Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cover up


Henna. My beautiful Mauritanian henna. That no one in Egypt really thought was beautiful at all. I loved it. I loved the fact that it was new and interesting and different. It reminded me of a beautiful time spent in a country that was not like anything I've ever experienced. Then I went back to Egypt. Beauty is only defined in terms of what is familiar and known. Anything different is deemed bizarre and receives looks of wonder mixed with... disgust? I can't quite place it.


Four weeks later and all that remains is the nail henna. It only disappears as your nails grow, so this will be with me for a while. And yet the comments keep on rolling about how I really shouldn't have done "this". I loved my Mauritanian henna. But the pressure to cover up what remains of it is strong. Sigh.

Just another reassurance that the concept of "beauty" is a completely undefined and subjective one.

8 comments:

Lina Rahman said...

Wow, I didn't realize that there would be such pressure to cover it up. I think its beautiful, but then it's something that is normal in my culture!

I thought it was pretty cool that a little part of your adventures included watching henna being applied on others or yourself in Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania. Were the designs in the different places really different from one another?

bintbattuta said...

Lina, the designs were actually pretty different! Even the type of henna used was different.
Tunisia: black henna; very simple and small designs
Morocco: brown/red henna; flowery designs
Mauritania: red henna; very detailed and systematic designs

cherry said...

Suzie! I think it looks absolutely gorgeous! And just a correction... in Tunis we do have henna and its basically the same color as most henna in Arab countries... but the black thing you saw while in Sidi Bou Said is called "harkous" :)

Miss you tons and I look forward to your next adventure because I get to share it with you through your blog!

XOXO

worldcurioustraveler said...

Oh, so sorry to hear your henna didn't go over well! I had a similar experience with a henna tattoo I got in Zanzibar. When I got home, people hated it, and then I got skin poisoning from it, so it swelled up and looked horrible. After awhile, the henna wore off and I had a pink rash in the design of my tattoo. I loved it, but unfortunately with my allergy, no more henna for me.

bintbattuta said...

Cherry! Thanks for clarifying :D most countries use the same henna herb but add different herbs to give it different colours.

Mary - ouch! I've heard about that happening, especially with black henna :/ was it black? apparently its something to do with the chemicals they use to turn it black. Some use chemicals instead of natural products, which make some people allergic to it :(

nida said...

what an amazing blog - love the title!

I think the henna came out marvelous... realy beautiful. And you are right, beauty is something highly subjective. Never thought it be such a big deal in Egypt, tho.

Best of luck in your travels :).

Samar7rb said...

hahaha.. i like in the second picture how the pink nail polish is glaring at your fingers thinking.. " i bet that doesn't come in pink.. umhmmm"...

lol i just make up conversations between inanimate objects..

Beauty without a title...

Umm Aboodi said...

Love the henna, my husband is from Mauritania so I have lots of experience with Mauritanian henna. You got off easy I usually spend 10 hours having my henna done!