We read in several webs that it’s not recommended to get tattooed in Jemaa El Fna, due to the lack of hygiene and the bad quality of the henna, which can create allergic reactions. Black henna may contain chemical products that are harmful to health, so we didn’t want to risk and we looked for somewhere else where they use natural henna…
There are very good reviews of the Henna Art Café, which is just a few minutes from the square. Although tattoos are considerably more expensive there, it’s not worth risking your skin by paying less.
Our first day in Marrakech we looked for this place, but we found it closed. In fact, many places were closed because it was the end of Ramadan (be careful with that, because the dates are never the same and depend on the lunar calendar). Luckily, the next day we came back and the doors were wide open. We were greeted by the smiling owner, a British woman who explained us how her place works.
As its name suggests, apart from doing tattoos, it is also a cafe where you can have a drink or even eat, either inside or at its terrace. This is what his menu offers:
There’s a huge book where you can find all the tattoo designs to choose from and their respective prices. On the book’s first page, there is some information and precautions explained, such as:
– The first thing you need to do is wash the area you want to get tattooed.
– The price is not negotiable, so you should not bargain there. Their artists have years of experience and could be offended if you try to lower the fixed price.
– You have to leave the henna paste on your skin for a minimum of 6-8 hours, and then you can scratch it off using something like a credit card.
– They use only natural and organic ingredients in their henna, and the tattoo will last for 1 or 2 weeks, gradually fading away. It depends on the individual’s skin composition and how many times the tattoo gets wet.
– The location of the tattoo helps to determine its intensity: henna stains the best where the skin is the thickest, like on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Areas where the skin is the thinnest, like the back and shoulders, generally only produce a light stain. (In my case, the henna was more dark on my fingers, and lost intensity as it moved towards the arm).
My cousin chose a hand design that cost 75 dirhams (6.78€ more or less) and I payed 200 dirhams (about 18€) for a bigger one, that also filled part of my arm.
The room where we got the tattoo was all decorated with henna, like the rest of the coffee: the menu, wooden figures, magnets, pictures and even fruits!
Although the dried henna looked black, we knew it was natural because while they were applying it had a brown tone, and as it dried it was getting darker. We had to wait for about 15 minutes in front of a fan so the paste dried to the touch, and then they applied a lemon juice/sugar solution which glued the henna to the skin. At that time, we were free to leave and wait for the necessary hours to scratch the tattoo.
After the long waiting we could finally see the result. As we were told, the tattoo that remains after the paste is removed is initially a bright orange, that would darken to brown after a day or two.
I had no problem taking the dry henna off (it was perfect!), but when my cousin began to remove her paste, she saw that a small area of her design that had many lines together had ended up being a stain. She didn’t dare to take off the rest of it, so we decided to go back to the cafe and let the professionals do it.
Once there, they were very kind to us and had no problem to help her remove the paste. Since they could not do anything to fix the stain, they made a small improvised design on her other hand for free!
The truth is that they treated us very well, and just when we were leaving, a group of Spaniards came in and asked us about the cafe because they were not convinced about getting a tattoo. We definitely recommend it! They told us that they had seen how the women in Jemaa El Fna put glitter over the henna, instead of using the lemon juice that the professionals put on us… Even when we passed trhough the square, the tattooists asked us if our design was made in the Henna Café*. That is, they even recognized that good quality.
Be careful! One of the tattooists who stopped us in Jemaa El Fna grabbed my cousin’s arm willing to put henna on it without even asking. Luckily, she put herself aside in time. You don’t have to let them show you how they create a small design, because then they will ask you for money!
*Later we discovered that the Henna Art Café and the Henna Café weren’t the same place (we did not visit the last one, although the comments are just as positive. They both look pretty similar.
HOW TO GET THERE
Find the lower right corner dof Jemaa El Fna. There is a restaurant called Taj’in Darna:
You have to go through the street that is just to the right (Riad Zitoun Lakdim) and continue all straight. It doesn’t have much loss because you do not have to go through alleys or change direction, just keep going until you see on the right a corner with this door, which is clearly visible thanks to its colors: