Khanjar an Omani design
Example of Omani design: the Khanjar

OMANI DESIGNS

Oman is located on the South East corner of the Arabian peninsula bordered by the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Gulf of Oman. For more details on this website and Oman select BACKGROUND in the top bar of this web-page. The current page focuses on the design of Antique Omani objedcts including jewelry.

Omani men were not supposed to wear jewelery (apart from a signet ring) , however they were allowed to wear arms, so that's why arms also became jewellery. A male silver kohl-stick was shaped as a gun cartridge and a silver thorn pick in our collection is shaped as a knife. However, the most spectacular example is the antique Omani khanjar (dagger) with loads of silver, gold thread, hilts frequently made of rhino horn.

Most Omani are Ibadhi Muslims who adhere to a puritan form of Islam. They also underscore their strictness and simplicity in the decoration.  Items with a figurative design from nature frequently tend to be of Omani-Baluchi or Persian origin. The metal used in Oman has a very high silver content.

We distinguish the following types of designs used  in Omani arts & crafts:

  • Geometric Patterns
  • Geometric shapes (three dimensional) 
  • Arabesque
  • Celestial (e.g. moon)
  • Figurative Human
  • Arabic writing
  • Symbolic Objects
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Miniatures (for Kids)
  • Magic
  • Male design in the shape of arms

 

Please note that these designs are not always exclusive to Oman. A useful source to compare Omani designs with ethnic jewellery from other parts of the world is the book  series by Anne van Cutsem and published by Skira. The following books are a useful short-list for comparing design styles:

1) A. van Cutsem, A World of Bracelets Africa, Asia, Oceania, America  Skira 2002 (Oman p144-147)

2) A. van Cutsem, A World of Earrings Africa, Asia, America 2001 Skira (Oman p72,73,75-79)

3) A. van Cutsem, A world of rings Africa, Asia, America 2000 Skira (Oman p100,101) 

4) Saad Al-Jadir , Arab & Islamic Silver by 1981   Stacey International  

5) Ethnic Jewellery from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands 2002 Amsterdam Pepin Press 

6) H. Athman Styles of Swahili carving, AAP 47 (1996) 11-29 (we find many many of these Swahili? designs also in Omani silver)

7) Wellsted in his detailed description of Oman titled Travels in Arabia 1838 Volume 1 page 321 writes: "I have elsewhere had the occasion to observe that there are but few artisans in Oman. At the principal towns blacksmiths manufacture spear-heads, the crooked dagger, called a jambiya, and some rude knives: copper-pots and dishes are also made by another class; but silversmiths are far more numerous than either. Considerable sums are lavished by the females in the purchase of various silver ornaments, and their children are literally burdened with them. I have counted as many as fifteen ear-rings on either side; and their heads, breasts, arms, and ankles, are decorated with the same profusion. There are also many workers in gold, but the articles which they turn out of hand appear not well finished: the metal they use seems of the purest kind"

Wellsted First detailed map of Oman

First detailed map of the interior of Oman by explorer Wellsted 1838

According to Stuhlmann in "Handwerk und industrie in Ostafrika 1910" the silver objects with filigree work are made in Arabia i.e. Oman  (e.g. Saidi Khanjars and silver powder-horns) however some local Omani Arab and Indian silversmiths in Zanzibar are involved in making some silver and gold jewellery for Arab and Swahili women)"  We can conclude that most Omani silver from Oman and not form East Africa.

 Emily Ruete writes in her Memoirs of an Arabian Princess 1886 that for making jewellery for the Sultan's court in Zanzibar the Arab goldsmiths have been replaced by goldsmiths of Indian origin. When court ladies ordered jewellery they had guards watching the goldsmiths to make sure they did not work for someone else. An enlargement of the photo in her Memoiren shows us that overall design is clearly Omani, however the jewellery has much more detail and clearly suggests Indian workmanship. An identical golden chain with the "koranic text disks" can be found in the booklet Silver jewellery of Oman by Jehan Rajab page 29, that chain also originated from the Zanzibar court mid 19th century. The golden chain with the small beads is identical to the silver chain with the silver fire-striker in our "matchlock /guns" section and also identical to the chain of the "thorn tweezer" in our "silver utensils" section.

