When travelling from oasis to oasis in the southern Maghreb, it is not unusual to find crops of alfalfa and henna growing beneath the palm tress. Henna is used not only by women to dye their hair and hands for decorative and prophylactic purposes but also by some men to dye their beards. Though it is no longer usual to find men with copper-red beards in northern Africa, in countries that are more attached to their traditions such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia, it is still common. Surprising, considering that the Prophet strongly disliked the smell of the henna plant!
The following are instructions for correctly using henna:
- 100 gr crushed henna
- 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
- A few cloves, crushed
- Hot water
Make a thick paste. Using rubber gloves, rub into the scalp first, then into the hair. Leave for at least two hours exposed to sunlight, or use a hair-dryer to set the colour. For fair or light-coloured hair, add juice from a fresh or dried pomegranate to the paste to get a darker effect. The juice can be obtained by boiling the pomegranate for 15 minutes.
From the book Marruecos, tierra del sol poniente, by Yolanda Guardione. Published by Alianza Editorial.