Antique Omani shield
Antique Omani shield buckler

SWORDS & SHIELDS

Below you find our collection of swords, shields and sword ornaments. Little is known on the subject of Omani swords. The best book on this topic is still the book Arms and Armour of Arabia by Elgood.  We have distilled some relevant texts from old publications on Oman and Zanzibar. We can conclude that during the 17th century there were already Omani sword and gun makers but that by the early 19th century these were probably foreigners. Also that European blades were already popular in the 17th century . Very characteristic are the Omani Rhino-skin shields, they are very strong and have probably been made in Zanzibar in the 19th century. They are already shown on a French painting from around 1840. Wellsted in his "Travels in Arabia (Ref 6) " 1838 writes on page 348-349: "That their shield measures about fourteen inches in diameter, and is usually attached by a leather thong to the sword.  The best kind , made from the skin of the hippopotamus, are brought from Abyssinia. Their sword is a straight double edged thin blade about three feet in length, having a long handle, without any guard"   Ingrams in His Zanzibar (Ref 1 ) 1930 page 326 "Colonel Sykes (Climate and productions of Zanzibar 1850) says: One branch of manufacture is carried to a considerable extent, that of round shields 18 inches in diameter made from the hide of a rhinoceros, which after being soaked and boiled , can be moulted into any form. Comment: diameter of shield slightly wider than the "Turs" , however could alternatively be the Baluchi shield as that is also made of thick hippopotamus or Rhino leather.  Wellsted writes in 1838 8 (Ref 6) page 17. " In Oman people from Bundar Abbas, Lar and Menon  manufacture swords and matchlocks, for which there is a great demand from the interior of Oman" In 1672/1673 a Dutch VOC ship visits Muscat and a Dutchman named Padttbrugge reports on what he sees in Muscat  (see Ref 4 first item) :  "They normally wear their sword on  a bandoleer over the left shoulder. The scabbard has 2 rings: one just below the hilt, the other in the middle. Connected to the rings is the bandoleer in order that the sword can be worn horizontally.  The hilt has light silver work.  The scabbard has silver-work, the amount depending on the spending power of it´s owner. The blade is broad and straight and has the shape of a half-broad sword.  The sword is rather heavy and not flexible (this is why they prefer our (Dutch) blades that have the same shape) Some , especially under the more common folk,  have Turkish curved swords, which they (the Omani) do not prefer. You find a lot of Arab gun-makers  and sword makers. Also canon bullet-smiths because they do not know how to melt and cast iron."   Comment: "The more common people" could be the Baluchi. Franz Stuhlmann in his book "Handwerk und industrie in Ost Afrika Hamburg 1910"  mentions that the swords of the Baluchi are typically made of Damaskus steel while Omani swords are made of regular steel.

The physician of Said bin Sultan, the Italian Vincenzo Maurizi, writes in his book History of Seyd Said Sultan of Muscat (published in London by John Booth 1819) page 135/136:  "The arms of the Omani Arabs consists of a long lance and a sabre, the shield is made of the a whale or large fish (=probably rhino) about the thickness of a finger, united to the sword by the girdle, and in form much resembles the plates out of which the Italian peasantry  eat their pottage! Their strength is so great as almost turn a cannon ball, the fire arms are generally matchlock. But thee were only 500 of these clumsy weapons. in the 5000 men commanded by Matlk., Seyid Said has lately procured pistols from Bombay and has armed all his cavalry with them.  In time of peace the Sultan and the Jemadar of the Beluchi  carry bucklers very richly ornamented; but in the day of battle these make way, for the more useful though less means of defence above described"

Omani antique sword kattara

                                                                Ancient Omani Kattara sword
 

According to Pearce Zanzibar 1920 Ref 3  page 229 : "the swords can be of great age and are regarded as heirlooms. Not infrequently the blades are of old Portuguese or Spanish Manufacture.There are three types of swords used by the (Omani) Arabs:

