In August 2014, MB found himself in Khartoum, Sudan, for a wedding.
MBs working days in Saudia Arabia had brought him into contact with some Sudanis and one of them invited MB to his wedding, thinking in all probability that Irish/European/White guy MB would never in a million years accept the invitation. He did not really know MB! MB must explain that he includes the ‘white’ word in the description of himself, not because he is into racial profiling in any way, or anything racial for that matter, but because MB’s skin colour is very germane to MB’s ‘Experimental’ story.
The Sudanese have a tradition of having ‘henna tattoo’ parties on the days before a wedding. Yes – ‘parties’. There is one party for the ladies and one party for the men – the men actually get henna also, which in the Arab world where MB lives, is a custom exclusively indulged in by the ladies. And when MB says ‘party’ he means ‘party’ almost as big as the wedding party itself which will happen one or two nights later. There is much singing and dancing and indulgence in great food. But the big event on the ‘henna party’ night is the ceremony whereby close family members and close friends of the bride and groom get their application of henna. Needless to say, MB was in the thick of the action!
There was much interest amongst the host family and friends as MB took his turn in the ‘henna’ seat, MB standing out like a sore white thumb in the midst of a few hundred extremely friendly darker colored Sudanese. All generally agreed that MB was the first Irish/European/White guy to receive the ‘treatment’ that any of them had ever seen or heard of, an experimental white guinea pig in their midst.
For ladies, the application of the henna is ornate and fancy, with delicate brushes used to create spiral brown henna patterns and swirls on the skin surface. But for the men, the procedure is somewhat more ‘agricultural’. The man holds a lump of moist brown henna mud in his hand for 30 minutes, and some strips of the mud are also applied to the outside knuckles.
Now here is where MBs skin colour comes into play.
The Sudanese, having dark skin, actually need two ‘treatments’ to create a tattoo that is dark enough to be visible against their lighter ‘dark’ skin. But MB, in possession of the most ‘Irish’ skin you ever saw, seemed like he was created by God solely for ‘henna tattoo’ purposes. On opening his hand after the 30 minute period, the Sudanese aunt of the groom (MBs henna artist), along with all present, were gobsmacked to see that MBs palm glowed a beautiful dark orange color.
Gasps of amazement were heard all about the party as all present realised, that for the first time in anyone’s memory, only one application of the henna mud was required to achieve the desired result, such was the immediate contrast in color evident to all on MBs palm. Young Sudani Lad (the same YSL that appeared in many of MBs blog posts from his days in Saudi Arabia), immediately and mischievously commented that this was further proof, if indeed any further proof was needed, that white people always have an easier life than their coloured brothers!!!
MB dedicates this ‘Experimental’ post to his Sudanese friends, the Edris family in particular, who have again invited MB to a family wedding in Khartoum in the coming weeks. Sadly he is unable to attend. Hopefully, they will not forget his name when the next one comes around. Good luck to all on the occasion.
The aunt of the groom does the henna business with MB at the henna party for males, as MB shoots the Canon 7D photo with his free hand
MB’s brown orange palm and fingers on opening his hand
24 Hours later, the henna has reached peak colour – following only a single treatment! It would be one month, and numerous “what happened to your hand MB?” questions at work later before the Henna would disappear completely from the skin of MB.
The mother of YSL sips gahawya (coffee) with MB, displaying her henna swirls