Actually, they had already been working on the bride's henna, as well as other female family members, for quite some time when we arrived. It can be a very lengthy and exhausting process. In fact, the poor henna artist was actually taking a little nap when we arrived! Most Sudanese women now use a black dye instead of natural henna, since it shows up better and dries quicker. However Areej, being a chemist herself, is very, very cautious about what she puts on her skin and hair, and did not want to use the chemical dye. Can't say that I blame her. The henna artist had already applied one layer of henna on her arms, hands, legs and feet before we arrived, and was now going over it all with a second layer, to darken it from rusty red to a blackish red, hopefully. Most of her female relatives were shaking their heads in disapproval.
The poor bride has to be a contortionist for this! Doing the hands and arms is no problem. Just don't sneeze or scratch your nose. The front of the legs is fairly easy too, because you can sit up comfortably for all those parts. However, when it's time to do the bottom of the feet and the backs of the legs, you have to find a position that not only gives the artist easy access, but also prevents you from smearing any of the other parts, which are still drying. Believe me, it ain't easy!
Meanwhile, in the room next door, we had not one, but two, grooms getting their henna tattoos -- Austin, and cousin Omar, whose wedding would be the week after theirs. While the women's tattoos are painted on with something akin to a pastry bag, in very artistic patterns, the groom's henna is very different. It is mixed to an almost clay-like consistency, which is then molded and shaped across their palms and around their fingers. For both the bride and the groom, there are some strong smelling oils involved, which seemed to irritate the men much more than the women, causing some tears and sinus issues.
|Habooba assists with Omar's oil application.|
|Curing Our Henna|
P.S. Next day I noticed that Areej's henna designs were now tar black, even though when I left the night before they were still quite red. When I asked her about them, she said Habooba came in to give final approval, pronounced the henna color "Ugly", and that was that. The black dye went on!