EsteWorld is an institution. The cosmetic surgery mammoth has three specialized hospitals that perform operations ranging from hair, mustache and beard transplantation, to Botox, cosmetic surgery and dental whitening. EsteWorld clinic in Uskudar, a suburban neighborhood on Istanbul’s Asian side, houses a café that also serves as a waiting area. Inside, luggage sits in a corner next to a group of striking veiled women and their Michael Kors shopping bags. There is nothing surgical about the clinic. Instead, the compound is more reminiscent of a cosmetic surgery fairyland, where bald men magically walk out with newly implanted hair and women walk out with larger breasts.
If EsteWorld is a kind of Disneyland, it is thanks to Turkey’s status as a leading destination for health tourism. Last year alone, more than half a million tourists came to Turkey to enjoy the sights and book a doctor’s appointment. High-quality services at low prices attract people from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. looking for hair transplantation surgery.
Patients who have had the procedure waiting to to see the doctor. Photo: Emanuele Satolli
Istiklal Street is Istanbul´s lifeline, connecting Taksim Square, a symbol of the modern Turkish Republic, with the Bosphorus River. On any given day, around three million people walk down Istiklal Street, and it is a prime destination for the hordes of men fresh out of hair transplant surgery. Their appearance is disconcerting, especially when they walk together in groups. A large bandage covers their lower scalp, held in place by a black bandana. Their scarlet patches of raw pores and dried blood are disturbing, but the men are not deterred from sightseeing.
Do you know what a house without a roof feels like?
Abdul, a 35-year-old German tourist of Turkish descent, is one of them. He walks up Istiklal Street from Galata Tower on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. As he stops to ask a man for directions, his newly implanted hair is protected by a black bucket hat, courtesy of Estepera, which kindly abstained from placing their logo on the front of the hat. However, Abdul still stands out.
“Do you know what a house without a roof feels like?” he asks. “Cold in the winter and hot in the summer.” This is why Abdul paid about $1600 for 4,050 grafts of implanted hair. “[Hair transplants] are not only about aesthetics,” he says. “I got tired of hot summers and cold winters.” Abdul heard about Estepera through word-of-mouth. “Clinics pay thousands of dollars to advertise on the Turkish TV channels in Germany,” he says. He says he originally visited EsteWorld, but left after learning he would have to pay more than $2700 to fix his roofless house.