Henna hands

A flash of beauty under all that fabric.

Most of my Somali female students dress in a way that almost fully covers their bodies and arms – either they wear the large, billowy direh dress, paired with the hijab Muslim headscarf, or they wear the full niqab veil which hides everything but their eyes and hands. Yet, despite all these yards of fabric concealing their skin and obliterating the natural shapeliness of their bodies, the Somali women still find ways to be attractive and alluring.

These expressions of beauty include brightly coloured and patterned robes made from silky, fine quality fabric; bling accessories like flashy handbags; sexy shoes such as sandal wedges or low heels (there is a limit to what one can walk in over the rough, unpaved roads here); an excess of (often gaudy) make-up; and, my personal favourite, hands boldly decorated with beautiful henna designs.

What I like about the henna here are the designs. The henna I have seen on women’s hands and feet in places like India, Morocco, and Tunisia was delicate and detailed, an intricate burst of finely painted swirls. But the patterns they paint here are much bolder, with thick lines, sold blocks of colour, and a geometric motifs.

2 Responses to “Henna hands”

  1. ” Most of my Somali female students dress in a way that almost fully covers their bodies and arms – either they wear the large, billowy direh dress, paired with the hijab Muslim headscarf, or they wear the full niqab veil which hides everything but their eyes and hands”

    It wasn’t always like that. The Jilbaab and Niqab are results of the strong influences the Saudis have there. In Somali Culture wearing a shawl or a masr that wrapped around the head with a long colorful dress was the norm before the colapseof the goverment. Although Somlais are Muslim, this strict attire are from Arabia and not exactly islamic. Hopefully oneday when the Saudis lose their influences, Somalis can go back to dressing modestly in their traditional clothing, inshallla.

    • What the Dutch Says:

      Thanks for these really interesting comments, Arweelo. Some female Somali friends aged 30+ explained the same thing to me. They said that when they were school children in Somali in the 1970s they wore school uniforms with skirts and their hair uncovered.

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