  1. Saif, Sef Franji or felegi: Is a straight broad two edged weapon without a guard. It is about 4 feet and 3 inches long  and can be used with both hands The handle is bound with plaits of black leather and real gold and silver ribbon forming a check pattern. These are the swords , the blades of which may be of European manufacture, as the name Franji (Franks) implies. (All western Christians were called Franji by the Saracenes from an early date)
  2. The second kind is the kittareh (should be shamsir) , a sabre with a curved blade, and generally of Persian or Indian workmanship.
  3. Yemeni (??) This is a cross-hilted short-bladed weapon , which is comparatively rare in Zanzibar. As the name implies it  is manufactured in Arabia, although it is possible that some of the blades may have been brought to the East by the Crusaders. "

Emily Ruete writes in her Memoirs of an  Arabian Princess 1886:

 "To the retinue of every lady who went out also belonged a whole troop of armed slaves, who looked more martial than they really were. These people always were costly, because the weapons, were all richly inlaid with gold and silver and are expensive indeed. But that did not prevent the rascals from selling them for a slice of bread or from pawning them for a trifle at some usurer's (these fine people usually are Hindus or Banyans),because  the frivolous fellows wanted to quench their thirst with pombe (palm wine) In such cases there was nothing for the mistress to do but to ransom the weapons at a tenfold rate, or furnish the fiend with new equipment along with a well-deserved chastisement as a warning;

 "In the gentlemen's rooms the walls are decorated by trophies, consisting of all kinds of costly weapons from Arabia, Persia and Turkey"

Antique Oamni sword  Kattara

Kalid bin Barghash of Zanzibar with ancient Kattara

Omani sword dance in the 1990's

!

Omani antique Kattara sword dating from the 16th or 17th century

Omani Kattara sword over three hundred years old

Very rare complete antique Omani broad sword in black leather with with silver fittings. See Elgood. Size including scabbard 156 cm.  The scabbard (the sheath holding the blade) with 2 very old heavy silver fittings and matching rings. The thick silver rings are very old (almost worn through)

This type of sword could very well be the half-broadsword described by Padtbrugge in 1672 when he visits Muscat. "the blade is broad and straight with a round end, and has the shape of a broad-sword. It is rather heavy and not flexible" See ref 4.  It is extremely rare to find this type of sword with it s scabbard.

In the Al Ain museum there is an example of this type of sword were the hilt has been decorated in silver, but not sure if this is original (given the limited wear) See end of the slide-show for a  photo of that sword.

These swords very often have Portuguese / European  blades and date from the 17th century when the Omani were fighting the Portuguese.

Antique Omani sword

 

Antique Omani sword

Arab Name: Kattara

Period: 16th - 17th century.

Origin: The blade is possibly Portuguese ( there seems to be a vague stamp with a human figure)

 References:
  1. Robert Elgood. The Arms and Armour of Arabia  page 17/18 fig 2.13 and fig 2.15.
  2. A Tribute to Oman volume VIII p 100 (The cutting edge) by Robert Richmond Mazoon printing Contains a photo of this type of sword with a dated Portuguese blade form the 17th century.
  3. Zanzibar the Island metropolis of eastern Africa by F.B. Pearce 1920 p 229 Discussion on types of Omani swords.
  4. Nederlanders aan de Kusten van Oman 1991  By Slot published by Museon p 12- 14.
  5. Zanzibar Its History and its people 1930 by W.H. Ingrams
  6. Travels in Arabia by Wellsted 1838
  7. British Museum poor example in the on-line collection number As1985,18.12 and wrongly described (it is not a dance sword and not from the 20 th century) Purchased in Oman 1985  length 83 cm width 9 cm
  8. Islamic Art in Oman page 324  Pimped up example.
  9. Bonhams   Omani broadsword Scabbard missing, poor condition.Auction 20802 lot 414;   Another example was sold 28 November 2012, lot 103; 2 other examples have been sold at Christie's
  10. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 17 shows a similar sword, but all the silver ornaments have been added quite recently.

Earliest depiction of an Omani irregular soldier with a matchlock, sword and rhino shield (directly derived from a daguerreotype photograph) in the book Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique

Omani soldier rhino shield Abu Fatillah Silver primer Khanjar

The lithographs in this book are quite accurate as they are based on original very early daguerreotype photos taken between 1845 and 1847. Guillain persuaded local tribesmen and women to pose for him, creating some of the oldest photographic portraits of Africans and Arabs.

