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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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Getting Tattooed, Somali Style

  1. What nice tattoos! So colorful.

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