Do you realise how hard it is to get a pedicure on Christmas Eve in Juba? Even with my regular nail artists, Joseph and Jimmy, in Souk Libya, and several back-up salons, it took me three hours of waiting to get my vital festive nail varnish.
This isn’t frivolous (much). The beauty industry in Juba has stepped up a notch this last week as people prepare themselves for the festive season.
The serious work of beauty here (mostly women, but men are sprucing themselves too: it’s important to have a new suit, a good haircut, and I’ve found an excellent seller of second hand Christmas ties and bow ties) is for all ages. Girls who usually have their hair short for school, or who are too young for braids, have had their hair braided with string or extensions; everyone is getting their weave fixed. Henna is not just the preserve of ex-Khartoum residents now, and is a big industry, as is the sticky sugar waxing done at many salons. Plastic toenail extensions are very important – nobody wants ugly feet for the festive season. Eyebrows are plucked and re-henna’ed on.
My tailor (I have a “lifestyle” here, don’t I?) is also behind by two days on his huge Christmas orders. The tailoring street in Souk Jebel is absolutely packed. And despite recent displacement of Souk Customs, demolishing of market stalls in Souk Konyo Konyo, and the lack of space at Souk Juba, the mad shopping rush of the Saturday before Christmas was intense – people were pushed into the road this morning by the sheer number of street sellers of tiny suits for baby boys, plastic shoes, and ready made sundresses.
My pedicure was hard-won, but I am almost ready for Christmas Eve. I have my hair in rollers and a new tailor-made dress. I will not be outdone.