The grooming lounge in Dubai Mall is an experience for the faint-hearted in need of care
1847 is an awkward place for a man. You walk in willingly of course, but unwittingly; the constant care and concern is enough to make a business-class only traveller wonder if the staff are about to let you down easy for some bad news that they’ve heard first.
The lobby is the ultimate deception. You walk in the front at their chapter at Dubai Mall and approach an unassuming front desk where the store manager, like Kovacs from Altered Carbon, tells you with a smile that everyone’s been waiting for you. Gaze around nervously, and you’ll notice burnished leather man purses and accessories camouflaged among the all-wood everything punctuated with moisturisers and balm.
An attendant emerges from an impossible door at the left ushering you into a teak-scented cavern, bidding you wait in front of silver-topped tables on which ornate flasks shaped like the ones on dirham coins pour something suspiciously calming. You never notice the ceiling.
There are multiple vestibules where she’ll then take you, cloning into another attendant. One makes your socks and shoes vanish. Then she takes charge of your hands, the other one, your feet. It’s foolish to ask what they’re doing when you signed up for a mani-pedi.
Fortunately, 1847 anticipated anxiety. Noise-cancelling headphones are connected to a TV on the wall automatically tuned in to Netflix. I attempted to pretend I’d done this a hundred times before by watching Hans Zimmer live in concert. Unfortunately, his rendition of Holtz’s Ares Lord of War from Gladiator is a regrettable choice when getting your nails filed.
The haircut though is relievingly familiar – once you’re willing to break from the sight of how incredible hands can look. There’s no look book. The stylists are so assured that they know whatever it is you’re talking about, even when you confess you’re close to achieving Bradley Cooper’s do. The chairs are strangely more distant from the mirrors than they would be at a traditional barbershop, but then this isn’t a barbershop.
Ask for the Four Step Philip B. It sounds like a razor, but it’s rather an intricate system of hair treatments combining luxurious hair products with a massage, topped off with a steaming (or was it cold?) scented towel on your face for not long enough. The only side effect is seeming narcissistic when raving about your own hair for weeks after.
But that’ll come after you walk out from the same lobby behind which all the new friends you just told all your life’s secrets to will have vanished. The staff know the look you walk out with to mean, simply, that you’ll be back again.