Among the Chaouia people of the Aures mountains, in Algeria, a woman’s beauty used to be judged by her tattoos. Read on about some old women with their wrinkles and fading tattoos telling of a lifetime of experience, but who talk as if they’re still 20 inside.

“It was the rule, it was fashionable too,” said Fatma Tarnouni, 106. “To be beautiful, you had to be tattooed, so I did it.”

“I’ve given away all my silver jewellery after turning the offering seven times on my tattoo while I was crying,” said Aisha Djelal, 73, was tattooed when she was 25, because religious people around her have told her that she has committed a sin. “I feel like every tear has washed away a bit of my tattoo.”

“I still remember, it was so painful and I was crying, refusing to be tattooed,” said Djena Benzahra, 74, was forced to have a tattoo when she was 9 years old by her mother.

“I did it because all the girls my age were tattooed,” said Fatma Haddad, 80, tattooed aged 18 by a local woman.

Fatma Badredine, 94, was tattooed aged 13 years old by a nomadic woman from the Sahara region. “I had to endure excruciating pain just to look pretty,” Badredine said. “I wanted to have the tattoo removed but my doctor advised against it, my age doesn’t allow it.”

“My stepmother advised me to get tattooed to bring luck after the sudden death of my first three children. My cousin and sister-in-law tattooed me. I had the feeling that God would give me the children I wanted and save my marriage. It was not acceptable to be a wife without having children. Believe it or not, but what I know is, that after being tattooed I had six children and they are still alive. I just followed the tradition of my ancestors and it was for a good purpose as it saved my marriage,” said Khamsaa Hougali, 68.

Mazouza Bouglada, 86, was tattooed aged 7 by a nomadic man from the Sahara region. She was advised by her mother to get tattooed. The more she got tattooed the more she showed off. She was very proud of her stars on her cheeks. Her eldest sister had been tattooed before her and she wanted to imitate her.

Djemaa Daoudi, 90, was forced to have a tattoo by her husband just after their wedding when she was 15 years old because it was a fashion. A local Berber woman tattooed her. Today Daoudi regrets being tattooed.

A local woman tattooed Fatma Benyadir, 75, when she was 12 years old. “I did it without telling my parents. All the girls my age were tattooed,” Benyadir said. “I had to endure excruciating pain, the anger of my parents later, just to look pretty.”

Khadra Kabssi, 74, was tattooed aged 21 by her cousin following Algeria’s independence from France. “I wanted to be beautiful for the independence of my country and all the girls my age were tattooed,” Kabssi said.