Sunday, June 10, 2007

I want to speak beauty salon arabic

First, an introduction.
I’m Sarah Grossblatt, a rising senior International Studies (Middle East) & Public Policy major. After a year of Arabic classes with ustaz Nasser and a summer study abroad program in Jordan, I’m back in Amman working on some independent research, interning with Sharakah, and taking Arabic classes at the University of Jordan.

Despite my (limited) previous exposure to Arabic, this year has presented yet another round of language obstacles. And I might have found the solution: the beauty salon.

The beauty salon? Sarah, you just want excuses to indulge in a 5 dollar pedicure.
Not so, my friends! And now allow me to explain. Amman has quite a fair share of tourists here, especially in the summer, meaning that English is widespread. From the grocery store to the taxis to the internet cafes, more often than not your funny sounding fusha or not-quite-there ammiya will be interrupted with a “Speak English?”. This, in fact, is one of the things I find most frustrating about foreign travel in general. How are we supposed to be practicing our language skills if at every corner there is a Jordanian with a healthy knowledge of and urge to speak English?

Answer: get off the beaten track. While the tourists use the internet cafes and taxis, I bet not too many of them want to spend their vacation time getting a haircut. And this is where the salon comes in. I was on a mission to get some beauty “services” when I encountered this lovely phenomenon. None of the women in the salon spoke English. So I was allowed to struggle all I needed to in my fusha/ammiya combo to ask my questions, and learn that I would have to go elsewhere. Same result at the second salon, but being turned away was less disappointing when the conversation leading up to it was held in Arabic. Third try’s a charm, and I’m in the chair ready to go. The stylist doesn’t speak English, so the entire 40 minutes I’m in the salon is a personal one-on-one chat in Arabic.
(Side note: Besides the Arabic, beauty salons are especially interesting for girls. No windows and no men means that as the women come inside they strip off their hijabs, bearing the forbidden fruit of their Arab hair. I felt like a spy, infiltrating a secret territory).

So girls, if you need to work on that Arabic, sign yourself up for a manicure. Nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone.

4 comments:

Heather M said...

Hi Sarah,

I came across your post while doing a search for salon services in Amman. Do you have any places that you would recommend? I'm looking mainly for waxing and pedicure services.

Thanks!
Heather

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