Poor Egyptians seek better life with plastic surgery

Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:02am EST
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By Sarah Mikhail

CAIRO (Reuters Life!) - Working-class Egyptians are getting botox, breast implants and tummy tucks in the hopes that the cosmetic surgery once reserved for a wealthy elite will boost their own marriage and job prospects.

Illiterate housewives fearing abandonment, soldiers mocked for flabby chests and overweight women struggling to find a husband sometimes pay with their own blood, rely on charity, borrow money from family and friends or turn to unlicensed cut-price private clinics for a procedure.

The extra business from the poor is boosting the experience of Egyptian cosmetic surgeons and lowering the cost of operations, helping Egypt compete with rivals such as Lebanon and Tunisia in the growing market for medical tourism.

Egypt's top cosmetic surgeons say good surgery that improves self-esteem among the wealthy can mean much more to the poor. But they also warn patients to beware of the growing number of cheap clinics which make false promises and botch operations.

"The poor, particularly those who go to university hospitals, help in increasing the experience of new-generation surgeons because they get trained, so the poor are definitely part of the plan," said Rafaat Gohar, former president of the Egyptian Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ESPRS).

Though expensive by local standards, plastic surgery costs a quarter of the price in the United States or Europe, Egyptian doctors say. Botox to treat wrinkles costs 1,600 Egyptian pounds ($278) compared to nearly $900 elsewhere. Gohar said tummy tucks cost 20,000 pounds, a third lower than in Gulf Arab states.

Poorer locals who forego a private recovery room and opt for a ward housing several patients, pay even less for treatment.

"Egypt compared to the (United) States and Europe is a quarter of the price and with the same capabilities, if not better," Gohar said.   Continued...

<p>Dr. Alaa Gheita performs plastic surgery on a patient in Cairo, November 9, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany</p>