Coiffeurs and khat offer welcome escape in Madagascar

by Zelalem

Madagascar Island – Come noon on Saturdays in Madagascar, men flock to small shacks called coiffeurs – the local barbershops – found in every town on the island. This is where the music flows, where men gather to start off the weekend, where people hang out in the window frames of the shops, leaning on the ledges.

The shops are filled to the brim, with most people chewing khat – leaves from the Catha edulis plant – which provide a short high when chewed. 

The coiffeurs are filled, not just because the Malagasy men like to stay groomed, but also because the barbershop is where they go to unwind, relax, forget about the troubles of everyday Malagasy life.

Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and one of the poorest nations in the world. The majority of Madagascar’s nearly 25 million inhabitants live in extreme poverty. 

The Saturday ritual is important to the Malagasy people, and they welcome the few hours of relief.

The country offers little luxury and, for many, life is a struggle. Every town and city in Madagascar has one bustling street where the coiffeurs offer an escape, a place to chat and relax, a room of “no worries”, as one person says.

READ MORE: The endangered lifeline of Madagascar’s sharks

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