The Brotherly Barbers of Baghdad
Saleh and Thamir cut hair side by side for thirty years, through war with Iran and America, and endless sectarian strife. But in today’s Iraq, it’s every man for himself.
Photos by Marieke van der Velden
Baghdad, 2011 — It's quiet in Saleh’s barbershop. A broad man in his late forties with a receding hairline, Saleh watches the street outside — the families shuffling by, the pizza chef sliding pies into his mobile gas oven, the passing cars. It's still light. It will get busier by nightfall. He saunters on his slippers to the back of the shop and sits in one of the yellow leather barber chairs. At the back of the shop a young barber named Abdulrahman shaves the beard of a young man and lathers on a facemask. A man in his fifties comes in; he has a thick moustache and a thin rim of hair around his skull. Saleh shakes his hand and kisses him on the cheek. The man sits down in the middle barber chair.
Saleh’s shop is always open. In 1983, when he first opened the doors of the shop, a friend brought him the discarded furniture from a barbershop in Italy. Saleh baptized the place “Prince.” Even diplomats walked into the barbershop with the English name. It w…
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