Traditional facial tattooing may have disappeared from the cities, but still women of some rural Arab and Berber/Amazigh tribes maintain the custom of facial tattooing. The tattoos enhanced beauty and are superstitiously known to protect the bearer against the evil eye, or prevented sickness.
These auspicious tattoos, protection from disease and death, were applied from a very early age. By contrast, fertility and beauty symbols, which still adorn many women’s faces, are applied at the onset of puberty, shortly before marriage. Among Berber girls a ‘palm tree’ tattoo took the form of a simple line tattooed directly below the mouth, sometimes accompanied by a row of dots. Called siyala (sayala in Tunisia), this tattoo was a fertility symbol and the most beautiful a girl could have.
Also known as Harcuus tattoos in the Middle East and North Africa. Henna, Khol and Harcuus tatoos are traditionally thought to be expressions of women’s beauty, desirability, celebration and leisure. Hacuus now has become associated as a status symbol of the rural poor while modern imported make-up a symbol of the urban, wealthy and educated woman.
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