The preparations for the said event started a week early. For example, a young lady came to add extensions to her natural hair and plait it. It was the first time I have seen it done. The ladies fingers were fast and dexterous! The entire process was amazing for me! (Will blog about African hair soon.)
A day before the event, the same ladies came in and applied henna on her arms and legs. I do henna designs myself but I was totally mesmerized while observing the artist doing the designs freehand. Luckily, due to my curiosity, she also did henna on both of my arms. Little did I know that the henna she did for me is culturally reserved for brides. I only got to find out when my male co-workers were asking me arosa (bride). Men in the souk (market) would also ask me the same question. The local women were not as curious!
A Sudanese bride would usually get her arms and legs painted in "Black Sudani Henna". The designs are bolder compared to the intricate Indian mehndi.
The Sudanese henna is distinctive because of its black color. In the old days, they used natural henna. These days, the "Black Sudani Henna" is a mix of powdered hair dye and natural henna. The downside of this is that, the hair dye contains Para-Phenylene Diamine which causes severe allergic reactions. It has been said that some Sudanese brides have collapsed and died on their wedding day because of anaphylaptic shock.
Another word of caution is, since this has a hair dye content this will permanently color the following:
- your nails until it grows out
- your arm hair especially if you are blonde.
My friend had to shave the hair on her arms because they were dyed black while the rest was blonde! I comforted her by saying Iraqi brides shave all the hair in their bodies to prepare for their wedding!