Saudi salons: a brief history

Here’s a fascinating explanation of how various cultural needs and strictures shaped the development of Saudi Arabian hair salons—which are descended from (and still named for) tailor’s shops.

a Saudiwoman’s Weblog post by Eman Al Nafjan, 25 August 2008 :: via Global Voices

They are called Mashghal  in Arabic which literally means a working place, from the Arabic noun shoogal (work in general). This term was coined to refer to little shops where a group of usually Pakistani tailors make women dresses. About 30 years ago readymade women clothes were mostly unavailable to the general public and women drew designs on paper and took then to these tailor shops with fabric bought by the meter from areas similar to outdoor malls. For measurement, they would give the tailor a previously made dress that fits and he would use it as a measurement model. And that’s to avoid any physical contact between the tailor and the customer. I know now you’re wondering where did women get there first well measured dress and I too wonder.

These little tailor shops started to evolve into closed women shops where the tailors are women from the Philippines. The shops became bigger and the décor slightly better. However these women only shops are pricier, so the male version stuck around. The women mashghal started to quickly expand into the beauty salon business. So a women could go get her hair done and have a dress made at the same time. But when Al Eissaee, a big name in the fabric import business, started to also bring in quality readymade clothes, he started a huge trend that snowballed into our current mega malls. This in turn affected the tailor business for both the male and female shops. The male mostly went out of business except for a lucky few and the female shops concentrated more on the beauty salon side of the business, so much so that some even closed the dress making side. But for some unexplainable reason they are still called a mashghal  even on official ministry of commerce licensing papers.

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Add Your Comments