Illustrated by Salma El Gamal
Cairo - 24 April 2017:
The closed shop would always catch my eye as I made my way home from college. “Loula for Manicure and Pedicure,” said the pink sign on the door, adorned with a branch of artificial flowers. The shop has been around for some 40 years and I would wonder what happened inside, who worked there and if it were ever open.
Drawing has always been a way of letting off steam for me and, having come home after a bad day at university, I decided to go on a walk to find something new to inspire me. I made my way to the district of Ibrahimiya in downtown Alexandria, following the tram tracks, and happened to pass by the shop. It was open!
Without hesitation I pushed the door open and walked in. For a minute time seemed to have stopped still and it was like I had stepped into a movie scene. Everything was so organized, neat and beautiful it almost seemed unreal. I found the color palette easy on the eye, exuding the feeling of being beautiful without trying too hard.
An old woman who appeared to be in her 70s looked up in surprise as I walked in. I blurted out the first words that came to my mind: “I want to do my
I took a seat as she finished a client’s manicure and pedicure then began preparing my nails, gently and professionally going about her work. Loula tells me she has been the owner of the nail spa for 40 years now, launching her business as an unwed woman at a time when girls depended on their fathers or husbands for everything.
“Some pieces of furniture were taken from my family home,” says Loula, adding that her father was her greatest supporter.
“He bought me the place which was previously a bar. There were tables built into the walls and there was a bar and shelves for drinks. I saw the place and asked my father how he would turn this mess into a manicure shop! He told me not to worry and asked me not to come back until it was finished. Later, he handed me the keys, and I entered the shop to see it fully finished and suitable for business.”
We shared personal stories, Loula talking about the past and especially about Christmas when her shop would be extremely crowded and she would open her doors 24 hours to customers.
She told me about the furnishings in the shop: the Italian tiles her father got her when he worked at the Customs Authority, the tables she designed after interning at a Batta shoe store and about the equipment that she uses—all gifted to her by her foreign customers who bring her nice things when they travel abroad because they love her, the genuine, hardworking and beautiful Loula tells me.
I tell Loula about how my own study of interior design has definitely influenced my perspectives, that I liked how genuine her furnishings are and that modern designs always, in a way or another, look back to the past for inspiration.
Loula was delighted that I showed interest in her unique shop and told me that though I’d walked in without an appointment, she took a liking to me and that’s why she agreed to do my nails.
“I live to love others and be loved back,” Loula explains, happy that I was planning to work on illustrations of her shop. I promised to bring her the original copies of the drawings.
“You don’t have to bring me anything, darling. What matters the most is that you benefit from it.”
My nail treatment over, I got up to leave. Loula didn’t want me to go before giving me her number and a hug.
At the door she took my hands in hers. “Oh just look at those lovely nails!”
You can find Loula’s nail spa just past Safwany restaurant and beside Abdel-Moneim Riyadh school. The shop is right in front of the tram station in Ibrahimiya, on the way to Sporting. Loula only works by appointment. Call (03)5925123 to book.