I tiptoed through a bootcamp session and slid out of the gym door. As I sat in my car preparing to leave, two energetic girls tapped on the driver side window. Startled, I quickly pushed the gear shift back into park and rolled down the window. They greeted me with nervous giggles then one bravely asked, “Ummm…we wanted to know where’d you get your braids done?” I relaxed and explained that while my hair is not braided (I have locs) I could refer them to a braider. On the drive home, I realized just how often this happens– professionals who specialize in black hair care and maintenance are the capital’s best kept secret. However, it’s high time to pull back the veil on this subset of Abu Dhabi’s thriving hair care market and let Black barbers and braiders shine.
Where are they?
The UAE prides itself on offering luxury, glitz and glam and the hair care industry is no different. Premier salons are often located in prime destinations and outfitted with marble floors, spotless mirrors and the latest health and wellness gadgets. However, you won’t find the best Black barbers and braiders nestled inside four and five-star hotels. Instead, they are pillars of old Abu Dhabi, where storefronts are makeshift, small and aged.
There’s an entire city block in the Al Nahyan area just off Delma Street that’s packed with barbershops. Spots like First Star Gents Saloon and Golden Sand Gents Salon, which specialize in fades, are situated on this block. Barbershops, which cater to Black clientele are usually run and staffed by African barbers who understand the texture and techniques required to care for kinky, tightly curled hair. Wherever people hail from with kinky, tightly curled hair, discovering these hidden gems is aways a game-changer in terms of hair hygiene, style and aesthetic.
Who are they?
Black salons are also scattered throughout other areas of the city such as Al Zahiyah, where Regency Saloon is located. The shop is inconspicuously tucked away inside a residential tower. It’s the kind of place that you can’t find without a referral and that’s how I learned about it and the talented duo working from this spot. Tvoke Super Stylist is a skilled cosmetologist known for slaying locs, braids and creative natural hair styles. The Kenya native has been living in the UAE for three years and recalls how hair has always been a part of his upbringing and culture.
“Growing up, you know, we did natural afro hair using hot combs and everything,” he says.” I would see my little sisters and cousins doing braids. Natural hair is like one of the most beautiful things ever. There’s also a tribe called Maasai and they keep these kind of like small locs. They maintain their locs with sand, so it’s such a beautiful thing. The size of the locs and everything is just really strong. I don’t even think they break, and to me that’s one of the most beautiful things ever.”
Despite being one of the first graduates from the School of Cosmetology at Petanns Institute of Business Studies, Tvoke has an innate connection to hair.
“When I started learning how to do hair, I didn’t have to try very hard. It was already in me,” he says. “I could just do any style on any type of hair and I don’t even have to think about it. Locs, braids, afro hair — that is in me. I don’t just love the industry, that is part of me. That is something that you can’t take from me”.
The same holds true for, the barber who works in the station next to Tvoke.
“I didn’t actually learn this work. I grew up with it in Ghana and was inspired by my dad’s barber when I was little.”
This dynamic duo sometimes collaborate on hairstyles, giving clients everything they need under one roof. Tvoke handles braids, cornrows, loc maintenance and even loc and braid extensions while Robbie cuts with precision. From hairlines outlined in white pencil to fine-tuning with a razor, his fades are blended to perfection.
Not only is hair an important part of every look, it bears cultural significance that can’t be overlooked. Hair stylists are not one size fits all and Tvoke understands just how precious the stylist-client relationship is.
“What I like most about my job is the collaboration,” he says. “I love it when me and my clients share the same vision and are dedicated to the same mission. I also love the freedom within my job. Being a hairstylist is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle. The culture, challenges and helping others all make it worthwhile.”
Braiders and Barbers in Abu Dhabi
Braiders and Barbers in Dubai
October 17, 2021 at 4:04 pm
i fill tvoke and robbie are underrated even..the way these guys handle hair its like they communicate with it”hey hair,what cut or style do you wana do?”then boommm..after some minutes,they get you a new look,a perfect one
October 18, 2021 at 10:26 pm
May 5, 2022 at 7:14 pm
I’m @josejoe_styles ,,I appreciate being mentioned as one of the stylist in Dubai.
January 7, 2023 at 6:51 pm
I want to do my hair straight and make it black am male Ugandan please if you can do it my whatsapp number is 0502083747 am in Al Ain Abu Dhabi