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What Are Arabic Bridal Mehndi?

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  • Written By: G. D. Palmer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Arabic bridal mehndi are temporary tattoos that are made using a leaf paste from the henna plant, also known as Lawsonia inermis or the mignonette tree. Mehndi tattoos work best on the hands and feet, where the skin has higher levels of keratin. These intricate decorations are applied shortly before the wedding and might last for weeks afterward.

The term "mehndi" comes from the Sanskrit language and technically refers to the process of applying the henna. It also can be used to refer to the designs. This art is believed to have originated in the Middle East more than 5,000 years ago. Traditional bridal mehndi patterns have since spread to India and northern Africa. In North America and Europe, people might use mehndi designs outside of the context of marriage.

Traditional Arabic bridal mehndi designs typically are applied by a professional or a female relative of the bride. The application occurs at a large party, similar to a Western bachelorette party or bridal shower. Guests and relatives of the bride might also receive henna decorations. In some Arabic-speaking regions, the bridegroom and his friends decorate their hands and feet at a separate party.

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The paste for Arabic bridal mehndi might be thin and watery, thick and coarse, or any texture in between. Thicker pastes provide more staining power but produce less-detailed designs. Many modern henna artists use pre-prepared cones of henna that are ready to use, or pre-ground henna leaves. Some rural woman still grind fresh leaves, which produces the darkest stain but requires more effort.

Plain henna leaves will stain the skin by themselves, but many artists add coffee, lemon juice or alkaline materials such as ammonia to the mix. These additives increase the mixture's staining power or change the color. So-called “black” henna often contains synthetic dye and can cause chemical burns in sensitive people.

Arabic bridal mehndi can be applied using a cone, as is done with cake frosting, or with a brush or syringe. Some henna artists also use string or bread dough as a resist, producing a reverse pattern on the hands and feet. Unlike Indian henna tattoos, which might be accented with turmeric, vermilion or other colorants, Arabic bridal mehndi usually are monochrome.

Henna produces a bright orange to dark brown stain on the nails, hands and feet. The finger and toenails and the palms and soles of the feet absorb the darkest color because of their higher protein content. A bride might still have faded traces of her mehndi tattoo patterns as long as a month after the wedding.

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bluedolphin
Post 3

@burcinc-- I believe another difference is that black mehndi is more popular among Arabic women. I've heard that black mehndi can also be made with natural ingredients like coffee or walnut leaves. Most probably contain the chemical the article mentioned which is not good. But women in the Middle East seem to prefer the black variety lately.

candyquilt
Post 2

@burcinc-- That's a good question. Both, the type of henna and the designs are different. Although some of the henna used in Arabic countries may be important from the Indian subcontinent, I believe henna also grows in the Middle East. There are different types of henna and the quality and strength of color does vary from type to type.

The designs are also different. Arabic bridal mehndi designs commonly use floral designs, which are common in Indian mehndi designs as well. But Indian mehndi designs tend to be far more complex and detailed. While the Arabic mehndi may cover a portion of the hand, Indian mehndi is usually applied all over the hands and feet, and also to parts

of the arms and feet.

It generally takes longer to complete an Indian mehndi design and more expertise is needed, so a professional mehndi artist must be hired.

Things are changing though, the designs popular in India for mehndi are also being learned and used by mehndi artists in Arabic countries and even the US. So they are becoming more and more similar over time.

burcinc
Post 1

What is the difference between Arabic bridal mehndi and Indian bridal mehndi? Is it the type of henna that's different or just the design?

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