We can conclude that Omani jewellery for  Omani outside the court was made in silver by Omani silver smiths. We can conclude that jewellery for the Omani courts (also in Muscat) were typically made of gold and by Indian goldsmiths.

Emily Ruete

Emily Ruete with her golden Omani court  jewellery made by Indian goldsmiths
 
 Emily Ruete in Memoirs of an Arabian Princess (1888 Ward & Downey London edition page 63) writes: (40 days after the birth of a girl) "The swathing band is removed, rings are put on the arms and legs, and attached to the ears, and the child is dressed in a silk shirt  and the kofije, a cap of gold stuff  with ear flaps"

Eastern ladies used to have far more jewellery than their Western counterparts: "When Emily Ruete arrived for the first time in Europe she got problems with the Customs officers as they could not believe that a woman could have such a large quantity of jewellery only for private use. In fact the officers thought it was merchandise to be sold and therefore had to be taxed accordingly. In the end Emily managed to convince them, when she told them she was the sister of the Sultan of Zanzibar. See Letters Home page 408/409 by Emily Ruete  (translated from German to English by van Donzel and published by Brill Leiden 1993).

The jewellery and make-up of Omani women was not to the taste of some European men during the 19th century. Richard Burton was a famous explorer, orientalist and author who lived during the 1850's some time in Zanzibar and explored East Africa. His description of Arab  women in his book  Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast London 1872 pages 114-115  was far from flattering "The half caste Zanzibar girl enviously eyes the Arab woman, a heap of unwashed cottons on invisible feet, with the Masqat masque  exposing only her unrecognizable eyeballs. The former wears a single piece of red silk or chequered cotton. Her frizzly hair is twisted into pigtails; her eyelids are stained black; her eyebrows are lengthened with paint; her ear-rims are riddled with a dozen holes to admit rings, wooden buttons or metal studs, whilst the slit lobes, distended by elastic twists of coloured palm-leaf  whose continual expansion prodigiously enlarges the aperture, are fitted with a painted disk, an inch and a half in diameter. If pretty, and therefore wealthy, she wears heavy silver earrings run through the shell of the ear; her thumbs have similar decorations and massive bangles of white metal adorn, like manacles and fetters, her wrists and ancles. One wing of her nose is bored  to admit a stud- even the patches of Europe were not more barbarous. " However it must be said that Richard Burton was very critical about most people...

Oman is a large country:  about the size of Great Britain, consequently there will be regional differences in culture and different styles of jewellery. The main regions are: Muscat, Al Batinah (Sohar & Rustaq), Ash Sharqiyyah ( Ibra Sur) , Dhofar (Salalah), Al Buraymi, Adh Dhahirah (Ibri) , Ad Dakhliyyah (Nizwa Bahla, Jebel Akhdar mountain ) Al Wusta and Musandam. These differences are also reflected in differences in dress. Even within the regions there are differences e.g. in the Sharqiyyah we find Bedu and Hadr (town) people with different cultures. In the Muscat area we find Omani but also Lawati (Muttrah) and Baluchi people.

These two beautiful and comprehensive  posters of  traditional Omani dress came as supplement of the Times of Oman:

Omani ladies costume

http://visualoop.com/infographics/traditional-oman-dress-women

Omani male costume

http://visualoop.com/infographics/traditional-oman-dress-men

 The Baluchi moved a long long time ago to Oman from Baluchistan (located in modern Pakistan) Baluchi soldiers were also hired by the Sultan of Oman also frequently from the Baluchi enclave Gwadur on the Makran coast.  Gwadur was part of the Omani empire, but after many decades of Omani neglect it was sold to Pakistan in 1958. The Persian Gulf pilot  of 1924 describes Gwadur as a filthy and very unhealthy place and strongly advices European passengers to remain on board when visiting.

The Lawati also known as Khoja are of Indian origin and are the largest of Oman´s three Shia groups, they moved to Oman several centuries ago and have their own fortified part of town in Muttrah (located next to Muscat).

For more details on differences in the design of traditional women´s dress of Oman see the book by Julia M. Stehlin-Alzadjali. Also silver from the north is often larger and heavier than jewellery from the south. Also the silver content of jewellery from the south is sometimes lower than that of the North. Spiral shaped designs with leaves (arabesques) are often associated with Nizwa. While a rose design is often associated with the town of Rustaq.

