In the Arab and Muslim world, facial hair means far more than just style and grooming. It’s a sociological signifier, a shorthand that often tells you who you’re dealing with and what they’re all about before they can even speak. There are a couple of different styles in play, and as a journalist you learn to develop a sort of internal chart.
In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood members generally tend to go with the full but well-groomed beard and moustache. However Salafists - the ultraconservative fundamentalist Muslims - like to let their beards grow long and wild, often leaving their upper lip clean-shaven as a nod to how the Prophet Mohammed wore his own beard 1,400 years ago.
Some within the Salafist camp take things an extra step and dye their beards with henna, producing a range of colours from maroon to bright pumpkin orange.