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The stylist soon discovered that blond hair doesn’t bounce like an African curl. (Sheila Andrew)
The stylist soon discovered that blond hair doesn’t bounce like an African curl. (Sheila Andrew)

How blondes get haircuts in Timbuktu Add to ...

Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

From Bamako and all the way up the Niger River, we had been the ones intrigued by diverse Malian cultures and people. Then in Timbuktu, my blond curly-haired daughter Robin became a centre of interest.

The climate had not been kind to her crowning glory. So, describing her hair as sun-dried spaghetti swept by the winds of the Sahel, she decided on a hair cut.

Among the sand-brick houses we found a notice in English advertising “Super Modern Haircuts,” with a picture of what was clearly Elvis’s African cousin. Two smiling women outside were delighted to welcome us in. They seated Robin in a chair, with all the respect given to royalty and gazed at her hair with awe. To keep her company, the rest of us found seats and waited.

There was no question of a shampoo or set. One of the ladies raised the scissors and carefully cut the first chunk off the right side. She placed the hair reverently on a separate chair and moved to the left side.

Clients and hairdressers lost interest in their own cuts entirely and stopped to watch. Another chunk was taken from the left, but alas it did not match the right. Blond hair did not bounce like an African curl, so back to the other side to level it.

Glimpsing us through the window, more Malians came in to sit and watch. The hairdresser moved right, then left, then right again. The room was now full, so new arrivals had to watch through the window. As the hair got shorter and shorter, Robin began to think she would resemble the new blond Elvis, so she asked me to use my French and say “Enough.” Then she paid the equivalent of $4, tipped and left through admiring crowds.

Her fame spread. Apparently, it wasn’t such a bad haircut after all.

The next night we went to a a small night club. Would-be partners swarmed to Robin, keeping her dancing for hours. Even I got to dance.

The next day, we took a last tour through the sand-covered streets with our young unofficial guide. After admiring the imposing mosque, the markets stalls and streetside bread-making ovens, our guide took me aside. He offered me 54 camels for Robin’s hand in marriage. I politely declined. Imagine declaring 54 camels at Canada Customs?

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