Fathima Rabiya's henna work on a cancer patient Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI: When cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy start to lose hair, it can cause a dent in their self-esteem. A Sri Lankan henna artist in Abu Dhabi is helping them regain their confidence by adorning their heads with beautiful henna crowns. And she doesn’t charge a fee.

Fathima Rabiya started her goodwill gesture this May as part of her wish to do something good on her birthday. Since then she has been visiting patients in their homes to offer her service.

Bald and beautiful

A former primary school teacher, Rabiya has been a passionate henna artist for many years. Seeing her expertise, a friend approached her to be part of a modelling project. Since the model was going bald for the photoshoot, Rabiya suggested a henna crown.

“Henna crowns are not popular in the UAE, or in the Gulf countries for that matter,” said Rabiya. “But I always feel they look more spectacular than other designs since the application is on a larger medium.”

When she posted the images of the photoshoot on Instagram, she got a lot of requests for her service, one of which was from an American cancer patient.

“I felt it was a very good way of utilising my talent and also helping people who are battling cancer,” said Hassen. “I decided to do it for free because at the end of your life’s journey, you are only left with the good deeds you do.”

Rabiya has noticed a stark difference in the general mood of patients before and after her services. “Most of them can’t take their eyes off the mirror. Every woman likes to look and feel beautiful,” she said.

While she expects no monetary reward for her services, there have been some gratifying moments. After one session, a patient left a surprise card in her bag which stated that the crown made her feel really special after a long time.

Natural mix

Rabiya makes the paste at home using organic henna, lavender oil, sugar and water. “When I was new to the UAE – one and a half years back – I bought some henna cones from a saloon. It left bumps on my hand because of the strong oils and petroleum they add to get good colour. Since then I decided to make my own mix. Natural henna is also very soothing for the body,” she said.

Rabiya endorses crowns for patients because it is the symbol of a queen. “When you wear a crown, people look at you with respect. A henna crown does the same thing by making people look good. The crowns are very popular in countries like the USA, Canada, UK, Australia etc. I want to make this concept approachable to all nationalities.”

Her future plans include opening her own henna boutique here and in her hometown in Sri Lanka besides continuing with her service for patients.

“I am very grateful to my parents who have taught me to be respectful and compassionate to other people. My husband has been extremely supportive of my henna ventures and sometimes even drives me to meet patients,” she said.

For more information, follow the Instagram page Henna by Rabiya

The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelancer