x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

38. Kohl container and applicator, early to mid-20th century

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

Finely worked from silver, this tiny container for kohl, with an applicator attached, is probably the smallest item in our collection of 40 objects.
Half a century ago, or longer, it would have been a vital tool in a woman's make-up box, much as an eyeliner pencil would be today.
Kohl, though, has a cultural importance as well as an aesthetic one. In an age before designer sunglasses, it was often believed to offer protection for the eyes against the sun and from flies and diseases such as conjunctivitis. As such, it was also used by men, while for small children, kohl was thought to ward off the evil eye.
Containers for kohl have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and its use is thought to date back at least 6,000 years.
The primary ingredient is traditionally lead sulphite, obtained from the mineral galena. An important source of galena for the ancient Egyptians was the "Land of Punt", a region of which the location is unclear, but is believed by some scholars to refer to the Arabian Peninsula.
Other ingredients can include frankincense, powdered malachite, gum, milk and ghee.
As a cosmetic, kohl is popular across north and west Africa and south Asia as well as this part of the world. Recent research has linked the high level of lead in some types of kohl to hyperactivity disorders, although this is not conclusive.
This particular container, with its floral pattern, comes from Dr Ahmed Khoori of Abu Dhabi, who has generously made available a number of objects from his private collection for this series.