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Arts & Culture


Henna, an emblem of arab weddings

Traditionally, weddings in the Arab world take place over several days. One of them is dedicated to Henna. But what is it and where does it come from?

The origins of henna are difficult to trace due to extensive human migrations between the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. But it is believed to have been used by early civilizations like the Babylonians and Sumerians for decorating brides and women during special occasions. Additional historical evidence also suggests that henna was used in ancient Egypt for staining the fingers and toes of pharaohs prior to mummification, and it was also prevalent in the Mughal Empire.


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Henna is also important among Muslims. It is believed that the prophet Muhammad used henna, and it is mentioned in various Islamic teachings. Since permanent tattoos are prohibited in the Muslim faith, henna serves as a permissible alternative, since it’s temporary. This has made henna popular, especially in celebratory events like weddings and Eid. In many weddings in the Arab world, there is a dedicated night for Henna.  During this ceremony, the bride’s hands are adorned with intricate mehndi patterns.

Elaborate and intricate designs

Henna artistry is renowned for its elaborate and intricate designs, featuring floral motifs and geometric shapes.  The preparation of henna involves creating a paste from the leaves of the henna plant, which contains the dye molecule lawsone. This paste is applied to the skin using various methods, such as traditional sticks and modern tools like syringes and cones. The stain from henna changes from orange to a deep reddish-brown over a few days due to oxidation and is used for decorating skin, hair, nails, and even fabrics​​​​. 


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Published on 2 January 2024

#Arab world