Sign in using your account with
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
China Pearl Aromatherapy Club: No-Frills Beauty Treatments in Zamalek
Relaxation and pampering in Cairo often come at a price, particularly as well-known spas are often situated in top-notch hotels around the city. In search of something a bit different, we headed to the China Pearl Aroma Therapy Club in Zamalek. Right next door to Fuego sushi restaurant on Abou El Feda Street, hanging overhead, a tiny, run-down sign promotes the beauty center; we tried to put our reservations aside and headed up the stairs to the first floor.
Strangely, the beauty centre appears to be an apartment, with the entire family gathered on sofas in the lobby. We rang ahead for appointments, but when no one asked us for our names or phone number, we got the distinct feeling that walk-ins were welcome. The décor is old-fashioned and uncoordinated, whilst the rooms are divided by partition walls and flimsy doors, both of which contributed to the shabby feel.
The beauty centre offers an array of treatments for both men and women, and although the two menus are largely overlapping with massages (100LE-300LE) and foot treatments (120LE), women have the added options of 45-minute facials (180LE) and nail art (150LE-280LE). China Pearl also offers specialised treatments such as cupping therapy (100LE), body scraping (100LE) and ear candling (380LE); the latter being an anti-inflammatory and detoxifying treatment for the ear canal. We booked for some nail art (150LE), but were informed the specialist wouldn't be there until the next week.
We opted for a much needed full-body massage (300LE), hoping for a full hour of tranquil bliss. As we requested for it to be a couple's session, we were taken through to the couple's room, complete with two red leather massage tables side by side, laden with a few rough towels. The room was dimly lit for relaxation – and probably aesthetic purposes – however, the carpet beneath the beds was still visibly worn and stained in parts. The two masseuses spoke very little English and didn't care much for privacy; we were instructed just to strip off and lie down, without the usual holding up of sheets or towels for modesty's sake.
An odourless oil was used and the massage proceeded to be both firm and thorough, with most of the attention paid to our backs. The masseuse employed numerous methods and techniques, pressing on pressure points and knots as she found them. Unfortunately, as well as the level of professionalism being knocked by their chit-chatting in Chinese, some knots were loosened but not completely ironed out. Little attention was given to our neck, arms, legs and ankles, whilst next to no time was spent on our hands and feet; however, as mentioned earlier, extra foot massages and pedicures are available.
After a little over an hour, we were given a pair of used sandals to wear and led to the only bathroom for a shower; no luxuries were offered, not even clean towels. The masseuses appeared a little confused when we stated that although we'd wanted to keep one another company during the massage, we did not in fact wish to share a shower.
At first glance, the prices appeared reasonable, however, after our visit we couldn't fight the feeling that for just a little bit more money we could have been pampered in a near-by, five-star establishment.
Despite the language barrier, the staff at China Pearl Aroma Therapy Club are both friendly and hospitable, giving low-key, frill-free, relaxing treatments in the heart of Zamalek.
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