Syrian barber creates portraits on clients’ heads

BEIRUT (AP) — In a city full of hair stylists, Muhannad Khaled Omar stands out.

Omar, 26, is a Palestinian-Syrian stylist known for shaving celebrity portraits into clients’ hair.

On a recent Friday at his Beirut salon, Omar shaved a portrait of U.S. President Donald Trump into the hair of a young customer’s head. With a painter’s precision, he created the contours of the president’s face, cutting at various lengths to give the image depth. A spray of gold hair coloring added to the effect.

“I started this profession when I was in 9th grade,” Omar said. “I was studying at the same time, learning how to cut hair. I’ve had a talent since I was young, a talent for drawing.”

Omar was raised in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria, but moved to Lebanon in 2011 after a crackdown against demonstrations in Syria grew violent.

Omar said his vocation in hair styling is an extension of his passion for art.

“I started my baccalaureate studies and I studied psychology. When I came here to Lebanon, I mixed psychology, cutting hair and drawing into one profession,” he said.

Hair salons are a staple in every Middle East city, a place for friends to gather and gossip ahead of the weekends. They are usually segregated by sex.

Omar manages his own salon in the Bourj al-Barajneh refugee camp in south Beirut, established in 1948 to accommodate Palestinians made refugees by the creation of the state of Israel. The camp’s population has swelled with the influx of Syrian refugees — some of them also Palestinians — who have come to escape the violence of the war next door. The United Nations says Lebanon is home to 1 million Syrian refugees.

Syrians are vulnerable to workplace and housing abuses in Lebanon because they lack basic legal protections. Many find it easier to live and work in Palestinian camps.

Omar said he hopes that someone will invest in his work one day and sponsor him to emigrate to Europe.

“I want to start something new, but not in this area, something outside of the Arab world, to show that we are capable, we can produce things,” he said.

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