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Arabic: hinnā'

Making of henna tatoo.
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Making of henna tatoo. Photo: Khadija Dawn Carryl.

Henna powder.
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Henna powder. Photo: Henna Bee.

Finished henna tatoo.
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Finished henna tatoo. Photo: Khadija Dawn Carryl.

Henna is a cosmetic paste that is solely used for decoration, and is not connected to any health advantages.
Henna comes from the leaves of the plant with the same name. These are crushed into a green powder, that is sold in suqs all over the Arab world. To this powder, water is added, so that it becomes a paste that is applied to the body. After leaving the paste on the body for some time, up to 2 hours, a deep orange colour is left on the skin that will slowly fade away within a period of 2- 3 weeks. The henna is often applied in intricate patterns, primaily to decorate the hands or the feet.
Henna is used almost exclusively by women, and, typically, either by single women who seek to make themselves more eligible, or by women who wish to express their romantic relationship with their husbands. Henna is considered very sensual by both men and women, even if the henna is applied to the parts of the body that are exposed in public. This also applies to married women.
Henna is also used for dying hair, but is seldom used for dying other items, like clothes.

By Tore Kjeilen