It’s a dying tradition – though sometimes you catch glimpses of it on the face of an older woman in Beirut. The face tattoo was once a common practice among the Bedouin and other nomadic peoples of the Levant. Today, people sometimes use eyeliner in place of permanent tattooing.

Italian photographer Alberto Savioli traveled to Syria in 2004 and took these photos of women with facial tattoos.



(Image via Beit Shar)

Savioli said that a woman’s tattoos would be picked out by her mother. Some sources say a dot on the nose like this was meant to bring a long life, and might be tattooed at birth.


(Image via Beit Shar)

A tattoo might indicate which tribe a person belonged to. Although there is a consistent set of symbols used in Bedouin tattooing, the combination of symbols sometimes indicates what tribe someone belongs to.


(Image via Beit Shar)

Women would get tattooed before marriage or sometime before the age of 18; however, today the practice is dying out and one only sees facial tattoos among older women.


(Image via Beit Shar)

In pictures, facial tattoos appear almost exclusively on women.


(Image via Beit Shar)

Bedouin also did tattoos on the hand and on the wrist. The latter which were believed to strengthen the wrist in order to milk animals. (According to Savioli, this tattoo was called the ‘hallabat’).


(Image via Beit Shar)

Other tattoos were to ward off the evil eye, to bring love, or to encourage long life.


(Image via Beit Shar)

Tattoos were performed with small needles, and dyes were made by mixing ashes, charcoal, and animal bile or milk.


(Image via Beit Shar)

The photographer observed several patterns: the cross, the flower, and comb at the side of the mouth or forehead -- and gazelles and wheat symbols on the chin.


(Image via Beit Shar)

A moon tattoo sometimes appears between the eyes, above the nose.


(Image via Beit Shar)

Some tattoos might be as simple as a line down the chin.


(Image via Beit Shar)

“These are elements characteristic of the Bedouin life: objects of everyday use and animals, which are sometimes associated to specific symbolic values.”


(Image via Beit Shar)

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