Sudan – Henna Party

MB arrived at Khartoum airport in dark of night.The four hour flight went without a hitch. MB exited the Flydubai Boeing at 1.00am into the warm Khartoum night climbing down the steps and into the waiting bus. The passengers were largely Sudanis returning home, with some Middle East Arabs and a splatter of whities thrown in for good measure – as in one single whitie called MB. The bus brought all to the terminal building where orderly queues were formed to go through visa & passport check. Non-locals had already filled in landing forms before the plane touched down, as is often the way for non-nationals the world over and MB approached the Immigration Officer with confidence. ‘Marhaba habbibi’ said MB, being by now totally deadly with the spoken Arabic word.

MB received the all clear and proceeded to the next hurdle of putting his hand luggage through the X-Ray machine. Onwards then to a second passport/security check by guys who looked far more alert and lethal than the earlier sleepy-eyed visa checker. Again MB exchanged a few words, gave some fictitious address where he was allegedly staying (Hilton Hotel is always a good answer in such situations MB has discovered through vast experience in the field), and proceeded onwards to the baggage carousel where MB’s bag appeared with the mini-lock still attached. MB had brought some gifts for his hosts – the family of Young Sudai Lad, so inshallah they were all still in the bag and intact. 

Friend of YSL awaited MB in a 4×4, in addition to YSL who had travelled on same flight. Onwards to the apartment block of YSL, brief meeting with the very friendly family of YSL who were a little unsure what to think of the strange Irishman who had just landed in their midst. Over the coming days all would become good friends and share many laughs as things turned out. At 3am MB’s head hit an unfamiliar pillow in an unfamiliar bed. Lights out. ZZzzzzzzzzzzzz……………………….!

Morning Nr 1 arrived and mother of YSL (MOYSL) prepared some tea, turkish coffee and a traditional Sudani breakfast – homemade fool (very popular dish throughout Middle East/North Africa but unknown back home) being the primary dish and MB lapped it all up and licked his fingers clean. The scene would be repeated on following mornings as all sorts of discussions were enjoyed between MB & MOYSL.

MB had a very interesting first day when YSL eventually arose from his slumber as both he and MB hit the Khartoum streets, picking up some friends of YSL along the way. MB will return to the events of this day in a later post and will skip to the first event of the wedding schedule which took place later that evening. MB does so only on account of disturbing communication he received a day or two into his trip, when HX Report follower MD informed MB she was feeling extremely impatient to see some of the wedding pics. So fearing self-harm by a follower, MB relents from his more logical male ‘timeline’ planned posts to assist a young lady in distress. Such is the chivalrous way of MB and other Irish males (grab one if you can ladies – you will not regret). 

From MB’s experience of last week, a Sudani wedding has four parties. They are as follows:

  • The bride’s henna party (which happened before MB’s arrival)
  • The groom’s henna party, which MB famously attended and received his henna tattoo
  • The main wedding party
  • The traditional Sudani wedding party – the most spectacular of the bunch (which MB sickeningly missed on account of having to return to his Middle East workplace. Traditions such as the groom blowing a full mouthful of milk into the face of the bride with all his might would have provided MB with some serious photo opps. Alas it was not to be on this occasion, but MB is promised some more wedding invites at future dates inshallah)

So evening Nr 1 of MB’s trip witnessed MB’s arrival at the home of the groom to attend the henna party. Some 200 or more people (family and close friends) were in attendance and it resembled to some degree the evening party at an Irish wedding. Lots of tables were laid out and lots of food consumed. No alcohol was present as Sudan is a Muslim country and one can only buy hard liquor in limited tourist venues and private clubs. A live band struck up with some great Sudani music, modern type music MB would best describe it – with a great beat, which had most of the crowd hopping and bopping and shaking hands in the air. Young, old, grandmothers even, all jumped out on the floor to strut their stuff, without a single drop of dutch courage to fuel them. The groom is the centre of attention and he spends most of the night in the centre of the dance area with the crowd gathered around. Occasionally the younger ladies present shriek a very high pitched screech (called ‘ululation’ in English – check it out on Youtube) and the groom must acknowledge the shrieks by waving his arm high in the air and shaking his hand frantically with a loose wrist. 

Eventually all the chatting and eating is over and the band go their way. The majority of the crowd depart and only immediate and close family remain along with close friends who will sit for the application of the henna. The tradition for men is to have it on one or both hands, and on the feet if they wish. MB took up the offer from the groom to sit beside him on the henna couch and have his left hand ‘done’. The offer of ‘feet’ was politely refused, as MB was not sure what white appendage of MB the Sudani ladies might next select!

An aunt of the groom applied some oil on the palm of MB’s hand, and then placed a blob of henna mud in the centre. MB was instructed to close his hand slowly and further mud and oil was applied across the knuckles and a little extra at the junction of the fingers & palm. A period of two hours followed for MB and the others who each kept a clenched fist to allow the henna to do its work. Time over, MB washed the mud off with some water and was left with an orange colour on the centre of his palm and fingers. Twenty-four hours later the orange would turn to black. For the darker skinned Sudanis, it takes two applications to get the henna dark enough to form a good contrast with the background skin colour. In the case of MB, neither MB nor any of the Sudanis had ever come across a whitie who had the henna treatment, so we were all in a sense traveling into the unknown. As it turned out, one application is enough for fair skinned Irish guys as all looked admiringly at MB’s jet black henna on following evening. Further proof, said YSL, that life is always easier for whities!

Left hand now ready, previous henna-virgin MB was now ready to attend the main wedding party two days hence. Watch this space!


PS – Pics from the evening in which readers will see MB under application. And a few other henna related pics from the main wedding day

MB’s orange henna on following morning. It would turn jet black later

12 Hours later. And 12 hours later again it would be jet black




A shot from the wedding day, two days later. Henna for ladies.

Japanese apartment neighbour of MOYSL also tagged along
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Only the most awesome selfie in the history of the Selfie, as MB captures aunt of YSL applying the henna mud with much TLC to the delicate baby-soft white skin of MB

Local fans & photographers gather to witness a first for Khartoum – the hennafication of MB, who proudly displays his work in progress to all

MB & Groom discuss the ins & outs of henna for men
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4 Comments on “Sudan – Henna Party

  1. Gorgeous! And a mingling of males and females! You captured the joy in the celebration beautifully with your pictures.


    • Thanks Gypsy. Was great fun. The Sudanese practice Islam totally unlike the Saudis. Al hamdalillah. Everyone mixing and enjoying life and enjoying the pleasure of the company of family & friends. Was a great experience and an honour for me to be invited.


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