This morning I met up with Alex, a friend who lives in Cairo. We went over to Giza, near the pyramids to hang out in cafes for a while, then went for a wander to look for a barber. Since water on the Tour is strictly for drinking and not washing, I decided to cut all my hair off to reduce the number of things that need washing. We finally found a little hole in the wall place on a back street. It had a couple of the right kind of chair, mirrors, rows of pomades and various clippers and scissors on show. Looked good, so I went in and sat down on one of the right kind of chair. Hamzah, the barber, entered and closed the cell door behind him. The room darkened. I explained as well as I could what I wanted, sat back and surrendered myself to his expertise. Paper tissue was wrapped around my neck. A white plastic cape, with black Chinese writing all over it a great splashes of red that looked suspiciously like sprays of O– blood, was tied tightly over the tissue with double knots. Hamzah opened an old wooden drawer, the top of which was worn away as if used to check the sharpness of the straight razors waiting in a glass just above it. But for now he chose some electric clippers, which he used to quickly shave away the hair on the back and sides of my head. The hair on the top was reserved for scissors. I closed my eyes and the sound track was straight out of Edward Scissor Hands. I felt like a piece of topiary. When he had finished playing with the shrubbery he stuck his hand into a big jar of white, margarine-like pomade and was about to paint the top of my head when I opened my eyes and somehow managed to communicate that that was not what I wanted and that the hair on top was not to be sculpted but cut very short. His hand drifted happily and ominously from the pomade jar to the straight razors. His smile widened. His breathing slowed. My ability to communicate immediately improved and turned Hamzah’s smile to a quizzical frown. Reluctantly, he picked up the scissors and the sound track resumed. At this point I thought we were almost finished, but Hamzah thought differently. He picked up a spool of cotton thread from the counter top and simply said: ‘Egyptian way?’ I had no idea what he was on about but what harm could he do with a spool of thread. So I said, sure. Mistake. He wound the thread around his fingers like a cat’s cradle and started using it to capture and then pluck out the hairs on my right ear. It hurt like hell. I screamed. Alex laughed (what are friends for). Hamzah went on, enjoying himself immensely. “Smooth as baby” he said. “No more hair 3 months”. He moved over to the left ear. “Two minutes. Finish.” I was almost jumping out of the chair. Then he did my nose and the space between my eyebrows. I am glad I was wearing long pants. He was going for any hair he could see. Then all of a sudden he announced: “finish!” I was in so much pain it took me a while to take this in. I got up with as much dignity as I could muster and asked him how much. “Welcome Egypt.” He said, “Free.” He had obviously had much more fun than I had. I gave him twenty pounds and let Alex help me out the door. But at least my ears are now as smooth as a baby’s bottom – and for three months.