Trend hunter: A tattoo in Cairo

By Sophie Anmuth in Cairo
Posted on Friday, 17 July 2015 14:34

“Three years ago I used to tattoo only four or five people a week,” says Orne Gil from her living-room-cum-tattoo-parlour in Cairo. “Now it’s around twenty a week.”

One on my back which is a big dreamcatcher, and a lion face shaped like Africa on my leg

The 27-year old Venezuelan opened her salon, Nowhereland, in the upscale cosmopolitan neigh- bourhood of Zamalek after starting with an underground studio in Mohandessin.

In its laid-back atmosphere clients ogle tattoo posters and listen to Nirvana and The Clash.

“The tattoo culture is still very new here,” says Gil, who held a convention last year to show off the art form, and plans to host another in November.

Although tattoos have long been popular among Copts – a small cross on the palm or wrist is common – they are still frowned upon by conservative Muslims.

The Egyptian fatwa house takes no clear position on the subject, say Mony Helal and Alia Fadaly, co-owners of The Ink Shop, also in Zamalek.

But for Cairo urbanites tattoos are becoming a cool trend: well-travelled, well-spoken yuppies request designs of stars and butterflies, their children’s names or inspirational quotes.

Hala al Boghdadi, the 34-year-old owner of a dog hotel, got her two tattoos in the past year: “One on my back which is a big dreamcatcher, and a lion face shaped like Africa on my leg.”

Gil’s Swedish business partner Kitty, better known as the ‘Piercing Doctor’, says: “Most of the clients come wanting a tattoo but not knowing what. Orne has to play the shrink to know what they really want.”

The number of practitioners is growing apace, which Gil finds “worrying, as there are hardly any regulations in this country”.

But her growing list of professional clients suggests Egyptian body art is no longer
something to hide. ● Sophie Anmuth in Cairo

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options