 His daguerreotypes, now in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, have been called 'incunabula in the history of photography'. The eighteen portrait plates, containing over 50 separate photographs, include Abyssinians, Somalis, Swahili, and Omani and Zanzibar Arabs. 

The photos also include a photo of the niece of the governor of Zanzibar (see slide-show) wearing jewellery.

This book contains 55 chromo-lithographed maps and prints. The prints being directly derived from very early photographs! Contains two extremely interesting  portraits of Omani soldiers.  This is one of the earliest prints showing typical Omani arms including:

  1. Omani matchlock Abu Fathilah
  2. Silver powder-box primer  (better visible in the second print included in the slide-show)
  3. Rhino shield
  4. Khanjar 
  5. Sword

Guillain omani soldier

 

Author / Publisher: Charles Guillain, Paris Arthus Bertrand 1845 (published 1856)

Title: Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique execute pendant les annees 1846, 1847, 1848. Sous le commandement  de M. Guillain capitage de fregate. Publie par ordre du gouvernement.

Provenance: This book is not yet part of our collection.

References:
  1. Exhibition Quai Branly Museum "Camera Obscura Premier portraits aux daguerreotype. (1841-1851)"  2007-2008
  2. Guillain Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique execute pendant les annees 1846, 1847, 1848. Sous le commandement  de M. Guillain capitage de fregate. Publie par ordre du gouvernement.

Antique Omani sword Shamsir

Antique Omani sword Shamsir

The hilt of this sword is inlaid with remains of gold wire and with engraved intertwined Koranic text. In mediocre condition. Length 89 cm.

This could very well be the "Turkish Scimitar used by the common folk" described by Padtbrugge in 1673 (ref 3) 

 I have seen quite a few of this type of swords in Oman e.g. in the different forts with almost identical hilt and blade!

 

 

 

 Antique Omani sword

 

Arab Name: Shamsir (curved Omani sword)

Period: 1650-1800

Origin: Oman Persia

References:
  1. Robert Elgood. The Arms and Armour of Arabia  page 19-27
  2. A Tribute to Oman volume VIII p 100 "The cutting edge" by Robert Richmond Mazoon printing
  3. Nederlanders aan de Kusten van Oman 1991  By Slot published by Museon p 12- 14.

Omani shield Turs or Buckler (Parrying Shield) made of rhino hide

Antique Omani Shield buckler made of rhino hide

Common antique Omani Buckler, Parrying Shield, made of rhino hide and with leather handle inside. With with brass fasteners outside  and rings inside.  A buckler is a small round shield held in the left hand when fencing. It has two handles close together in the center and held in the hand. See also the Ingrams collection in the British Museum. The American Joseph Osgood writes visits Zanzibar around 1850 and writes that "soldiers are wearing shields of rhinoceros hide. and that many shields of this kind are turned at Zanzibar for Northern markets"

The book by  Guillain contains probably the earliest picture of an Omani Rhinoshield  based on a photo and he describes it as a "Swahili shield"

Ingrams in Zanzibar Its history and its people 1931 page 326 quotes from the work Climate and Productions of Zanzibar by Colonel Sykes 1850: " one branch of manufacture is carried to a considerable extent, that of round shields 18 inches in diameter made from the hide of a rhinoceros, which, after being soaked and boiled , can be moulded into any form"  However the diameter of our Turs is 26 cm  and height 15 cm, so we are not sure if we talk about the same shields. Ingrams also mentions in 1931 that "with increasing civilisation more and more of the ancient crafts have disappeared"

Arab Names: Turs / Dhal (Omani shield buckler)

