Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these pre-wedding traditions has predominantly been with her aunt and uncles’ weddings.
Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described henna (pronounced “hee-nah”) parties in Israel before weddings.
“I’m not sure if this is Moroccan or Moroccan Jewish. In terms of the significance and all that I am the wrong person to ask. I always thought they were talking about tahini, which to those of you unfamiliar with it, its like sesame seed paste that is consumed by many in the middle east. I always thought that when I was going to my uncles wedding ceremonies, they were talking about “doing a tahini” which to me sounded like “doing a hummus” like making food, which I didn’t understand. It took me a while to understand that they meant henna. It actually makes sense now that I think about it, they come from the same kind of henna paste. But it’s referring to henna. It was interesting when I was little because I did not realize that my family owned all of these moroccan costumes, that was my first time really experiencing true Moroccan culture, because you would dress up the way that they would in Morocco. Mom would always dress me and my sister up in matching, elaborate, flashy costumes. They were pretty cool. For men there are tunics or kaftans and there’s a vest and a hat, called a tarboosh. Theirs are pretty boring to be honest, compared to the women’s costumes. They always looked like they were out of Arabian nights, either like a belly dancer look going on, or kind of like the coins, you know? They always had these really beautiful beaded costumes, I wouldn’t call them tunics I would say they were more like… it wasn’t a kaftan…the bride would always have something more open, which I think is a more modernized, Israeli-Moroccan take on the women’s costume. We didn’t have the most traditional ones I would say. We looked like genies. We looked like Christina Aguilera, “Genie in a Bottle” music video genies. I know my grandma still keeps them, she has a whole closet full of that stuff and the costumes. They’ll pull them out for random occasions, for Passover for example which is a pretty big deal in Moroccan Jewish heritage. Oh, and the henna itself, the tattoos that won’t leave your hand and smell horrible and stain everything. It’s kind of like…have you ever seen a horse take a shit? It looks like that and you rub it into your palm. I don’t remember much else about it because I was so concerned about getting out of the costume, I did not like being in the costume. It stains in a weird way, it’s not like a normal henna that you can get on the beach in Mexico these days. It’s more watery, it leaves a paler residue. I don’t know if it’s the exact same formula or anything like that. That’s all I got.”