Monday 22 July 2019

Duchess of Sussex gets henna tattoo in Moroccan custom to celebrate pregnancy

With Harry watching, Meghan had a floral pattern painted on her left hand and wrist.

The Duchess of Sussex’s hand after a henna ceremony (Tim Whitby/PA)
The Duchess of Sussex’s hand after a henna ceremony (Tim Whitby/PA)

Tony Jones

The Duchess of Sussex celebrated her pregnancy by getting a henna tattoo – a good luck gesture from her Moroccan hosts.

With Harry watching, Meghan had a floral pattern painted on her left hand and wrist during a visit to a boarding house in the Atlas mountains where girls are given a chance to fulfil their potential by having a secondary education thanks to an NGO.

Samira Ouaadi, 17, created the design and when the artwork was finished the duchess looked down and praised the student’s work “That’s really lovely” and proudly gave her husband a closer look.

The 17-year-old said: “It’s tradition for pregnant women in Morocco to have a henna tattoo.

“We do it for major celebrations like getting married or having a baby. It’s like the plant of paradise so we use it to mark all major occasions.”

After one concerned official asked the casually dressed and heavily pregnant duchess if she wanted to wash off the tattoo immediately, she laughed and said: “It will dry as we walk through”.

Baby Sussex was the theme of the day for the students as they sang songs of good luck for Harry and Meghan’s first child due in April, when the couple arrived and left.

The custom of henna tattoos is thought to have originated in north Africa before spreading across the Middle East and parts of Asia.

Dye made from henna – a plant of paradise – stays on as a tattoo for up to two weeks with the brown paste made from pulping the bark.

The couple were touring the project run in the town of Asni by the Moroccan NGO Education For All, founded by British entrepreneur Michael McHugo.

They visited classrooms where most of the girls – whose remote mountain families do not have access to secondary schools – were fluent only in French.

This was not a problem for the Spanish-speaking duchess who revealed she can also hold a conversation in French.

She asked: Qu’est-ce que tu veux etre quand tu quittes l’ecole? – What do you want to be when you leave school?

And she went on to ask the teenagers in French if they planned to go to university.

The first Education For All (EFA) project was opened in 2007 and it now has 50 EFA girls enrolled at university and educates dozens more at its six girls’ boarding houses.

Mr McHugo’s contribution to Moroccan education was later recognised at an investiture ceremony hosted by Harry, who awarded him an MBE.

He first visited Morocco in 1973 and later started running educational adventure holidays in the country before setting up Education For All after a meeting with John Wood, founder of a non-profit organisation Room To Read, dedicated to promoting education.

The duke and duchess travelled to another of his organisation’s education boarding homes for the ceremony, which was performed in the open air on a rooftop.

Before the presentation began, Meghan, who had changed out of her casual outfit into a blazer and white maternity blouse, told the students: “We are very proud of all of you,” and speaking through an interpreter added: “You are such good role models.”

Harry read a citation on behalf of the Queen, congratulating Mr McHugo for all the work he had done on behalf of gender equality.

Mr McHugo said the duke and duchess’s visit would highlight the efforts of his NGO and attract much needed donations.

He said after the ceremony: “This visit will help give international publicity to the work we do and will help us raise money to build more boarding houses.

“The recognition for Education For All isn’t about me at all but it’s wonderful to have had Harry and Meghan come out here to shine a light on it – (it) is just incredible.”

The couple also visited the nearby Lycee Qualifiant Grand Atlas school in Asni where the duke feigned surprise at his wife’s very obvious pregnancy.

When they met some of the staff, one teacher congratulated Meghan on the impending birth of her first child, due at the end of April.

Sitting together with the duchess’s bump visible through her open jacket, the duke turned to his wife and pulled a face of mock shock.

“Surprise!” said the duchess, while the duke joked “She’s pregnant?”

On the school pitch the couple watched a mixed-sex team play five-a-side football, and they chatted to goalkeeper Salima Baaziz, 16, while her teammates attacked the opposition’s goal, and could be seen gesturing to a ring on the ring finger of her left hand.

Speaking through an interpreter the teenager said later she was not married but a student, and they communicated in French and English.

“We spoke all languages. I couldn’t figure out what they were speaking – it was a mix of all languages plus signals and gestures.

“I was very, very happy to get to speak to principals of royalty. It’s a lifetime experience.”

PA Media

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