In Omani silver we find design elements that go back thousands of years in Persia, Byzantium and Oman itself. Bronze age earrings have been found in Oman that look very similar to the Omani Ghalamiyat earrings. The book Omani Silver that was written by Lady Ruth Hawley in 1978 pays attention to the link with ancient designs. This was in fact the first book dedicated to describing Omani silver. The strange  link between the design of Omani silver and ancient designs from Byzantium deserves further investigation.

Youtube film by the Anglo-Omani society of an Interview with

Lady Ruth Hawley (author of the first book dedicated to Omani Silver) and  Dr Fahmida Suleman: 

In 1672 the Dutchman Padtbrugge visited Muscat and described the craftsmen in the Muscat souq and the techniques they used. He writes "The trade and crafts are mostly practised by people from Sind  and Banians (Hindus).  Prisoners from Diu (a Portuguese colony in India) fill the gap left by local craftsmen. One finds however many Arabian rifle-makers and sword-cutters, and also anchor black-smiths and cannonball-blacksmiths, etc."  This confirms that craftsmen from other countries have been working for centuries in Oman thereby explaining the influences in design from India and Persia.

The purpose / function of Omani silver: Silver jewellery was a key part of the dowry given to the bride by the family of the groom. This jewellery remained in the possession of the bride during her life and would only be sold during financially difficult times. Jewellery was of course also worn to show status.  If the bride and or guests were not financially very well to do they could hire expensive pieces of jewellery for the occasion, a typical example being the expensive Manthura necklace. Jewellery on children was often used to protect from the "evil eye"  In case a woman was possessed by an evil spirit special protective jewellery was often given during the Zar ceremony. For more details see below. Silver oxide is also very effective against the smell of sweat, all western deodorants make use of silver oxide!

Youtube film Oman Exhibition 2009 in Amsterdam:

Origin of the silver used in Omani jewellery. The most important source of silver in Omani silver is from melted down old jewellery and from melted down coins e.g. Maria Theresia Thalers. During the 19th and first half of the 20th century the Maria Theresia Thaler was the most important currency in Oman. This also explains the high silver content in Omani Silver. For comparison:  In Yemen silver Dutch coins were popular (Many Yemeni tradesmen from the Hadramouth were active in the Dutch East Indies), this my explain some of the old Dutch silver coins in the Omani souqs. Before 1800 Spanish and Venetian silver coins also played an important role in the trade in Arabia. We have one set of earrings from Oman with ancient Venetian silver coins.

Antique Omani silver necklace

                                   Antique Omani silver necklace with Maria Theresia Thalers
 

The appreciation of Arab jewellery in the West has varied over time and by country. May 1886 The English paper the Times discusses Emily Ruete´s memoirs and refers to the photo of Emily in the book with  her Omani costume and jewellery as "the barbaric glory of her native costume" .  From the 1870´s in the rest of Europe  and in particular in France the Oriental-ism  art movement gained strength  and art collectors loved oil paintings with e.g. harems and ladies in oriental costumes and with Oriental jewellery! Some rich western ladies around 1900 had themselves portrayed on oil paintings as Arab women with Arab Jewellery.

Princess Bibi Salme

Princess Bibi Salme (Emily Ruete) sister of Bargash the Sultan of Zanzibar

The English newspaper The Times refers in 1886 to Emily on this photo as : "the barbaric glory of her native costume"....

The use of Omani jewellery was not limited to Oman, Zanzibar and East Africa. Also in parts of Madagascar and Comoros the jewellery including khanjars were worn during the 19th century. Below we see a photo from around 1870 of Queen  Djoumbe Soudi of Moheli island in the Comoros. She was married for some time with the cousin of Sultan Said bin Sultan of Zanzibar. Note the earrings, the piece below her chin, bracelets and rings on her fingers. There was also a large Comoros quarter in Stonetown Zanzibar.

Antique photo  Djoumbe Moheli

Queen  Djoumbe Soudi of Moheli island in the Comoros (was married for a period to an Omani (hence the cloths and jewellery) photo taken around 1870

 From 1970 when Sultan Qaboos came to power and the oil revenues much increased, the population became gradually much more prosperous and women started exchanging old silver jewellery for the more desirable gold jewellery.  In the same period more foreign workers came to Oman to built up the oil industry and enjoyed collecting  the old silver.

 

Below you find a Youtube film regarding an Omani silver exhibition in the British Museum in 2011:

!

Geometric designs

Slide-Show: Large boss followed by four small bosses

The photos in the slide show contain the following types of geometric design:

a) Rows of "Dot in a Circle" Also used in Africa (e.g. Congo) and in Roman art.

b) Large Boss followed by four small bosses, followed by one large boss etc.

c) Rows of connected U or V elements with curls at the end. Typically in fine antique filigree work on Khanjars, silver gunpowder boxes, rings etc.

d) Central dot with several dots around it, typical for Dhofari silver

e)  Roundels based on hexagonal subdivision of a circle e.g. in a Sumt hanger.

f) Squares and diamonds, e.g. used on Koran-boxes form Nizwa

g) Row or triangles or waves

Subject: Geometric designs

Period: From prehistory till now

Origin: Geometric designs are used all over Oman, however the types of design can differ by region.

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London

Geometric Shapes (three dimensional)

Slide-Show: Design: geometric spheres, circles an pyramids

 

A typical example is the Manthura necklace that entirely consists of different pieces of silver with a three dimensional geometric shape: globes, tubes, cones, pyramids, rings  etc. For more examples see the slide-show. There also seems to be a link with Byzantine designs.

 

 

Subject: Three dimensional geometric Shapes (the shape of the elements is the decoration)

Period: Until 1900 (this type design used on older pieces)

Origin: These type of items are typically found in interior of Oman

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London

Arabesque design

Slide-Show: Design arabesque Perpetual Movement

In the slide-show you find the following examples:

a) Static (used on Koran boxes etc. )

b) Reflecting Perpetual Movement (used on the backside of bracelets, Khanjars and Martini Henry guns)

antique Omani silver khanjar arabessque

Antique Omani sivler khanjar with Arabesque design

Subject: Arabesque design

Period: Perpetual Movement arabesque used on older pieces, dating before 1890.

Origin: These type of items are typically found in interior of Oman. There may be a link to Persian art. We also find this design in the center of large old copper plates used for eating.

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. The National Museum Sultanate of Oman Highlights, published by Scala Arts & Heritage London 2016 page 51 Jewellery in Arabesque style.

Arabic Writing design

Slide-Show: Koran texts

In the slide-show you find examples of:

a) Koran Texts

b) Magic Numbers

c) Names (owner or maker?)

d) Writing and Magic Squares

Subject:  Omani silver Design Arabic Writing

Period: used until recently

Origin: Used all over Oman. Large size amulets made of wood and containing Arabic texts were used even on ships in Zanzibar and Oman

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. For the large wooden amulets from Zanzibar see the Afrika museum in Berg and Dal Netherlands
  5. The peoples of Zanzibar, their customs and religious beliefs by Godfrey Dale, universities mission to central Africa  Westminster London 1920. Page 38-44. He writes on page 38 "Belief in witchcraft and magic seems to be universal amongst the people of Africa, and even in Zanzibar and Pemba in spite of the presence of Islam, has a very strong hold on the minds of the people.  Mohammed himself evidently believed in it, is said to have suffered from the consequences of it, and to have been given the last chapters of the Koran in order to enable him to recover from these consequences. In fact these two last chapters are considered  to be of great value as a preservative against witchcraft, and are constantly inscribed on talismans or recited for this purpose etc."

Design Symbolic object

Slide-Show: Key to paradise

                        

Omani antique silver amulet designed as a key

                     Omani antique silver amulet designed as a key

 In the slide-show (top left) you find examples of:

a) Key (to paradise)

b) Fire striker

c) Gun cartridge / bullet

The fire-striker and gun cartridge (Kohl-pot) are in the shape of arms because man are not supposed to wear jewellery, however they are allowed to wear arms. Consequently arms of Arab men have also become jewellery substitutes.

Subject:  Symbolic object design

Period: Until recently

Origin: Used all over Oman. We find also young Swahili ladies of Zanzibar and East Africa wearing these keys on photos of the 19th century!

