The art of mehndi (using henna paste pushed through a conical applicator to stain designs onto the skin) has deep roots in the ancient world.
Most traditionally seen in wedding ceremonies, mehndi, and its uses have now spread far beyond their origins and encompass many settings and styles. The two distinct cultures which have most famously propagated the use of mehndi designs are Indian and Arabic.
Though India was first to make it a popular art, Arabic mehndi was not far behind and has offered a distinct identity in its designs through the ages.
What Distinguishes Arabic Mehndi?
While Indian and Arabic mehndi have many overlapping similarities (for instance, Arabic mehndi will sometimes borrow the tradition of using animal motifs from what is a more traditionally Indian style) there are still distinct characteristics which set Arabic mehndi apart:
- The easiest way to distinguish Arabic mehndi from Indian mehndi is that Arabic designs tend to be simpler. They focus more on large, specific images.Must check latest Indian mehndi designs
- Arabic mehndi designs often leave a greater amount of open space on the skin.
- Their designs will also use heavier lines, and sometimes fill in entire spaces with solid henna.
- Arabic mehndi tends to be very focused on floral imagery. The use of leaves, vines, and flowers lends a more flowing, naturalistic feel.
- Modern Arabic mehndi may also use heavy block Arabic script to spell out mantras personal to the wearer.
Arabic Mehndi Placement
Traditionally, Arabic mehndi designs are used on women. They are typically not seen as suitable for men as they represent delicate beauty and enticement—the very opposite of masculine Arab culture.
They are most often places on the hands, up the wrists and forearms, and on the feet up past the ankles. Today, the hands remain the most popular place for them.
Arabic Mehndi designs for hands will often have their focal point on the palm or back of the hand. From there they may flow out to the wrists, or have matching adornments on the tips of the fingers.
The placement of images on the hands often has two meanings: on the palm, a design represents an offering, while on the back on the hand it represents protection or hope.
Arabic Mehndi Design Images for Hands
While mehndi designs on the hands are eye-catching, beauty is not their only purpose. Within almost every element, there lies hidden meaning. Taking the overall aesthetic of the henna on the skin is almost secondary to choosing the images placed there.
Here are some common traditional designs great for decorating the hands:
- Flowers – As mentioned, floral imagery is the most common design to come across in Arabic mehndi. Flowers represent joy, beauty and celebration and are therefore popular for weddings. While flower buds, synonymous with springtime, represent a new beginning and fertility. It makes sense then that these are also very popular with brides.
- Birds (in general) – Birds are great for placement on the hands because, not just in Arabic, but in many cultures, they represent messengers. A bird on the palm of the hand combined with other images can invoke extending a message to another.
- Peacocks – Peacocks and their feathers are popular images in Arabic mehndi. Iconic images of beauty in Arabic folklore and culture, they serve the same purpose when represented in henna.
They can also be one of the best Arabic mehndi designs for the full hand because the body of the bird acts as the focal point, with tail feathers and accompanying adornment flowing outward to the wrist.
- Shells – Usually imitating the lines in the pattern of a conch or tortoise, shells are also great simple Arabic mehndi designs for hands, though not as commonly seen. They represent security, protection, and stability.
- Fish – Also found on the hamsa (symbol of Middle Eastern origin of a hand containing an all- seeing eye), the fish usually represents good fortune. Also, because it lives in the water and is immune to the effects of the evil eye (a stare of ill-will considered to cause harm) the fish also represents protection and is therefore good for placement on the back of the hand.
- Hamsa/Eye – The hamsa itself is a very obvious choice as an Arabic mehndi design. Because it is already in the shape of the hand, the other traditional elements of the Hamsa (or Hand of Fatima) can follow your natural outline with the all-seeing eye in the center.
- “Connective” symbols – While images such as vines or zigzags may seem only to serve the purpose of connecting large images together or filling in space, these actually have their own meaning.
- Vines and stems – Not just arbitrarily placed on anatomical parts of floral mehndi, vines and stems can represent vitality, faithfulness, and affection. These are popular companions to floral designs and are especially well suited to the fingers or to create a wrap-around effect on the wrist or arm.
- Water-related symbols – Zig-zags and ripples are the most commonly used symbols associated with water. With the ripple symbol, this is particularly evident to represent water in terms of purification. The zig-zag, however, does not directly represent water as much as it does a downpour of abundance.
When speaking of Arabic mehndi designs that contain flowers, peacocks, or other naturalistic images, it is important to note that this does not always come across in the most literal sense.
For instance, the image of a “peacock” may simply be lines and shapes that represent how the tail feathers flow, rather than resembling the whole animal. The distinctness of the image is up to the wearer’s personal preference, and this leaves a lot of room to play with the overall arrangement.
Arabic Mehndi Designs Continue to Evoke Elegant Simplicity
Wherever they are placed and for whatever occasion, Arabic mehndi are increasingly popular for their simple, naturalistic beauty. With traditional henna artists hard to come by, Arabic designs are popular for those who wish to create an eye-catching mehndi at home. With its availability in readymade kits and variability that unites the old with the new, Arabic mehndi is sure to embellish for ages to come.