Some grooms in the UAE go through days of personal preparations for their weddings, including body scrubs, manicures and pedicures, massages and skin treatments so they can look good for their brides and their guests.
Every wedding needs a grooming
RAS AL KHAIMAH // Mohammed Al Shehhi grimaced and flinched as a pedicurist hacked at his toenails, then scrubbed away at his feet until he felt like there was no skin left.
The young policeman was undergoing what many Emirati men must endure before their wedding: the full-body "groom treatment".
"I had done manicures before, but not a pedicure. It was the first and the last. I can't believe women do it regularly," said Mr Al Shehhi, 23, who got married on December 30 so he could start the new year with his wife.
In the UAE, brides are not the only ones who want to look their best for their special day: grooms, too, spend hundreds or even thousands of dirhams in specialised beauty salons on facials, body scrubs, hair dyes, massages, scented oils, and light make-up to cover up their flaws. They endure all of this torment so that they can present themselves most favourably on their wedding day, not only to their bride but also to their family members and guests.
"We already take care of our hygiene and make sure we are clean as it is part of our religion and culture to smell nice and be presentable at prayers and to society," Mr Al Shehhi said. "But for weddings, we go the extra mile of torture to look good."
In Ras Al Khaimah alone there are dozens of groom and bridal salons - they can be found on almost every other residential block.
One such grooms' salon is the Al Taous, or "peacock", salon, which opened in 2000 and offers special packages spanning two days.
"We do the cleaning and dyeing a day before the wedding, and then the actual make-up and styling the day of the wedding," said AbdulHadi Al Zaabi, the salon manager.
Run by a staff of three Syrians, the salon has a sauna and a hamam - a bathing area where the scrubbing takes place on a bed of tiles.
On the day of the wedding, the groom gets a layer of make-up foundation that is close to his skin tone, as well as kohl (eye liner).
A popular treatment is the "Moroccan bath", a traditional scrubbing and massaging ritual that includes beatings with wet towels.
"We scrub them with natural hard sponges, then add oils, like olive oil, or honey or milk, depending on the skin type and needs of the client," Mr Al Zaabi said.
One of the common issues he has noticed is "excessive dryness" of the skin on the necks and chins of many grooms who have had laser treatments to remove unwanted hair.
But the most common request is slimming body oil, which is often applied around the stomach area. Then there is bleaching of the skin and teeth, and hair oils to help restore hair thickness.
"We tell them there is no cure for baldness, and that the wife will just have to accept it," he said with a laugh.
While refusing to divulge some of the most common "secret" beauty requests, Mr Al Zaabi said: "There is a reason you rarely see white beards, regardless of the age of the men.
"All I can say is that we promise that every groom who leaves our beauty salon will leave walking proudly like a peacock."
Yet not every groom wishes to be a peacock.
For Abdul Hadi Khalawi, the only concern on his wedding day was a symbolic peeling of potatoes and sawing a sidr tree with his wife.
The Emirati banker, 26, married his German wife, Khadija, on December 23 in a desert ceremony that mixed the best of German and Emirati nuptials.
While his wife went to a henna salon, he went to a barber's shop for a shave, but declined his barber's advice on facial creams and extra preening.
"He asked me to do some things for cleaning my face. I refused, to be very honest," said Mr Khalawi. "I am not used to these things; I just had a shower in my room and that's it. My wife was very cool about it."
As for Mr Al Shehhi, who went through hours of preening at a friend's salon, the only part of the preparation he enjoyed was the massage.
"Every groom needs an hour of this massage, just to ease their tension," he said. "You don't only need to look good for your bride, but also for the thousands of guests that will be coming over to congratulate you."
After leaving the salon in a ceremonial grey and gold cloak, or bisht, that he had borrowed from his uncle, Mr Al Shehhi stopped by a traditional perfume and oil shop before going to the wedding hall.
"They sprayed me all over with strong mixes of oud perfume so that when I got to the hall, I left a lingering impression wherever I went," he said.
A small bottle of oud could cost up to several hundred dirhams, but Mr Al Shehhi received a "free spraying" as a gift from the shopkeeper.
"Everything has to be perfect for the wedding, especially the groom and the bride," he said. "Thank Allah it's over, and I can be my scruffy self again."