The Ma’rifa Barber

It was a sweltering August weekend on Ilford Lane; the high street was teeming with beaming, movie star faces, inching along in gleaming, convertible sports cars and booming bass lines. The shops and markets on either side were thronging with customers, laden with designer bags and baklava boxes, like rows of ants heaving a booty of sugar lumps along a kitchen floor. Wedding season was in full flow. As were the plethora of barbers and salons along the lane: Asian, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Somali, male, female, retro, traditional, high-brow, cheap and cheerful. It seemed as if everyone had decided to get their special trims or facials on this day. It wasn’t unusual today to see queues extending out of every barber shop and salon and, consequently, tempers were beginning to fray; nerves were itching; patience was fizzling in the heat.

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