampled the facial (25LE) and a mani-pedi (50LE). The first was an incredibly relaxing treatment that lasted nearly 20 minutes and left our mouths open as we fell asleep and our miens aglow. The latter, however, was a bit rushed. Using the blade-grater method, usually frowned upon, the attendant scraped at our thick, rough soles with no remorse.
The nail buffing and clipping could have been more meticulous, as a few broken cuticles were left for our grazing. With a quick brush of protective polish, the three-tiered pampering session came to a happy end at only 175LE.
Man up and treat yourself to a hammam without the hammam.
We all deserve a little pampering every now and then. But where does a girl go to get a decent mani/pedi in Cairo? Gel polish is a rare find here and who has an LED nail-drying lamp at home anyway? So we decided to splurge and check out Joy Beauty Salon on Road 199 in Maadi.
While booking an appointment is advised, walk-ins are welcome if you go early enough like we did (11.3AM). The salon offers a range of facials (Anti-aging, micro-needle brightening serum, etc), gel and acrylic manicures and pedicures with or without nail extensions and spa treatments (hot stone massage, waxing/laser hair removal, scrubs, Moroccan bath etc.)
In keeping things simple, we went for the classic gel manicure. The owner, Joy, sat us down across from her at one of the three white nail stations equipped with taps, LED nail-drying lamps and alcohol wipes, placed our hands on wrist rests and examined our nails. She pressed down lightly on each nail to assess how strong/weak they were and told us what our natural shape was (hint: it’s squoval). Initially, we’d wanted extensions, but Joy advised against it, saying our nails weren’t quite strong enough and would be further damaged. Her honesty was appreciated, as it would have cost us a lot more to get extensions (210 LE compared to 140LE).
When it came to choosing a polish colour, there were so many swatches to choose from, that it was hard to pick just one! There were two boards with row after row of fake nails painted in different colours (around 120 shades in total), including glitter-infused options, all sourced from the U.S. and China. We chose a skin-tone enhancing shade of mulberry.
She then proceeded to clean our nails with alcohol and file/buff them with a thick emery board. Then she primed the nails with a clear topcoat, before applying the first layer of gel colour. Between every single application of polish, the nail bed was wiped down with alcohol to keep it smooth and free of dust. Hygiene is obviously paramount at Joy Beauty Salon.
With each coat of polish applied, the hands are placed under a LED nail-drying lamp, which hardens the polish in 60 seconds. A total of six coats of polish were applied— one base, three gel colour and two clear top coats —but our nails didn’t feel goopy or weighed down at all; they were firm, yet retained their natural flexibility, and of course glamorously shiny. For extra measure, OPI cuticle oil was rubbed around the edges for a little TLC.
Equally pleased with her work, Joy decided to take photos for the salon’s Instagram page and happily played the role of personal photographer for our own. The manicure lasted ten days as promised, only beginning to lose lustre on day 7. It even survived a trim without chipping!
Overall, the experience was excellent compared to the average Egyptian salon. The prices range from 70LE (for a classic manicure) to 500LE (for the micro-needle brightening serum), which may be a little pricier than the average salon, but the quality of the products and care is worth it. Joy was gentle with our talons, filing them a lot gentler than we were used to and answered any and all questions we had before our visit (she even sent pictures!). In keeping with the classic manicurist