Ottawa hair salon offers private place for hijab-wearers

A new Magicuts hair salon on Ogilvie Road has something many other salons don't: a private room for women who wear hijab to get their hair done.

'We just ask for the privacy' during haircuts, says Racha Kalkas, who wears a hijab

Fatima Mantache (left), Rimonda Zeidan (middle) and Racha Kalkas (right), who all wear hijab, say hair care is important. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

A new Magicuts hair salon on Ogilvie Road is offering something many other salons don't: a private room where women who wear hijab can get their hair done.

Racha Kalkas, a teacher at Ahlul-Bayt Islamic School in Vanier, said the lack of privacy in salons can lead women like her who wear hijab — a head covering worn by some Muslim women in public — to seek out hair services in private homes.

"Even though we wear hijab, we do take a lot of care of our hair. Even though it doesn't show to other people, we do it for us. For our own sake," she said.

"We do colour our hair, we cut our hair, we brush it — you know, just like any lady. But then we just ask for the privacy."

Even though we wear hijab, we do take a lot of care of our hair.- Racha Kalkas

Kalkas said even if salons offer hair cuts behind a curtain, the placement of security cameras can remove the illusion of privacy.

"It's easier for us, if we know someone who cuts hair and they come over our house or we go over to their place to get a hair cut. You feel that you are in a place that is actually private," she said, adding that the private room at Magicuts is a welcome feature.

"It's very good to have a salon where you can go where it's private."

Fatima Mantache, another teacher at Ahlul-Bayt Islamic School who also wears a hijab, said she gets salon services from a woman she knows. But she said she has gone to public salons in the past and found staff to be very accommodating.

"It's becoming easier," she said.

'You have to get with it'

Magicuts manager Carole Signore said a Middle Eastern hair stylist at the salon suggested the private room for women who wear hijab.
Carole Signore, who manages the Magicuts on Ogilvie Road, says she thinks more and more salons will begin offering private rooms for people who need them. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"She [said] that there's not too many places that do this, so she thought this would be a great idea," she said.

Their first private room was created at another location, and when they opened their new shop on Ogilvie Road they made the room bigger and more private, Signore said. It has two stations instead of one, as well as a sitting area.

"Our society is multicultural ... most of our stylists here too are multicultural. We have one from Haiti, one from Turkey, we've got one from Lebanon. So yeah, you have to get with it," Signore said, adding that it's nice for people to be able to get out to a salon instead of having to do their hair at home.
An Arabic sign on the front window advertises the private room. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

The private room is advertised in a sign in Arabic on the salon's window.

"I've had a few men stop by and ask, 'Oh, you've got a private room?' because they read it on the window. ... 'Very good. I'll send my wife,'" Signore recalled.

It's a bit of a pilot project and if it does well, Signore hopes other Magicuts locations will get private rooms, too.

With files from Hallie Cotnam