Henna is like a temporary tattoo that some women – and men – in this region wear for various reasons. Uses range from weddings to everyday decoration, and the designs stay for several days. I usually see it on Emirati girls and the dorm supervisors, but it’s even used as a hair dye. It’s basically a paste that is applied to the skin, left to dry, and leaves the skin temporarily dyed a reddish brown color.
I recently tried henna for the first time. Two women representing a salon came to university for a cultural celebration, and had a stand where they offered to decorate one hand in henna for just $2.70 (10 AED). I had never seen henna artists before, and was surprised at how they were able to create art in just a few strokes. They didn’t even use a reference picture, and their only tool was a little bag with a hole in it.
Although some people are allergic to henna, I didn’t experience negative side effects. The henna artist told me to wash it off after 10 minutes, but my more experienced friends instructed me to wait until it started looking like mold… which happened after about an hour. It turned green and started flaking off, but left the reddish brown color behind.