Making Sobhani Kohl by Kurdish Women

Siltana Ato

There are several cosmetic items among Kurds and in Kurdish folklore and culture that are used to reveal women's beauty. In addition to beautiful Kurdish clothes and making the hair and braids pretty, the Sobhani Kohl possesses an ancient history among Kurds and it is one of the cosmetic items that have been used by Kurdish women to use it in their makeup. Mostly, Sobhani Kohl was used in weddings and happy occasions turning every eye towards the person who had used it; it also was very beneficial for the eyes.

First, let us explain what is Sobhani Kohl and how Kurdish women make it. Sobhani Kohl is considered to be a black stone, however, some say that the original color is "silver" being used to make the eyes look bigger and more beautiful. Sobhani Kohl has been used from ancient times in the Middle East, the north of Africa, and southern Asia mostly. However, some say that there is a special place in Haj (Mecca or Medina) where Sobhani Kohl comes from there. Some others say when God asked Mohammad the prophet to go to the top of a mountain so that he could talk to God, a strong light shone over the mountain and turned its rocks black and this is where Sobhani Kohl comes from. However, the origins of this cosmetic item trace back to the "Bronze Age" which is 3600 years BC. A civilization well-known to have been using Kohl and producing it is definitely ancient Egypt during the Pharaoh period. When we look at their history, men and particularly women had used Kohl at that time. Not only the Egyptians used Kohl for cosmetic purposes but they also used it for treatment. They also used it to protect the eyes from the sunlight beams.

Kohl was also popular in Greece, Roma, and India. The prophet Mohammad also applied Kohl to his eyes. According to historical books, Mohammad, the prophet, used to apply Kohl on his right eye three times and two times on his left eye. Kurdish women used to apply Kohl to their eyes before going to sleep to increase the cosmetic effects of Kohl on their eyes.

Generally, Kohl's or perfumes could be bought or those who would go to Haj would bring back these items as souvenirs. However, at that time, Kurdish women used to make Kohl at home. The method of making Kohl was different in every region such as:

The First Method:

First, they break down that particular stone and turn it into a powder, however, since it is a hard stone and cannot be broken very easily, they put it on a Sel (a wide pan used to make bread on it) or in a large pot. Then, some olive oil, one or two walnuts (the walnut should be broken and the nut inside can be added to the stone), some wheat, and finally a little sesame is added to the stone. They cover it and put it on a stove or fire. The oil gets heated with the fire for five or ten minutes, and then they remove it from the fire. Now they let it cool down, and then the Kurdish women begin to break down the stone even more or they burn the oil, wheat, sesame, and walnuts in the stone.  The color of the powder changes in this stage. Finally, to make it even more powdery, they used to strain it with a strainer or a piece of cloth and finally, they would pour it into a Kildan (the container they used to put the Kohl in).

The Second Method

Before they broke down the stone, they used to put the stone inside a piece of bread with date seeds and seven seeds of wheat and then put them all into a fire. After the bread was grilled, they would take It out of the fire and beat it until it was breaking into small pieces, then they would burn it with some olive oil. Now, they would strain it with a strainer. Finally, if they did not have "Mildan" (container) they would pour it into "Pishtk" (another kind of container).

Other Methods

 "Yolk, salt, oil, and lime" were used to make Kohl. However, the amount of each of these items depended on people's preferences. For instance, those who have eye allergies, would not add yolk to their Kohl.

The benefits of applying Kohl:

-To makeup the eyes and make them look bigger.

-For the elderly who suffer from eye disorders.

-When a baby is born, they used to apply Kohl to their eyes to make their eyes look bigger.

-When the baby's umbilical cord was cut, they used to put a little Kohl on it.

There was a tradition or belief that would prevent people from using Kohl in funerals. They also found out that some families should not make Kohl's because it is an omen for them, that is, when they made Kohl at home, a disaster would happen to them. Thus, they would make Kohl in their relatives or neighbors' houses. It is worth mentioning that nowadays, Kurdish women rarely make Sobhani Kohl at home. This cosmetic item can be found in markets. However, the Kohl that was used to make at home was so different from the Kohl that is sold in the market. The Kohl sold in markets looks like dye, when you wash your face, the Kohl is removed completely while Sobhani Kohl is waterproof due to its high quality.

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