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SMC Arabic club hosts henna night

| Thursday, November 9, 2023

Wednesday night, the Arabic club at Saint Mary’s hosted a henna night in the Haggar Parlor. Students could get henna done, learn about the history and try Arabic food.

The art of henna, also called mehndi in Hindu and Urdu, has been practiced for over 5,000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. Henna is a dye made from leaves of Lawsonia inermis also known as the mignonette tree.

For henna, the plant’s leaves are dried and some liquid is added, usually water, tea or lemon juice. Sugar is not always added but as Hannah Szymanski, a sophomore in Arabic club, points out: “You’re supposed to add sugar to it if you live in dry climates … It keeps it from drying too quickly.” 

“Henna dates back to 9,000 years ago, and Cleopatra actually used it to beautify herself,” student Ariane Akimana said.

She also points out that for Arab weddings it is common for a bride to have a henna night.

“The henna designs which are applied on both hands and feet symbolize beauty, joy and good luck,” Akimana said. “Henna is also used to symbolically mark and protect a woman from the Evil Eye during childbirth and after delivery.” 

Those in attendance also learned that one of henna’s earliest uses was as a stain for mummy wrapping. In the Mughal Empire, which began in 1526 and lasted several hundred years, henna was used to produce intricate patterns on the bodies of men and women for special occasions, like weddings or festivals.

During Wednesday’s event, members of the Arabic club wore abaya, a traditional robe-like dress.

Ebtesam Al Enezi said that the “Arabic club is responsible to create two events … I picked this because it’s very chill … I wanted everybody to experience it because I personally love henna and love playing with henna.” 

Samantha Gebert | The Observer
Students gathered in Haggar Parlor Wednesday evening to have their henna done in an event hosted by the Saint Mary’s Arabic club.

Many people came to the event to learn, as well as to support the club and friends in it.

“I’m taking the language and wanted to support our teachers,” Szymanski said.  

Jenna Werner, a freshman who attended, said, “I really wanted to learn more about different cultures.”

“I thought it would be really fun to get henna and learn about the culture,” said Maggie Burchardt, a freshman. She added that she enjoyed the Arabic food served during the event. 

Overall, members of the Arabic club saw the event as a success.

“I just think it’s cool to see how many people turned out for it,” Szymanski said.

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