Saudi Arabia: Where Are the Saudi Barbers?

saudi barber


There are no salons in Saudi Arabia such as in many other parts of the world where both men and women can receive service.  Like many of the facilities in Saudi Arabia, hair care services are segregated.  Men go to barbers and women go to salons.

Barbers have a brisk business in Saudi Arabia.  In addition to the traditional hair cut, barbers in Saudi Arabia offer hair coloring, shaving, manicures, pedicures and waxing.   Many of the barber shops in Saudi Arabia will have private cubicles complete with a closed door to protect the privacy of customers.  A number of men do not wish to reveal the fact that they may color their hair or have other services performed.

Many of the barbers in Saudi Arabia are expatriates predominantly from Turkey, Egypt, India or Pakistan.  In fact, in Riyadh you can see many barbershops advertising themselves with signs which say “Turkey Barber” indicating that the barber is Turkish.

I am not, however, aware of any Saudi barbers.  A Saudi will likely own the facility but hires and sponsors expatriate barbers from outside of the Kingdom to perform the duties of the barber.

With the emphasis on Saudiazation and hiring Saudi nationals, coupled with the high number of Saudi men seeking employment, perhaps if Saudi men underwent training and certification, a new employment opportunity could open up for them.  Or would this field likely remain closed to Saudi men because Saudi customers would not want a Saudi national aware of the services and procedures they seek?  What do you think?


10 Responses

  1. I lived in NJ as a child. A good portion of barbers in the NY/NJ area were Italian immigrants or children of Italian immigrants. It wasn’t until I left NJ that I ever had a male haircutter who was not of Italian ancestry. My first barber was very old fashioned and he listened to the Opera on radio every Saturday afternoon.

    My point is that some services end up being associated with particular nationalities. That has been true in the parts of the US. Perhaps it is true in Saudi Arabia.

  2. Being an expat living in Riyadh and also a male, I would say that your comment about customers not wanting their true “color” to be known – especially to a Saudi National, you would be accurate in saying that a Saudi man would not be comfortable with others “knowing” his secrets. This is a strange country with strange customs and beliefs. I have been here for a year and a half and the thing I think that can be said in general about the country is we live here in the land of contradictions and hypocrisy. Perception is everything and reality is just a side bar! With a specific slant toward a “Saudi” barber – the issue here in my opinion is also the fact that most Saudi’s abhor work…of any kind! Just an observation.

  3. I think it would be considered unsuitable work for Saudi men. We have many technical schools teaching a variety of trades but I believe these graduates rarely take jobs where they would actually perform the job they have been trained for. The only Saudi mechanics that I’ve met were enlisted men in the army. Taking care of an expensive tank or airplane seems to be ok. To date I am unaware of any auto mechanics or HVAC technicians in my city that are Saudi. This is cultural and I think you will get Saudi barbers only after this is perceived as an honorable job. Cultures are slow to change without some outside forces involved. How can the kingdom glorify jobs where a man gets his hands dirty ( outside of military jobs)? That is a good question and one that needs to be answered sooner rather than later so we can allow young men to work without feeling ashamed. The culture has to change in this respect so the kingdom can grow and prosper.

    Feel free to edit my comment if I have any mistakes since this was done quickly on my phone. I I am an anthropologist by training and working as an English teacher. My students and other young men have many opportunities for free training and a salary while in school. Due to cultural constraints some jobs they can be trained for are not currently deemed acceptable in the eyes of their community or family. This would be an interesting topic to study and something the government might consider looking into.

    This is not that different culturally from agricultural assistance programs where different crop varieties ( high yield grains for example) are introduced somewhere but rejected by the locals due to a different taste, texture, or not enough stems and leaves to grain ratio ( where the plant stems are more important as food for livestock than a higher grain yield. I think that a careful study of Saudi society is necessary so the government will better understand people’s attitudes about jobs, by region. Then and only then will we see which cultural attitudes are hindering Saudization of the work force. We have all seen murals and posters glorifying workers from the early days of various Communist regimes. I don’t suggest that we copy that wholesale, but we do know that advertising can change people’s attitudes. So, Ministry of Labor, how about using some anthropologists to study attitudes towards work on this culture. With that information you will be in a better position to move forward in creating a happy and productive Saudi workforce. This may be the least expensive way to accomplish the goal of getting more of your young people working.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. I second what mrbob2012 said. It is highly attributed to cultural perception of vocational work in a country where reputation is literally what makes a person or breaks him. It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s a byproduct of the sudden emergence of oil and the rising standard of living which forced Saudis to adhere to a certain level of spending and acquisition in order to gain societal acceptance. On the other hand, It is economically non-feasible for Saudis to work in such low paying jobs when their level of income correlates with their social well-being (ability to get married and – based on status- the level of respect). I think the Saudi government is well-aware of this and they have been proactively pursuing Saudization by pressuring both public and private sectors by increasing the cost of excapts via the SAR5000/month minimum wage, as well as a possible taxation on expat labor.
    It will definitely take time in this society of shame, but I believe at one point that free market dynamics will force wages down to a natural equilibrium once subsidization gradually fades away (possibly after shale oil and gas in the US push conventional oil prices down to rock bottom); a cultural revolution is bound to occur.

  5. There are many things which Saudi’s are incapable to do apart from being a barber, you wouldn’t find a Saudi Cleaner, Janitor, Construction Workers, Gas Station Attendents, Hotel Receptionists, Security Guard, and many other professions.
    Saudi’s consider it beneath them to work in these professions.
    I remember sometime back there was a proposal to have Saudi Ladies as House Maids and there was big hue and cry about the issues.
    As long as Saudi’s think they are too good for any profession, there will be unemployment .

  6. It’s not as easy as “thinking they are too good”. There are many economic factors that play a role in such decisions. It’s the absence of regulatory bodies and labor unions that make such jobs unoccupied by Saudis. Expat incumbents accept lower wages, and employers really (unless pressured by the government via taxation) will seek to minimize costs by employing them. Also, the burden of employing a Saudi, in addition to higher labor cost and immobility, is that it’s near impossible to fire a Saudi who’s worked for over 3 years or so; that’s when slacking off really becomes problematic and the employer is then forced to suck it up.
    By the way, I have met Saudi security guards, most of which are temps, but at least they have managed to break the cultural taboo. I applaud it.

  7. I also agree with is not that Saudis “think they are to good”. In Saudi society it is believed that education emphasizes the mind to achieve its full potential, which consequently contributes to a better quality of life..fact is, a good paper qualification makes it easier to secure a job. The higher education achievement, better chances of getting that big dream job=happier you are, more you earn=better quality of life. I hope I do not insult any barbers out there, because without them who would cut our husbands hair..

  8. My view is that given the increase in unemployment among young Saudi men seeking work, if they really want to work then they have to start thinking outside of their cultural box. They should take the initiative and create new market opportunities…from establishing a shop and being a barber; opening and running their own cleaners; etc. Just like in the USA there is an emphasis and campaigns to buy local and utilize home town and family run businesses, the same could be applied to Saudi.

    On Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 8:57 AM, American Bedu

  9. I’ve also seen many Saudi (males) security guards at stores, cashiers at stores like Jarir, Extra, Panda and Center Point, and have seen a young Saudi guy working at Burger King once.

  10. That’s true Felicia, I noticed 90% of cashiers are Saudis at grocery stores, and at least 60% of them in retail..times are changing.

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