Eid and Henna in Qatar
Eid in Qatar or The Eid Frenzy
by Yousra Abdelaal
As Eid approaches Qatar goes into a frenzy - and the ladies queue up for their henna preparations. Yousra Abdelaal, a British girl fluent in the local Qatari dialect, gets stuck into the midst of things.
Muslims have two, not one, Eids.
Eid-ul-Fitr, or "the celebration of the breaking of the fast", takes place once Ramadan has ended, and Eid-ul-Adha, or "the celebration of the sacrifice", takes place on the tenth day of the Hajj period.
The second, Eid Ul Adha, takes place in memory of the sacrifice Prophet Abraham was prepared to make of his son Ishmael for the sake of God.
With just two months between the two celebrations, as soon as Eid-ul-Fitr ends people here in Qatar start thinking ahead to Eid-ul-Ahda.
It is common for animals to be sacrificed at the feast of sacrifice. However,
The countdown to Eid in Qatar is like the countdown to Christmas in any Western or Christian country.
Around two weeks before Eid arrives in Qatar, the nation goes into a frenzy. Every evening the streets of Doha are jam-packed with cars because everyone is trying to get to the same shopping malls, souqs, tailors and salons in preparation for Eid. A journey which usually takes 5 minutes in a non-Eid period can take an hour during a pre-Eid period!
Qatari women and girls spend an entire month prior to Eid planning, discussing it with each other and then shopping for their Eid clothes.
During the two weeks before Eid you will see flocks of Qatari women excitedly shopping in malls, or bargaining with tailors. In the week before Eid, Qatari women hasten to salons in order to make sure they are perfectly groomed: manicures, pedicures, hair cuts and waxing and threading of facial and body hair.
While Qatari men are not as concerned as their female counterparts with Eid fashion, they might get one or two new thowbs and ghetras made at the tailors for Eid.
Such preparation is vital as Qataris usually spend the day with friends, family and relatives, some of whom they may not have seen in a long while.
Every girl and woman wants to look her best in front of her female friends and relatives, proving how up to date they are with the latest fashions, and each one will be scrutinizing every other member present in the room in order to comment on later.
Like any Muslim family, Qatari families buy whole stocks of traditional foods and sweets in preparation for Eid. A few Qatari families even go as far as changing their furniture and the interior design of their houses before Eid - they see Eid as the perfect excuse to do so.
For the hundreds of tailors and salons in Qatar, Eid time is prime time for business. They get overloaded with work at this time, but they make good profits, especially since they always put up their prices prior to Eid.
The highlight of preparations for Eid for most Qatari girls and women is getting their henna done. It is definitely an experience I enjoy and I try to get henna done every Eid.
There are two essential styles to choose from: Indian or Qatari. A woman may come to your house to do it for you, or you can go to a salon. Qatari, Sudanese and Indian women are usually those who are experienced in doing henna.
You can get henna done on your hands, or from your hands to your wrists, or from your hands to your elbows, or from your hands to your shoulders. You can even get henna done on your feet. Of course, the more you get done, the more costly it is!
The Author's Hands after the Henna Painting
Last Eid, I thought I would be clever and go to my local henna salon, which is run by one of the most popular henna-ists, Zubaida, three days before Eid, thinking hardly anyone would be there. How wrong I was - it was so packed I could not even make it past the entrance. I was told to come back when the salon opened at 7am the next morning.
Again, thinking I would be smart, I arrived the next morning at 6am, certain that the Qatari women would still be fast asleep. This was not the case!
There was literally a line of women from the salon entrance out into the road, waiting for the doors to open. When the employees finally arrived at the salon in their van, the women broke out in cheers.
It took me 45 minutes to make it to the receptionist's desk and get a ticket for my turn. There were women who had been there from the previous night, still waiting for their turn. I had to wait from 7am until 11am for my turn.
When my turn finally arrived, two henna-ists did either arm - I had henna done all the way up to my elbows. The fumes of the henna were overwhelming; one could smell the henna from across the street. I then had to sit for an hour for the henna to half-dry.
When getting your henna done, you and the fellow women getting their henna done, despite you all being strangers, learn to cooperate with one another. Each woman helps the other in holding bags, adjusting each other's sleeves and headscarves so that their henna does not smudge.
Women had to help me many times to stop my headscarf from falling onto my arms, or to help me hold my mobile phone to make a call! By the time I left, just before 1pm, I had made several acquaintances. It definitely felt like I had been there a lifetime.
But, it was worth it, as, when the henna finally dried and crumbled or peeled off, (you must NEVER wash off your henna, or it may smudge and come out lighter), it was a dark orange colour which looked beautiful. The next day, when I woke up, it had turned darker overnight, to a dark brown.
I never did understand the Eid frenzy in my first few years in Qatar. All this panic for a few days of celebration? It did seem slightly materialistic.
However, after being here for almost six years, I learnt to appreciate Eid and the preparations prior to it. It is the one time where you feel you can enjoy the lighter side of life after months of hard work and little rest, which is why it deserves such immense preparations.
Links and Resources
Henna Tattoo Allergy Link: News story, also on the BBC