A few months back, I had the opportunity to visit a henna salon in Muscat and learn about henna in Oman. I was, admittedly, a little apprehensive before leaving home. I love henna and I wanted to learn, but some of the salons I have visited in the past have been dodgy. I am too old for dodgy.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. Karima al Barwani, owner of Majlis al Henna, invited me into a very clean, stylish and comfortable space.
‘Traditionally, application of henna is done in the home in Oman’, she shared. ‘Most families have at least one woman who is skilled in applying henna, and girls learn from an early age through doodling.’
While this is still the case in the interior, said Karima, Muscat residents are often caught in busy lifestyles and also, they don’t always have family living near by. Majlis al Henna aims to fill a market niche by reaching out to these Muscat residents. As a salon, they aim to provide a great service in a clean and comfortable environment.
What is Henna?
Henna comes from the plant Lawsonia Enermis, which grows best in hot dry climates. The leaves of the plant are dried and turned into a green-ish powder, which can be mixed with hot water or essential oils to form a paste.
It is this henna paste that leaves a red/brown stain when applied to skin or hair. Natural henna should always leave stains on the red/brown/orange color scale. The paste can be mixed with other ingredients for different color shades; for example, henna mixed with coffee can give a lovely brown hair color (though probably not if your natural hair is blonde) and henna mixed with plants can give blue stains.
Henna is known for its medicinal properties and its cooling effect on skin. Traditionally, it has for example been used to heal cracked skin as well as to block the sun.
Henna as a Way to Show Happiness
Henna is an important part of cultural tradition in Oman. I was aware that henna is used for big celebration like weddings, but according to Karima, it doesn’t have to be that grand. ‘We simply use henna to show that we are happy’, she said with a smile. ‘For example, if your husband has been away and you want to show him you’re happy for his return, use henna’.
Okay, she got me. I’m a romantic at heart. I’m not sure henna would make my husband happy, but the sentiment is really lovely. And it makes me happy, which counts for something, right? So I had henna done.
It Really did Make me Happy. Here is Why:
- Pre-booking: Unlike any other Muscat salon I’m aware of, Majlis al Henna operates with pre-booked time slots. Forget waiting for an hour for someone to find time to do your henna – call in advance, agree on a time that suits you and show up. It speaks straight to the heart of an efficient soul such as myself.
- No grubby sofas and stained and/or dirty towel. Majlis al Henna is blissfully clean, comfortable and stylish.
- Organic henna is available, though according to Karima, the organic dye may take four hours to dry and also, if you are anemic, it may not stain well at all. However, if you actually have four hours to spare, I guess you’ll be all the more happy about points 1 and 2.
- Henna designs vary with different regions. Floral patterns are often favored in the Middle East, while paisleys are found in India and geometric patterns in Africa. Not sure what to choose? Fear not. There are iPads available with hundreds of images to choose from and the ladies who do the henna can, apparently, copy just about anything you request.
- Ready to experiment? Majlis al Henna offers the traditional red/brown henna, but also black and blue shades as well as white. Karima sees it as part of her mission to offer new and safe trends on the henna market. Black and blue henna designs, made with with plant colors, have been popular for some time, and white designs are apparently trending now .
- Henna looks simply beautiful.
- Majlis as Henna can be found on Facebook or Instagram and their salon is in al Khuwair.
- Beware of ‘black henna’. Chemical ‘black henna’ contains hair dye and can leave serious burns. It is illegal in Oman. Natural henna does not stain black, if you are promised a black design, color has been added in some form. Please make sure you know what you put on your skin.
- All images are credited to Majlis al Henna.