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. For the large wooden amulets from Zanzibar see the Afrika museum in Berg and Dal Netherlands

Celestial design

Slide-Show: Celestial Designs e.g. moonshaped

In the slide-show you find examples of:

a) Moon-shape (e.h. many moon-shape elements hanging form a Koran-box)

b) Star-shape / Raying Sun

 

 

 

Subject: Celestial designs

Period: Until now i

Origin: Used all over Oman. Large wooden amulets with celestial symbols were used by ships from Oman and Zanzibar in the 19th century

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. For the large wooden amulets from Zanzibar see the Afrika museum in Berg and Dal Netherlands

Designed for Sound or Smell

Slide-Show: Lid of coffeepot contains "pebbles" for sound

 In the slide-show you find examples of design for "sound" :

a) Elbow rings with stone inside (sound for dancing)

b) Anklets with stones inside  (sound for dancing)

c) Coffee pot (sound to warn someone tempering with the coffee??)

d) Wooden Shoes with bells  (sound to warn lady coming?)

c) Toe-rings with bells (sound for dancing or to warn lady coming?)

In the hot sweaty climate of Oman people pay a lot attention to smell. This includes of course the use of perfumes and of course burning Incense.

What people often do not realize is that the wearing of silver in particular on the body also reduces the smell of transpiration. The most important working substance  in Western deodorants is silver oxide!!Omani antique sivler coffeepot with small stones in its lid

Omani antique silver coffee pot with little stones in its lid

Subject : Designed for sound or smell

Period: Until now

Origin: Used all over Oman

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. For the large wooden amulets from Zanzibar see the Afrika museum in Berg and Dal Netherlands

Designed for Magic including the Zar ceremony

Slide-Show: Magic Zar ring

This category overlaps with some of the earlier categories in particular Human figurative and Arabic writing. In the slide-show you find examples of:

a) Rings for Zar ceremony (to ban evil spirits from a person)

b) Belts for Zar ceremony (to ban evil spirits from a person)

c) Jinns

d) Fertility symbols

e) Magic numbers  

Subject:  Designed for Magic

Period Until 1950

Origin: Used all over Oman

References:
  1. Tribes in Oman by JRL Carter, Peninsular Publishing 1982 p 169-174 contains a wonderful overview of Omani folklore relating to magic (including Witches, Zar and shrines).
  2. Richardson & Dorr The Craft heritage of Oman Volume 2 page 320-323;
  3. Influence of Animism on Islam an account of popular superstitions 1920  by S.M. Zwemer (has worked in the Gulf and Oman) p 179 - p 185 contains detailed description and analysis of magic cups p 227. Page 244 discusses the Zar: exorcism of demons.
  4. Memoirs of an Arabian princess by Bibi Salme (Emily Ruete) 1888 contains detailed descriptions about the role of magic in Omani culture, including Zar.
  5. The peoples of Zanzibar, their customs and religious beliefs by Godfrey Dale, universities mission to central Africa  Westminster London 1920. Page 38-44. He writes on page 38 "Belief in witchcraft and magic seems to be universal amongst the people of Africa, and even in Zanzibar and Pemba in spite of the presence of Islam, has a very strong hold on the minds of the people.  Mohammed himself evidently believed in it, is said to have suffered from the consequences of it, and to have been given the last chapters of the Koran in order to enable him to recover from these consequences. In fact these two last chapters are considered  to be of great value as a preservative against witchcraft, and are constantly inscribed on talismans or recited for this purpose etc."

Design Figurative from Nature

Slide-Show: Designs form nature e.g. a palm treee

Examples of Figurative designs from nature in the slide-show are:

a) Palm Motifs

b) Floral e.g. Rose

c) Shell imprint (pattern copied by using a shell as a moult for casting silver to make belt buckles

d) Animals like birds, hare, lions and elephants (Not allowed with the Suni Moslims,  however it is allowed with the Shia's Moslims) See also Ref 5.

e) Fishes

 

Antique Omani silver anklet

 Antique Omani silver anklet with palm motif design

Subject:  Design Figurative from Nature

Origin:

