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Barbers of Mecca and why Hajj pilgrims shave their heads.

The sun is searing at noon as pilgrims complete their final major rite of the Hajj pilgrimage by the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamaraat. Afterwards, male pilgrims head to an adjoining street where licensed barbers are stationed - ready with shaving machines in their hands. Absent this time are the razor blades of years past.

'Please, can you shave me with a razor blade? I'll bring one myself if I have to. I was told it had to be done with the blade,' a Pakistani pilgrim could be heard pleading with Youssef Mohammed, a Saudi barber.

Final rites

Millions of Hajj pilgrims who spent the whole of a night in the open sky offering prayers in Muzdalifah proceed to Mina after Fajr prayers in the morning, the first day of Eid al-Adha. After reaching Mina, they perform the stoning of the devil at Jamarat Al-Aqba, sacrifice animals in their final rites of Hajj.

Men then shave their heads or trim their hair while women cut a fingertip-length of their locks. After that, they end their wearing of the ihram and change back into normal clothing.

Letting go of the razor blades

According to authorities, all licensed barbers now had to scrap shaving pilgrims' heads with razor blades partly for efficiency and because of health reasons.

'In years past, we allowed the use of razor blades but as more fear of diseases pop up and risk of Hajjis bleeding from their head, we decided to ban close-shaving,' Saqer al-Ghamdi, the supervisor of barbers trained by Saudi Arabia's Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, told Al Arabiya English.

'It also has to do with efficiency and moving through the number of pilgrims who wish to shave their heads completely. With a razor blade, the barber takes more time and is preoccupied with not cutting or slitting too close to the scalp. With a shaving machine, the whole process takes five minutes,' he said.

However, a close five-minute walk from the barbers' station lied scraps of what appears to be shaven hair. When asked why it was so, officials told Al Arabiya English that illegal and unlicensed barbers looking to make some extra seasonal cash were at the scene moments earlier. They were duly stopped by security officers and their equipment confiscated.

Vocational training

For many young Saudi men, learning vocational training like the barber trade comes as a lift in their job prospects. All the barbers licensed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah were hired by young Saudi men from the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation.

'I am a native of Mecca and serving pilgrims each year comes naturally to us. In the past, many young men were forced to work in other jobs selling water or cooking meals for the pilgrims but shaving pilgrims' heads is much better as it is a trade I can learn from and hopefully work outside of Mecca during the off season when Hajj is not in play,' Abdulrahman Ibrahim, a Saudi barber at the station, told Al Arabiya English.

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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:7SAUD
Date:Aug 24, 2018
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