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Henna Nights | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Henna Nights

Henna Nights

Henna Nights

Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat-Despite the regional differences of customs and traditions in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there remain many common rituals. One of these is the Henna night or what is known as ”Ghamra” night, which precedes the wedding night.

Hatoun Qady, whose Henna night was held in Mecca, the evening before her wedding said, &#34I loved wearing the traditional dress and all my relatives and friends came together to celebrate. The dress is long and embroidered and was worn with a yashmak, which covers my face and is embroidered with silver. This is a commitment to tradition that says that a bride should not be seen by anyone. She adds, &#34But I did not put henna on my hands and feet as our mothers once did. Although my mother tried to convince me to, I actually dislike seeing it on my hands but I like it on other people.&#34 She adds, &#34I believe that times have changed.&#34

Nagat Nazer, a fashion designer who specializes in traditional dresses and owns a shop in Jeddah says, &#34Every girl dreams of her wedding. Girls love having their friends come together to sing and dance in expressing their happiness. The Henna night represents the last night before her shift into a life full of responsibilities of a husband and future children.&#34

She adds, &#34On this night where dinner and desserts are served to guests, the bride wears two or more dresses and hides her face with the yashmak which is not removed until the bride wears the wedding dress the next day. Nowadays, special attention is paid to this special night that is held a week or at least three days before the wedding. Some, however, have even held it on the wedding night, but what the common feature of all henna nights is the women”s talk concerning the bride”s dress which is usually a mix of modernity and tradition.&#34

In her seventies, Jawhara Hashim spoke of the Jeddah”s customs saying that, &#34On her henna night, the bride wears a traditional type of dress known as ”Zaboun” and is carried on a chair by her friends. As she walks, the bride is sprinkled with silver Riyals coins that were available at the time. Nowadays, the henna night is just a day for relaxing for the family. The bride is professionally made-up on the morning of her wedding.&#34

Jawhara adds, &#34Henna night sees the distribution of presents and henna for women, and the dinner table is prepared with food such as the Saudi biscuits known as Ma”amoul (which used to be known as ”Al Arous” which means bride). The dinner also includes ”Ta”ateema”, which is made up of milk, dessert, the sweet Ladoo, olives, pastries and different types of marmalade, in addition to meat dishes. The bride”s dress is hired for one night for the bride.&#34 She adds, &#34There are some people who still maintain old traditions and others who have made many changes to them. The bride will choose her wedding dress which is usually Moroccan, Indian or Bedouin attire&#34.

Um Mohamed, from the Asir region, south of the kingdom spoke of her memories of the henna nights in the past and said, &#34Everyone prepares for such an event and celebrates with three nights of singing, playing and dancing. Some traditional meals are prepared for the bride, her hands are decorated with henna and a white veil is placed over her head.&#34 She adds, &#34On the wedding night, the bride is being prepared to go to her husband”s house. She is carried in a Howdaj (a saddle made of straw on the camel) from approximately 8pm until dawn by when they would have reached her husband”s house. There she is welcomed with gunshots fired into the air as well as the slaughtering of animals.&#34

She continues with a nostalgic tone, &#34Today these traditions have changed a lot and simple and beautiful customs have become a thing of the past.&#34