In his perpetual search for the perfect coiffure, Andrew Alderson visits barber shops in the hairiest places on Earth


Turkish chaps are the Olympic champions of hair growth. Walking through bazaars immerses you in a world of moustaches, beards and 5 o'clock shadows that are in place by midday.

One suspects weed-eaters are on hand if the hirsute undergrowth is left more than a week. No-one's better qualified to do a shave and, at $7, it seemed a bargain.

After gesticulating successfully to a barber-shop owner using a scissors movement with my middle and index fingers, I was seated, with a towel round my neck. Mehmet, the apprentice, emerged from the backroom. My pulse quickened as he shared a joke with his boss and emitted a maniacal laugh while sharpening the cut-throat razor.


A pig bristle brush was lathered to "tempt out" my hair for culling.

The blade took my stubble off, like a reel mower removing the final layer of grass from a pitch on the opening morning of a cricket test.

Next, Mehmet held a piece of string between his teeth and fingers while using my nose as a fulcrum.

He twisted the string to nab any rogue protrusions. My eyes watered.

He levelled his gaze at my eyebrows. I lay paralysed beneath a boa-constrictor of a towel — a close relative to a Turkish carpet — as he went snippety-snip.

The final indignity before my release was when he pulled a lighter from his holster and burnt any forensic trace of fur from my ears. The extreme follicle makeover was complete.


On a stroll to Plaza de la Revolucion it was time to remove the wispy strands that had formed a tribute to Che Guevara on the canvas of my top lip. They proved no match for barber Julio's blade. An $8 fee was negotiated, I was placed in a dental chair, my chops were lathered.

I faced a sunny doorway open to the street outside; Cuban flamenco music wafted through and American 1950s Dodges passed by.


I comforted myself with the thought there was no damage a spray of stinging alcohol couldn't fix as a natural antiseptic, unless he went all Sweeney Todd on me and struck the carotid artery. Julio's hands were neurosurgeon-steady. He whisked the blade across my skin as if denuding foam off an inflated balloon. I left sporting the smoothest of jowls.


Nestled amid the gold, textile and spice souks across Dubai Creek, sits Al Betaiha Gents Salon.

A wandered in on a late Thursday afternoon and struck a tandem sales pitch from proprietors Saleem and Hanif. My request for a "short, back and sides" translated into Urdu as "full scalp massage, facial and chiropractic clinic". The price was ramped up, but it was worth every dirham. Besides, under a mountain of flannel towels you're hardly in a position to question the discrepancy via Pictionary or charades.

The haircut went fine ... then my face was plastered in green goo. All I needed was a couple of slices of cucumber over the eyes to complete the perfect metrosexual picture.

With none to hand, Hanif wiped off the viscous emulsifier with a hot towel. Next came a smearing with clear goo, which evaporated into a mask with a blow dryer. I imagined this must be what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a grumpy team talk from former Manchester United football manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

It suddenly occurred that I might be a guinea pig for magic potions these chaps had been experimenting with for years.

Hanif, who given his size and strength might have been an Olympic wrestler, then offered complimentary chiropractic services. Before I had time to say "litigation" my spine had been inadvertently "realigned". At least he did it with a disarming smile. I floated out the door.


The banter and stares generated by walking into the salon on Chowringhee Rd gave a brief insight into what life might be like strolling the Oscars' red carpet.

I was a man with a bushy rug surrounding a widow's peak — the human equivalent of deforestation — but surely the selfies were unnecessary? It was like Jerry Seinfeld had turned up when I gesticulated what I would like done to the Hindi-speaking staff.

Good-natured giggles abounded. The barber delivered to specifications, surrounded by a gallery of onlookers. His signature moves were a Pacman scissor slice to tame my scruffy brows, and a gratis neck-and-shoulder massage. The cost was 600 rupees ($13).

My exiting hair would have struggled to cut the Brylcreem in Bollywood or held a comb to Donald Trump's 'do, but all parties had been intrigued by the experience.