  • Use of animals like birds elephants indicate a strong Persian or Indian influence or origin
  • The use of fishes in a perpetual (circular) movement typically indicates Chinese influence (see Chinese porcelain plates of 17 / 18th century)
  • The design of a couple of antique Arab doors in Zanzibar Stonetown contained birds and lions similar to those found on Omani brass vessels. On several other antique doors the animal designs had been removed over time. See ref 5.
References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. The National Museum Sultanate of Oman Highlights, published by Scala Arts & Heritage London 2016 page 51 Jewellery in Arabesque style.
  5. The book "Doors of Zanzibar" 1998 with photos by Uwe Rau  and text by Mwalim A. Mwalim contains photos of 94 antique Arab doors in and around Zanzibar stone town. Representation of animate objects  is forbidden in Islam.The design of a couple of the carved Arab doors did contain birds (e.g. peacock) and lions similar to those found on Omani brass vessels. Even on one of the carved doors of  the Sultan's House of Wonders contained a carved bird and lions. On several other antique doors in Zanzibar Stonetown  (e.g. house Tippu Tip) the carved animals have been removed, thereby reflecting differences over time on how strict to interpret these Islamic rules. However the majority of doors did not contain animal decoration. In recent years we saw quite a few Omani  girls decorating their scarf's with silver brooches, it is probably human to explore the limits of what is allowed!

Figurative Human design

Slide-Show: Abstract human figure (fertility symbol)

 Omani abstract Human design motif

Omani antique silver amulet with abstract human design

In the slide-show you find examples of:

a) Abstract Human shape (fertility symbols or Jinn) The human image is not allowed with the Suni Moslims,  however it is allowed with the Shia's Moslims) See also Ref 5.

b) Hand of Fatima / pointed finger

c) Heart

d) Humans on coins. Not allowed with the Suni Muslims. However the famous Arabist Snouck Hurgronje in his book Mekka tells us to his surprise that during the 19th century Venetian coins (with on one side a picture of the Venetian Doge and on the other side  the image of Jesus Christ) were very popular amulets for Arab women in  Mekka and Medina!! (in Oman we found several of these ancient Venetian coins on a set of antique earrings). In case of the common silver Maria Theresa thalers, Omani women typically put the side of the coins with the "Eagle"on front, so the human image is not displayed. Snouck Hurgronje (Abd el-Ghaffar) visited Mecca in 1885 and worked in the Dutch consulate in Djeddah.

Mecca Venetian coins with the image of Jesus Christ worn by Arab women in Medina

Antique Omani silver earrings with venetian coins

Ancient Venetian coins on these Omani earrings 

e) Exotic

f) Evil eye

Subject:  Figurative / Human designs

Period: used until recently

Origin: Used all over Oman

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman
  2. Athman H. Athman stules of Swahili carving page 47 1996 11-29
  3. Ruth Hawley Omani Silver, Longman, London
  4. Snouck Hurgronje Mekka pages 166-167. The Dutch consulate in Djeddah was important in 1885 as huge numbers of Muslims from the Dutch Indies went on Hajj and frequently required assistance. Indonesia is still the most populated Muslim country.

Dutch youtube film about Islamic objects & art:  

Design for Kids (miniatures)

Slide-Show: I have never seen another one. The shield has just like the large shields been made form Rhino skin.
Traditionally children were treated as small adults (also in the West) Consequently dress,  jewellery and other products were made in miniature size for children. In the photo slide-show you find the following examples:

a) Rhino skin shield for a small boy (diameter approx 17 cm versus 30 cm for an adult one)

b) Baby size traditional earring (very old) and only .. cm long.

c) Children's necklace  and only ...cm long

d) Miniature brass pot

e) Miniature Bracelet (Kamar)

f) Children loaded with silver (photo by Zwemer)

We only have a small number of examples and regret we did not collect more of these often very old items. Also museums in Oman and books on Omani silver / antiques pay no attention to this interesting category.

