Monthly Archives: March 2014

Getting Tattooed, Somali Style

Henna tattoos are a big part of women’s wedding preparations in many Arab countries. The same is true for Somali culture. If you ever find yourself in Hargeisa, Somaliland, you should definitely give it a try.

Enter the central market, and walk through the food section. if you look closely at the walls behind the vending tables, you may spot a picture of hands with henna tattoos. Or just ask someone to show you where they are. Remember to be female. The henna salons are just tiny rooms closed with curtains – a strict no-go zone for men. Take off your niqab (face covering) if you are wearing one, and your shoes, and sit down on the mat to wait for your turn. Most Somali women get brown Henna, but red is available as well. For hands only, brown costs $3 and red $4.

ImageWaiting for my red henna to dry

ImageAll done! 

ImageBrown henna

This gave me a flashback of the Sahrawi wedding I attended in Laayoune, in the occupied Western Sahara. Both Somaliland and Western Sahara are unrecognized states. They are at the opposite ends of the African continent, yet they have things in common, such as henna. Incredible!

ImageMarried Sahrawi women get both hands and feet tattooed. Laayoune, Western Sahara 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed the Somali wedding. I’m a lucky, lucky traveler. Hargeisa, you’re too good to me!

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Sweet Shanghai

China’s visa policy used to be very stiff. Now they’re giving out free 72-hour transit visas. I’ll take it! I spent two full days in Shanghai on my way from Phuket to New York. You can eat many things in that time. Here are a few sweet examples. (Ok, I didn’t eat EVERY one of these. Guess which one I skipped.)

Fried pumpkin balls. Traditional Chinese dessert, yummy and gooey!


Peanuts / red beans with ice cream and waffle. A treat in one of the thousands of Shanghai malls.


A Hello Kitty cake. Meeow! How cute is that?


Candied apples and strawberries. Sold on streets everywhere.


A coco cream puff at Pudong airport. Ending things on a good note.


I’ll have to return for that Hello Kitty cake sometime. (The big one.)

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