On our Luxury Sahara Tours to Nubia Desert Camp, we are mindful of taking you to the most interesting and real cultural destinations to meet the nomadic people who still live in the Sahara today. We like to share with you many of the traditions of Morocco and one of these is the fascinating Art of Henna.
Henna was originally used to cool the hands and feet of those living in the stifling heat of the desert. However, for thousands of years, the natural staining qualities of the henna plant have also been used to create intricate body art. Henna designs date back to the Ancient Egyptians, when mummified bodies were adorned with elaborate patterns and Cleopatra wore it to decorate her skin.
The leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis, native to Africa, northern Australia, and southern Asia) are dried and powdered to form a paste which naturally causes a stain on the skin in the pattern of its application. Henna is also used as a natural dye for hair, fingernails, fabrics such as leather, silk, and wool, horses manes, and animal fur. The staining occurs when the pigment lawsone, found in the henna leaves, combines with the protein keratin, that forms the structure of our hair and skin.
The ceremonial art form of Mehndi originated in Ancient India, a tradition where Hindu brides are extensively decorated with henna patterns prior to their wedding. The natural cooling properties of henna are also thought to help relax the bride. Traditionally it is said that while the henna stain remains on the bride’s skin, she is excused from doing any housework, as well as the darker the henna stain, the better the marriage.
Now, the beautiful swirling henna designs are easily recognisable as a popular and worldwide form of self expression. Indian cinema and the entertainment industry introduced Henna to the West, and Mehndi designs, named “henna tattoos” by Westerners, became fashionable in the late 1990s.
Frequently Asked Questions
A henna artist is called a mehndi artist. The title of mehndi artist is often used interchangeably with henna artist, though technically, the term “henna” refers specifically to the dried and powdered leaves of the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis. Mehndi is the Hindi word for henna.
The use of henna as a temporary body art dates back thousands of years and is still popular today all over the world. Henna artists are typically self-taught and use their own unique techniques to create intricate designs on their clients’ skin.
Pharaohs were some of the first people to adorn their bodies with elaborate designs made from henna leaves, and Cleopatra was known for her skill in creating stunning henna masterpieces. Henna art is most commonly associated with modern brides and Indian wedding ceremonies, but the origins of this beautiful form of body art can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Egypt. Pharaohs would often have skilled artists create temporary henna tattoos for them using a paste made from ground-up henna leaves. These tattoo designs would often be very intricate and reflect the Pharaoh’s status and power. Cleopatra was said to be particularly skilled in creating henna designs, and she would often surprise her guests with beautiful henna tattoos. Today, henna art is still popular in many parts of the world, and it continues to be a way to express individuality and beauty.
Henna has a long history of being used for spiritual purposes. In many cultures, henna is seen as a blessing and an honour, and it is believed that the closer the henna design is to the heart, the more powerful the blessing. henna designs are often used to bring good luck, protection, and blessings to the person wearing them. The henna itself is seen as a powerful symbol of protection and strength, and it is believed that it can help to ward off evil spirits. For this reason, henna is often worn by women during times of transition or during religious ceremonies. When applied to the palms of the hands, henna is seen as a way of opening oneself up to receive blessings from the divine. In this way, henna can be seen as a sacred practice that connects us to the spiritual world.
There isn’t a definitive answer to this question since henna designs can vary greatly, but many believe that the symbols and patterns used in henna tattoos have traditional meanings related to health, fertility, wisdom, and good fortune.
Common designs that are often associated with these meanings include the butterfly, cat, and lotus flower. Some people also believe that different colours of henna have different significances. For example, red henna is thought to bring good luck and prosperity, while black henna is said to be a sign of protection.