Subject:  Omani antiques Designed for kids

Period: Until 1900

Origin: Oman Zanzibar

References:

Traditional Omani interior home decoration

Traditional Omani interior decoration, as described by Omani princess Emily Ruete in her book Memoirs of an Arabian Princess 1886. Emily Ruete in her Memoirs (ref 1 page 164) describes the interior design Of Omani houses. The texts below are from Emily's "Memoirs of an Arabian Princess" (1886) 

 

 Emily: "With rich and distinguished people, rooms are furnished more or less in the following style. Persian carpets or the finest soft mattings cover the floor. The whitewashed walls, which are rather thick, are always divided into partitions by matching deep recesses which reach from floor to ceiling. The recesses are again divided by shelves of wood, painted green, forming a kind of etageren. "

Oman  interrior decoration

The deep recesses described by Emily

Emily: "Upon these shelves the choicest and most expensive objects of glass and china are symmetrically ranged. To an Arab, nothing can be too costly to decorate these recesses. A handsomely cut glass, a beautifully painted plate, an elegant jug may cost any price:if it only looks pretty, it is sure to be purchased. One also endeavours to cover the bare and narrow walls between the recesses. Large mirrors are placed there, reaching from the divan, which is only slightly elevated above the floor, to the ceiling. These mirrors are all expressly ordered from Europe. As a rule, pictures, as they are imitations of divine creation, are prohibited to a Muslim; of late, however, they are tolerated now and then. On the other hand, clocks are in great favour and often the richest collection is found in one single house. They are placed partly over the mirrors, partly in pairs on each side of them"

Oman interior decoration

Ceilings in old houses sometimes have fine floral painting

Emily: "In the gentlemen's rooms the walls are decorated by trophies, consisting of all kinds of costly weapons from Arabia, Persia and Turkey, a decoration with which every Arab is accustomed to adorn his house, according to his rank and riches"

Oman home decoration

Emily: "In one corner of the room is placed the large double-bed  of so called rose-wood, very prettily carved all over; White muslin or tulle covers the whole. Arab beds have very high legs; to get into them readily, one first mounts upon a chair, or makes use of the natural step of the chambermaid's hand or that of a lady's maid. The lofty space under the bed is often used as a sleeping-place by others, for instance by small children's nurses or women attendants of sick people"

Traditional Omani decoration

Example of an Omani bed

Emily: "Wardrobes, chests of drawers and the like are not in use; instead, we had a sort of chest or trunk with usually two or three drawers, and inside a secret hiding place for money and jewellery. These trunks, of which there usually were several in each room were very large made of rosewood and beautifully adorned with thousands of small yellow studs with brass heads"

Fine Omani chest made of rosewood with the many brass studs!

Emily: "Windows and during the day, doors stand open all year long; at best the former are occasionally shut for a short time during rainy weather"

Traditional Omani decoration

Even the open windows can be finely decorated

 

Comment: Emily's description of specifically Mirrors and Clocks applies typically to Omani houses in Zanzibar and much less to traditional houses in Oman. In particular mirrors were not used in the houses of conservative Muslims.

Omani home decoration

The deep recesses described by Emily, the sticks between the recesses would typically be used for displaying the guns, swords and daggers.

 

The magnificent carved doors found in Zanzibar / East Africa are also found in houses and castles of Oman and many are much older than those in Zanzibar, so it is justified to call them Omani doors. However also many have been destroyed during Oman's Renaissance over the last 45 years.

Omani carved door

Omani (Al Hazm) carved door several centuries old (twice as old as stonetown in Zanzibar)

Antique Omani carved door

Detail of the above Omani carved door in al Hazm

References:
  1. An Arabian Princess between two worlds by E. van Donzel published by Brill  Leiden 1993 ; Emily Ruete Memoirs of an Arabian Princess page 164
  2. The book "Doors of Zanzibar" 1998 with photos by Uwe Rau  and text by Mwalim A. Mwalim contains photos of 94 antique Arab doors in and around Zanzibar stone town. Representation of animate objects  is forbidden in Islam.The design of a couple of the carved Arab doors did contain birds (e.g. peacock) and lions similar to those found on Omani brass vessels. Even on one of the carved doors of  the Sultan's House of Wonders contained a carved bird and lions. On several other antique doors in Zanzibar Stonetown  (e.g. house Tippu Tip) the carved animals have been removed, thereby reflecting differences over time on how strict to interpret these Islamic rules. The majority of doors did not contain animal decoration. In recent years we saw quite a few Omani  girls decorating their scarf's with silver brooches, it is probably human to explore the limits of what is allowed!