When Shoruk Shaheen glances in the mirror, she likes what she sees, especially the change in her face after a cosmetic procedure gaining popularity in Gaza: dimple creation surgery.
The resident of the Palestinian enclave — who wore white shoes with a Dior logo and clutched a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag — had the procedure a month ago at a clinic in downtown Gaza City.
“If you have a beautiful smile then you are a beautiful person,” said the 26-year-old communications manager, whose eyes remained fixed on her mirror as she admired the new indentation in her left cheek.
Dimple creation surgery is performed worldwide but has particular appeal in Gaza, thanks to its low cost and relative safety.
Expensive, riskier procedures are problematic in Gaza, a deeply impoverished territory with a weak healthcare system and under an Israeli blockade since 2007, the year Hamas Islamists took power.
Creating an artificial dimple is “very simple, very easy, very fast” and carries little risk, Shaheen’s surgeon Jalaa El Talmas told AFP.
When performing the procedure, which takes just 10 minutes, Talmas said he applies local anaesthetic to the cheek and mouth before making a slight incision in the zygomaticus muscle that extends from the cheekbone to the mouth.
Talmas said he is performing the dimple procedure for several young women per month, most of whom request it after seeing the results on a friend of a relative.
“They think that it makes the girl more attractive, when she laughs, when she talks, she becomes more attractive,” he said of his clients.
Talmas, who has worked abroad, said he believes the procedure is more popular among Gazans than other Arab women in the Middle East.
Gazan women became aware of it from those who had travelled to Egypt and the Gulf, according to doctors.
It costs $30-$45 US per cheek — compared with thousands in some Western clinics.
Shaheen started with just her left cheek, but said she plans to do the other side.
In addition to being cheap, cosmetic dimple creation does not attract the snickers that a procedure like breast implants would trigger in a conservative, Islamist ruled society.
Dimples “are not a problem”, said Shaheen, explaining the procedure does not invite social stigma.
At the Victoria aesthetic centre, which overlooks a Gaza City park with manicured rows of palm trees, doctor Hassan Ali Aljaish told AFP he saw no issue with a procedure that brought “a little happiness” to women living in a society replete with hardships, notably the blockade.
Aljaish, who has been performing cosmetic and reconstructive surgery since 2018, said he typically receives about 30 requests a month for dimple creation.
While he conceded it was a growing trend, he cautioned against the impression that “the people of Gaza get (cosmetic) operations every day.”
Dimple creation and other cosmetic procedures, “may alleviate the suffering” of life in Gaza, “but we must not forget that this (suffering) exists, said Aljaish, whose practice is mostly for Palestinians needing reconstructive surgery after being injured during hostilities between Hamas and Israel.