Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting Henna Done in Muscat, Oman

WHAT IS HENNA?: Henna is a temporary tattoo applied to the skin in decorative patterns varying across cultures, and even across regions of Oman. It is made from crushed henna leaves, and is actually quite healthy if nothing is added to the mixture before application.

In Oman I get my henna done, once or twice every couple of months. Usually for weddings and Eids, Omani women paint their hands up to the elbows, and their feet, both sides. Some Zanzibari brides I know, even get their entire backs painted in elaborate floral designs for their wedding nights, with poetry verses hidden in the design.

Some women wear traditional, older henna style, every single day. As soon as the henna fades, they reapply it. This henna is usually applied by painting the entire bottom of the foot, as well as the palm of the hand. You will see this often with smaller children, both boys and girls, on the Eids. For babies this is done by balling their fists with a handful of henna mix, and then tying their fists closed with cloth. My daughter is a rampant hater of the tradition. She has not yet forgiven all of her aunties for forcing it upon her. For older women, they will also traditionally colour their nails with henna, and the tips of their fingers. This is a henna style that the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) commented typical of women in his time period in one recorded saying.

Different regions have variations of styles. For example, for the traditional style, in Musandam, the entire palm of the hand is not painted, a circle is drawn instead in the center.

WHY DO YOU SEE DIFFERENT COLOURS OF HENNA?: Henna is naturally reddish brown. On whiter skin it may only be orange in tone. If you see black henna, it isn't actually henna but a dye that is nowhere as safe to use. The darker dye is often called "Sudani Henna". While some women have no issue with black dyes, some experience scarring. I urge one to go for the more natural "Omani" henna unless one tests a small does of the other mixture first. Muslim women are discouraged in sayings of the Prophet Mohammed not to use the black dye for health reasons. Some will experience stinging once henna is applied. That usually means that a chemical has been added to lengthen how long the henna will last.

HOW LONG DOES HENNA LAST?: Henna can last from as short a time as five days, but on the palms and nails, occasionally until the nails grow out. Various chemical additive mixtures have been introduced to lengthen the staying time of henna.

WHERE CAN I GET MY HENNA DONE?: The majority of henna-work is done at home. As not everyone is proficient at this, many of us trade the names and phone numbers of different styles of henna artists, For example, when I want Indian henna I go to a woman in Mutrah. When I want floral, I go to a woman in Seeb. when I want African patterns, I go to Sudani woman who works in a salon. Many salons offer henna services, just call to ask, or feel confident enough to ask an Omani woman whose henna you like if she can refer you.

HOW MUCH SHOULD IT COST: I usually pay 4-6 rials for just my hands or 8 for something fancy up to my elbows. For henna on both the feet and hands expect to pay around 7-15.


Aliyah said...

i love your henna design. i have seen this kind of design at many of my friends who are living in gulf countries. is this the arabic style of henna? i still didn't figured it out which is what. i apply henna but mostly geometric and floral designs. is there any omani style of henna?

Fizzy! said...

Thanks for the interesting post. It is amazing to note that how similar the Henna culture is between Oman and my country; Pakistan!

Anonymous said...

Do u anybody who can come home n apply henna??

Anonymous said...

I also want to know this... if u come to know plz tell m aswell

Anonymous said...

Pregnant women can do mehandi?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anon Aug 6th: Yes, if it is natural henna, not black henna or henna where they have added chemicals to make it stay longer/be darker. Omani henna is fine.