Period: 1750-1900

Origin: Zanzibar and Oman

 References:
  1. Guillain Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique execute pendant les annees 1846, 1847, 1848. Sous le commandement  de M. Guillain capitage de fregate. Publie par ordre du gouvernement.
  2. British Museum Ingrams collection collected by Harold Ingrams in the 1920´s in Zanzibar BM on-line collection number 2012,6030.65 Diameter 26 cm Height 14 cm Circular cone-shaped parrying-shield of animal hide (possibly rhinoceros hide) with two ornamental brass fasteners cast in star shapes on the front. The shield is turned with fine concentric circles on the front. The back of the shield includes a straight grip made of hide and a leather strap for suspension
  3. British Museum has another one in the on-line collection  number As1999, 01.11 diameter 24 cm  and height 16.5 cm
  4. Zanzibar Its History and its people  by W.H. Ingrams 1931
  5. Robert Elgood. The Arms and Armour of Arabia  page 96-98  fig 10.2
  6. The craft heritage of Oman Vol 1 Richardson & Dorr p 455 item 116
  7. A Tribute to Oman volume VIII p 98 (The cutting edge) by Robert Richmond 
  8. Silver jewellery of Oman by Jehan S Rajab 1997 p 46 
  9. Islamic Art in Oman page 324
  10. Joseph B.F. Osgood Notes of Travel  or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, muscat, Aden, Mocha and other Eastern ports Salem 1854 page 27
  11. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 146
  12. Tropenmuseum Amsterdam Inventory RV-74-60.  Amsterdam Diameter 24 cm dated before 1869. east Africa / Zanzibar
  13. Volkerenkundig Museum Leiden Inventory 74-60 Diameter  24 cm Dating before 1869; Also inventory 1393-238 inventory 21 cm.
  14. Koninklijk Museum voor Midden Africa Tervuren Belgium Inventory EO.1979.1.1625 Similar item.  Diameter 24,5 cm Height 14 cm

Antique Omani Turs Buckler, parrying Shield, made of rhino hide, small size for a boy!

Antique Omani Buckler (Shield) made of rhino hide, small size for a boy!

Very rare small Omani Buckler (Shield) for a young boy!

Made of rhino hide and with leather handle inside. With with brass fasteners outside  and rings inside.  Never seen another one of this size!  Diameter 19 cm Height 10 cm. 

 

 

Antique Omani Shield

Antique Omani shield

Arab Name: Turs / Dhal

Period: 1750-1900

Origin:  Oman Zanzibar

References:
  1. Guillain Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique execute pendant les annees 1846, 1847, 1848. Sous le commandement  de M. Guillain capitage de fregate. Publie par ordre du gouvernement.
  2. Oman a seafaring nation 1991 page 68
  3. The craft heritage of Oman Vol1 Richardson & Dorr p 455 item 116
  4. A Tribute to Oman volume VIII p 98 (The cutting edge) by Robert Richmond 
  5.  Silver jewelery of Oman by Jehan S Rajab 1997 p46
  6. The Arms and armour of Arabia by Robert Elgood   page 98 fig 10.2
  7. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 146
  8. British Museum Ingrams collection collected by Harold Ingrams in the 1920´s in Zanzibar BM on-line collection number 2012,6030.65 Diameter 26 cm Height 14 cm Circular cone-shaped parrying-shield of animal hide (possibly rhinoceros hide) with two ornamental brass fasteners cast in star shapes on the front. The shield is turned with fine concentric circles on the front. The back of the shield includes a straight grip made of hide and a leather strap for suspension
  9. Tropenmuseum Amsterdam Inventory RV-74-60.  Amsterdam Diameter 24 cm dated before 1869. East Africa / Zanzibar

Antique Omani shield used by Beluchi guards

Antique Omani shield used by Baluchi guards

Rare antique Beluchi shield.Our Beluchi shield is identical to the one described and illustrated by Stone in 1934: Thick hide (probably rhino) with a steel rim set with 24 engraved (flower shape) brass bosses. Four large engraved brass bosses for the handles. The remainder of the front is almost covered with brass ornaments.

The flat brass ornaments just inside the iron ring have a shape that strongly resembles the hilt of a Saidi khanjar!!! See detailed photos in the slide-show.

The shield is held by two handles fastened to ring bolts that pass through the shield and are riveted to bosses on the outside. Between the handles there is a square cushion for the knuckles to rest against. The handles are so placed that, when tightly grasped, they force the backs of the fingers against the cushion giving a very firm and comfortable hold.  The shield of  rhinoceros hide offers the best resistance.

This shield is probably the richly ornamented buckler that Vincenzo Maurizi is referrring to in his book in 1819.

Note: Modern fakes of this type of shield are offered on the Internet, but these tend to lack the detail visible on ours. Omani Sultans always had personal Baluchi guards to protect them. Probably because they were very good sword fighters.  Diameter 30 cm.

