Where the unibrow reigns

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The World

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — If you search for “unibrow,” Google will return about 200,000 results, the bulk of them devoted to tips on removing what in the West has become synonymous with unattractiveness.

There’s even a medical term, synophrys, meaning an overgrowth and fusion of the eyebrows.

And then there is Tajikistan, a small central Asian nation that could adopt many monikers — Country of Beautiful Mountains, Realm of Terrifying Roads, and, best of all, Land of the Unibrow.

You see them on women and girls; in the capital, Dushanbe, and in the smaller cities and villages that dot this mountainous nation.

Sometimes the unibrows are natural — black and bushy and ever elegant.

But those who missed out on the unibrow gene use an herbal remedy to fake it.

Usma, a leafy green herb, is sold in all Tajik markets. You can get a small bunch for about $0.06. The process is simple but effective, several market women assured me. Take a bunch of usma and let it dry in the sun for a couple hours. Then grind up the leaves until a dark green goo seeps out. Dip a branch of usma — or a matchstick, if you want to be more precise — into the goo and smear it on your eyebrows, making sure, of course, to color the space in between. Leave on for 15 minutes, and repeat the smearing process one or two more times. The result is a deep black unibrow, rich and expressive.

Asking Tajik women why they like the unibrow is a bit like asking Western women why they like to paint their nails or pluck their eyebrows into oblivion.

"I just think it's beautiful," was, without exception, the answer I got after asking more than a dozen Tajik women about their unibrows.

Tajikistan is not the only central Asian country where the unibrow reigns supreme — a symbol of feminine beauty and purity. And it’s not as if every Tajik woman has it. The unibrow is the exception, and still found more commonly in places outside the capital.

Yet since the fall of the Soviet Union, and particularly in the past four years, traditional dress has been making a comeback, especially among women. About half of the women seen out and about in the capital recently wore the long, colorful dresses and abundant headscarves (wrapped behind the head) traditional in Tajikistan, rathern than Western-style denim or skirts. Only very recently have some women begun to adopt the black chador and headscarf symbolic of strict Islamic beliefs.

It all makes Tajikistan a colorful country, and a very beautiful one.

Tajikistan traditional fashion

Woman wear traditional dress while walking in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. (Miriam Elder/GlobalPost)

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