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Rashida Hassanali


Mendhi decorations before the wedding, 1995

Colour photograph of Rashida and Inayat Hassanali with Mehndi decorated hands, 1995.
Rashida and Inayat comparing mehndi designs on their hands © Rashida Hassanali

Mehndi is the traditional decoration for the hands and feet of a bride-to-be in Islam. The saying goes that the darker the mehndi of the bride, the more she is loved by her mother in law!

Often mehndi is applied by women friends or family members who have acquired the art through loving patience and practice. My wedding mehndi took more than three hours to apply and I had to sleep with my hands above my head tied in plastic bags until it had dried! However the end result was worth it. Mehndi looks best when worn with lots of gold jewellery, as in this picture.

Hidden among the flowing lines, dots and flowers covering my hands were the initials of my husband-to-be. My friends and sisters had great fun teasing him that I could not be his bride until he could find them. He also had a small design or motif on his hand to signify his happiness in the marriage.

We had our 'nikkah' in Leicester in March 1995 and then our civil marriage ceremony at 'the wedding cake' registry office on Arundel Gate in Sheffield. (It has since been knocked down to make way for a city centre hotel.) We had a very small reception at our home in Burngreave with close family and friends and did all the planning, catering and tidying up ourselves!

Written by Rashida Hassanali, December 2006.