Antiuqe Beluchi shield

Arab name: Dhal

Period: 1750-1850

Origin: Oman / Baluchistan. Purchased in Nizwa and complete covered in layers of mud:clearly excavated from the ground.

 References:
  1. Stone A glossary of the Construction Decoration and Use of arms and armor in all countries and in all times 1934 p. 208 fig 258 item 18 for an identical item.

Omani soldiers 1841 with Matchlocks and Rhino shields

Omani soldiers with matchlocks swords and Rhino shields

Omani soldiers 1841 with Matchlocks and Rhino shields

 

 

 

 

 

Author / Publisher: Print based on an oil painting (by Colm?) in the Paris salon 1841

Title:  "une poste d´arabes appartenant a la garde de l´Imam a Mascate par Colm"  In English: Guards apparently guarding the Imam of Muscat by Colm".

References:

  1. Denis de Rivoyre,  "Mascate" in Bibliotheque illustree des voyages autour du monde parterre & par mer page 1898

Antique Omani silver sword ornament

Antique Omani silver sword ornament

Rare antique silver Sword fitting.

Omani Baluchi style. Old piece. 

 

 

 

 Antique Omani sword silver

 

Name: "Antique Omani silver sword ornament"

Period: 1750-1900

Origin: Oman,  Zanzibar

References:  No References

Omani silver sword fitting

Omani silver sword ornament

 

Rare antique Omani silver Sword fitting with abstract flower design.

 Very old. 

 

 

 

 Antique Omani silver sword

Name "Antique Omani silver sword  ornament"

Period: 1750-1900

Origin: Oman

References: No References

Silver sword fitting

Silver Sword fitting

Rare antique silver Sword fitting with fine large calligraphic texts. Beautiful calligraphy.

Made in Persia or Oman.

 

 Antique Omani sword ornament.

 

 

Name: "Omani silver sword ornament"

Period: 1750-1900

Origin: Oman, Zanzibar, Persia Purchased in Nizwa, but not sure it is Omani.

Description: 

Rare antique silver Sword fitting with fine large calligraphic texts. Beautiful calligraphy. Made in Persia or Oman.

References:  No References

Omani silver sword ornament

Omani silver sword ornament

 

Rare handle end of a Shamsir sword in Oman Baluchi style.

 

 

 

Arab Name: " Omani silver Shamsir sword ornaments"

Period: 1750-1850

Origin: Oman, Zanzibar, Persia

References:

  1. The Heritage of Oman by Peter Vine Immel Publishing 1995 page 107 photo with a similar sword end.

Omani sword / knife ornament, a mystery object!

sword / knife ornament

 

Very rare antique large silver part of a big knife or sword or other object.  High quality silver.

We are not sure on its exact purpose. Length 23,5 cm. If you happen to know what this item was used for let us know! See slide-show for more photos.

 

 Omani silver sword

 

Arab Name: " Omani silver sword / knife ornament ? "

Period: 1650-1850

Origin: Purchased in Nizwa. Oman with influences on the design from Gujarat?

References: No Reference

Omani silver knife / sword ornament

Knife ornament

 

 

Rare antique silver Knife fitting. Omani Baluchi style. Old piece 

 

 

 

Antiquue Omani silver knife

 Antique Omani silver knife ornament 

Arab Name: "Antique Omani silver sword / knife ornaments"

Period: 1650-1850

Origin: Oman, Zanzibar

References: No References

1875a Arabistan land of the Arabian Nights by Fogg Includes a description of Muscat and the souq by Perry Fogg in 1874

Auctioning of an antique sword in the Muscat souq

 

Perry Fogg was a traveler / tourist from Cleveland. His vivid description of Muscat on page 160-167 is interesting.

Published by Perry Fogg  / Dustin Gilman Chicago Ill. Cincinnati, Ohio 1875

This is a luxury issue in red binding, with heavily gilded edges and printed on good quality paper.

 

Arabistan description Muscat

 

Oman Muscat souq

 

 

Omani sword auction

The 1875 edition is scarce. Most interesting is his description of the unusual auctioning process  of an antique sword in the souq. The same method of auctioning still happened in Nizwa in the 1980´s. He also mentions that in Oman arms were handed down as heirlooms, and will only be parted with in case of an emergency!  See attached photos for the relevant text.

References: