Henna Hand Adornment written by Cathleen
In North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and other countries, henna adorns women’s hands for celebrations such as weddings and holidays. Henna is an English word derived from the Arabic hina, which is a flowering tree native to Egypt. Leaves are crushed into a powder that, when mixed with an acidic agent, temporarily stains skin.
Our tour guide Aziz warned that henna artists who approached us might use impure or fake henna. So he brought us a trusted henna artist, who showed us many wonderful designs. I was drawn to the beauty of a stylized eye surrounded by a flower and I liked the trails of delicate leaves on the fingers. The eye is a symbol of good fortune and protection from the “evil eye.” She needed only one quick look at the design I wanted, filled a plastic syringe and painted deftly, as if decorating a cake. It was all done in about four minutes but I could not touch anything for at least 20 minutes. For the final step she applied a fixative made of lime juice, sugar, garlic and pepper.
It was so beautiful I couldn’t stop looking at my hand! Aziz said it would last longer on my palm than another area that does not “take” the stain as well. As I opened my hand, I liked the vision of an opening eye and a blossoming flower. The henna started out the color of espresso, and as the days passed, turned to umber, then rusty orange until it gradually faded away. But I’m happy I had it while it lasted!