Henna & Yemeni Women [Archives:1998/08/Culture]

February 23 1998

Henna is used in many ways. It can be used with incense or to beautify the body. People put it on their arms, legs, faces and necks in different artistical designs. This is called Al-Kooz dappling. Some women in Aden, Lahaj, Al-Mokha and Hadhramaut use henna to dapple the areas from their forehead to their eyebrows and from their lower lip to their chin. Many people in Sanaa and Taiz dapple their arms, legs and around their eyes. Henna can be used from the lower lip to the breasts. Women in Lahaj were the first to adopt the dapplings with henna. They taught women in other areas how to make it. Henna has become so popular in all the areas mentioned above to such an extent that it has even reached Djibouti.

How women are dappled with henna
First, black henna is powdered in a cup with little water and a pinch of salt is added to it. Then, it is stirred with a needle or a silver stick (specially used with henna). Then, it is ready to be applied to the skin. When that is finished, lotion must be applied and left for 3 hours. The markings must be covered with nylon so that they are not ruined by perspiration. Perspiration makes the henna clear and deep. After this, the skin is rinsed with water and some lotion is applied to darken the henna.

All classes of women use henna, even little girls from the age of three. Mothers usually dapple their unmarried daughters, especially during special occasions such as Eid.
The dapplings usually take about one hour and a half and are done by a woman skilled in this art. In almost all parts of the country, it will cost about YR 2,000. For brides, the cost is about YR 5000. In the past, it cost 15 shillings in Aden. In Hodeidah, Zabid, Makha and Bajel it only cost ten riyals.

There are women who specialize in making henna. Henna can be made in the following way:
1. put gall oak into Harada (a vessel made of mud)
2. put Harada inside metalware with water
3. put the metalware on either coal or fire
4. cover the Harada with another Harada, so the vapor goes up to the upper Harada
5. wait 1/2 day until the henna is hardened and when all the gall oak has vaporized
6. uncover the lower Harada and scrape off the hard henna
7. it is now black and ready to be sold
By: Athena Al-Absi