As can be seen by the previous nodes, henna is a reddish brown dye (actually it can come in black aswell)...

However, what has not yet been mentioned is that there is an age old eastern and African tradition for henna to be used to decorate the hands and/or feet on celebratory occasions. Infact in many regions a bride isn't considered a proper bride until at least the palms of her hands are intricately decorated with fine designs. This is often done by a professional henna artist, and it can take ages, but it all depends on how fast the artist works and what the designs are.

Henna designs have traditionally fallen into four different styles:

  • The Middle Eastern style - mostly made up of floral patterns similar to the Arabic textiles, paintings and carvings and do not usually follow a distinctive pattern.
  • The North African style - generally follows the shape of the hands and feet using geometrical floral patterns.
  • The Indian and Pakistani style - encompass more than just the feet and hands and generally extend further up the appendages to give the illusion of gloves and stockings which are made up of lines, paisley patterns and teardrops.
  • The Indonesian and Southern Asian style - are a mix of Middle Eastern and Indian designs using blocks of colour on the very tips of their toes and fingers.

I was always under the impression that henna was historically used as body art originating from India, but it turns out that the ancient Egyptians used henna way back in the days of pharoahs.

Proof has been found that henna (mendhi) was used to stain the fingers and toes of Pharoahs prior to mummification over 5000 years ago when it was also used as a cosmetic and for it's healing power. The mummification process took 70 days and as the Egyptians were diligent in planning for their deaths and their rebirth in the afterlife, they became quite obsessed with the preservation process. The Egyptians believed that body art ensured their acceptance into the afterlife and therefore used tattooing and mendhi to please the gods and guarantee a pleasant trip.

Interesting Note - Islam also recommends the use of henna, since it is considered a sunnah, in other words many muslims use henna to dye their hair because it has been historically noted that Mohammed the prophet of Islam dyed his hair with henna.