Moroccan Henna: Exquisite Designs

Moroccan Henna is the recurring marker of both traditional and religious festive moments. It is an important symbol of embellishment that widespread common sense likes to recall in the form of a well-known saying: “Put on henna, and Allah will have mercy on you.” Tlagmasse and Amina are expert henna artists who can be proud of the title of “Hannaya” (or Nekacha, a term used in the Marrakech region, or Zayana, in the Tangier region).

What is a Moroccan henna?

Moroccan woman with henna

Initially, henna is a plant that grows in desert regions. In Morocco, it is mainly found in the Azzemour region. From this plant, a powder is obtained. It is mixed with a small bowl of water and a spoonful of lemon or orange blossom juice, rose water, or eucalyptus essence. It gives a heated paste to fix its color. Green henna paste is a dye from plants.

In some cases, black dye is added so that it looks black. It is necessary to avoid applying this paste on your skin: it can cause allergic reactions, even severe burns… I have read on forums several complaints from tourists after tattoos with “natural black” henna.

Henna is a standard part of both traditional and religious celebrations in Morocco. “Put on henna, and Allah will have mercy on you” is a well-known saying that reminds people of how vital henna is as a form of decoration. Tlagmasse and Amina are very good at henna art. They are proud to be called “Hannaya” (or Nekacha, used in the Marrakech region, or Zayana, in the Tangier region).

Henna in Morocco

Henna in Morocco

In Morocco, someone called a naqasha, or hannaya, applies henna designs to the skin.

A naqasha is always a woman, and there are no places to get formal training. Older women, often female relatives, teach younger women how to use henna.

After years of training, henna artists often become skilled professionals proud of their work.

Some Moroccan henna artists add natural ingredients like cloves or brewed tea to make the tattoo darker. These things are added to the henna paste right away.

Henna Tools

The mrod was the first tool used to put henna on the skin in Morocco. It was a simple, pointed stick dipped into a very stringy henna paste and then used to make lines on the skin.

The most common tool used in Morocco today is a syringe that has been changed. The needle’s sharp point is filed down, leaving a blunt end that only lightly touches the skin at specific points.

The henna syringe has been changed so that it can be used to make excellent lines and complicated designs. It takes a lot of practice and artistic skill to do this.

Moroccan henna designs can be straightforward, like a tattoo ring or bracelet on the hand or wrist. They can be complicated and cover a much larger skin area, like bridal henna designs.

Henna designs and symbolism

Many tourists like henna art because it looks nice, but it has a deeper meaning for many Moroccans. Many Moroccans still think that a henna tattoo signifies good luck. This comes from the beliefs of the Amazighpeople. Some people are also sure that henna can protect against bad luck and the evil eye, mainly when the designs include the hamsa, a vision, or a diamond. Other standard henna designs are twists and swirls, geometric shapes, floral patterns, and straight lines.

People who did manual labor, like working in fields, used to put henna on their hands and feet because they thought it would make them stronger. People also believe that henna can bring about a good harvest, ensure it rains enough, help prevent infertility and make childbirth easier, keep away sickness and bad luck, help families make a living, and maintain peaceful relationships.

Typical henna designs can vary quite a bit across Morocco. Floral arrangements are often small and intricate in the north, while larger, bolder designs are more common in the south.

Henna Tattoos

Beginners can try using a henna powder paste at home. Still, they won’t be able to make the same designs or get the same results as a professional henna artist.

Henna tattoo stencils and henna kits make it easier to do tattoos at home. And instead of a syringe, henna is often put on bottles with different tips.

Traditions of Henna in Morocco

Henna has been used for healing for hundreds of years. Some people thought it had baraka, or blessedness, that could keep evil spirits away.

In Moroccan villages, henna was also a big part of community celebrations and religious holidays. At these kinds of events, women would get henna tattoos.

Women and girls sometimes get together for a “henna party” to get ready for a holiday or celebration by getting henna tattoos.

When it came to weddings, Moroccan families spent a lot of money on food, music, and other acts of hospitality to ensure their guests had a good time.

People used to think that happy events like weddings could attract the attention of evil forces. The baraka in henna was supposed to help ward off jinns and the evil eye, giving villagers a way to fight disaster and destruction.

Modernity has brought about new ways to think about henna, but these ideas are still part of the culture.

Henna is still very popular at weddings. For example, Moroccan brides traditionally get elaborate henna tattoos on their hands and feet. However, henna has become much more of an everyday thing.

People often say, “Where there’s joy, there’s henna,” but no one needs a reason to get henna in modern Morocco.

Regional Moroccan Henna Styles

Moroccan Henna Styles

Morocco has different traditional styles of henna tattoos from other parts of the country.

But it’s getting harder to tell the difference between these Moroccan henna designs because of how popular henna is with tourists and how easy it is to find pictures of henna designs on the internet.

There are no formalized ways to teach henna in Morocco. Artists are creative people who don’t always stick to “rules” or traditional designs.

Still, henna artists often use different types of standard layouts or blueprints as a starting point and a quick way to start putting together a design.

An example of this kind of plan is a henna tattoo design that starts with a specific part, like an eye or a flower. Finally, the rest of the henna tattoo is placed imaginatively around the core portion of the design.

Another example is a mehndi design only on one body part and doesn’t have a clear center. With this second plan, large areas are broken into smaller shapes and filled with fill elements.

Henna in the Fez or Fassi style

The Fassi style, which comes from the imperial city of Fez, is the easiest to recognize and classify as a type of Moroccan henna design.

Fassi henna styles are the least free-form of the different regional types. They usually use geometric shapes covering the whole area being hennaed, with very few solid blocks of color and almost no repeating patterns.

Henna in the style of Marrakech or Marrakechi

The Marrakech or Marrakech style of henna design is easy to spot because it favors floral patterns over geometric ones and leaves blank spots on the skin, which is what painters call “negative space.”

The Meknes or Meknessi style

 This is between the Fassi and Marrakech styles and can be considered a bridge between the two.

This henna style takes complicated flower shapes. It makes them simpler by putting them in the middle of a geometric design. The flower shapes are then filled with more geometric designs.

The edges and corners of shapes that are usually sharp are rounded off, but the geometric fill inside the bodies stays the same.

Sahara or Saharawi Style Henna

South of Marrakech and past Tizi n’ Tichka, the semi-arid part of Morocco winds its way through the Sahara Desert beautifully.

Here, geometric patterns are used again in henna designs, and the landscape is used as a source of ideas.

Symbolism is often used in the Saharawi style. Some designs might show the eye, the hand (khamsa), or complicated geometric shapes.

Henna was designed in the style of the Saharawi people of Morocco

People often talk about “bridal henna,” but no one henna style is used at Moroccan weddings. So, bridal henna is just the style that the bride likes best.

Wedding henna

 On the other hand, it is usually more complicated and covers more of the hands, wrists, feet, and ankles. Designs could go up the arms and legs more.

In the past, dried henna paste had to be thrown away, mainly because it could be hazardous if it got into the wrong hands.

People thought henna would protect them when they were most vulnerable, like at a wedding. However, that vulnerability stayed in the dried henna paste and could be used by bad people.

In Islamic culture, some people are careful about throwing away hair and nail trimmings so they can’t be found and used in black magic.

Gulf of Khaleeji Style Henna Designs

In the last few years, tourists have made henna more popular, leading to a new henna style in Morocco.

This flower style is called khaleeji, which comes from the Persian Gulf area.

It can be done professionally, but most women don’t have much experience, talent, or respect for the henna tradition, so they do it quickly and poorly in just a few seconds.

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