Beauty is a huge deal in Lebanon. More so than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. There are rumors of two-for-one nose jobs at some plastic surgeons and women proudly wear the resulting bandages in public – it’s seen as a status symbol – they don’t go on “vacation” while the bruises heal and redness disappears. By and large, fashion here dictates strong eyebrows, flawless skin, very full lips, contouring, and a professional blowdry several days a week (think the Kardashians). Meanwhile I walk around mostly makeup free, with my hair wet after a workout. I sometimes get looks from the ladies around here so scathing…like I’m bringing down the neighborhood’s (or maybe worse, the whole city’s) standards!
So when I discovered that my very first cooking class at Kitchen Lab in October of last year was going to be sponsored by Kiehl’s and full of prominent local beauty and fashion bloggers, I was more than a little intimidated (the photo above is from that night in the kitchen). However, they were lovely and terribly good sports about getting stuck into the cooking that night and now several of us follow each other on Instagram. I’m in awe of the amount of time, money, and effort these ladies put into keeping themselves looking a certain way. The standards here are very, very high.
It’s also much cheaper to pamper yourself here than in most major Western cities. Here a blow dry in my fancy neighborhood costs about $10 and a manicure about the same. I’ve discovered a lady called Magida who is French Moroccan and gives the most sublime facials at a salon just across the street from me. From time to time I’ll treat myself to her magical hands (slaving in the kitchen wreaks havoc on my skin), something I’ve never been able to justify the price of before. But my favorite part is when the treatment’s over, she’s invariably “Lebanesed” me, sneakily making me up. And she always looks so pleased with herself and asks me if I don’t look just so much better with a full face in place. I say “absolutement” (my high school French has come in handy with her), thank her profusely, and walk around for the rest of the day strutting my Lebaneseness and wishing one of those bloggers could see me.
Then I wash it off.