The oldest dye powder in the world!
What is henna?
Henna is a colouring powder that is obtained by drying and grinding the leaves of Lawsonia Inermis, a small thorny shrub with pinkish-white flowers. Because of its nourishing properties, it has been used since ancient times to dye hair and make fine tattoos.
Native to Middle Eastern countries, it is considered, due to its plant composition, a viable alternative to synthetic dyes used in cosmetics. Its famous creamy paste is made by combining the powder with lemon juice (or tea) and essential oils.
What is the history of this colouring powder?
Henna has been the most widely used colouring powder since ancient times. Just think of Cleopatra’s iconic make-up, the decorations on the nails of Chinese ladies, or the tattoos of the Assyrians!
Lawsonia Inermis was believed to have real healing properties. Therefore, in many Asian populations, it was customary to wear it under the armour, as if it was a talisman.
On the African continent, in India in the sub-Saharan peninsula, on the other hand, henna was mainly used as a body decoration. Mesopotamian peoples used to reserve the treatment only on special occasions for kings and priests. The practice has spread to the entire southeastern Mediterranean area, with the passage of time.
In particular, the prophet Muhammad was a key figure in the spread of henna! He promoted its use as a hair dye to men, while for women he suggested embellishing their bodies with elaborate tattoos.
An immortal tradition
The plant became so important that it was later considered an integral part of the traditions of many Middle Eastern peoples!
For example, in the Muslim wedding celebration, the evening of the first day is entirely devoted to the henna ritual. The bride and close relatives go to her family’s home, where the nekacha, a henna artist, will tattoo her hands and feet while the other women watch.
Once finished the design, a mixture of sugar and lemon or lime juice is sprayed to enhance the colour and fix it on the body. A transparent film is also used to make the paste dry better. When the paste dries, it peels off the skin, leaving the decoration visible on the body for several weeks.
Getting a henna tattoo is definitely an experience to try during a stay in Morocco. What better way to get to know a culture than to try this magical colouring powder on your own skin?
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