HvWO 002

Omani antique chest named Mandus in Arabic. This is a wedding-chest in"Bombay style" made of Teak wood

Slideshow Omani Chest Mandoos

Very rare complete Omani wedding chest named Mandoos / Mandus in the Bombay style. There is however no evidence that a Bombay chest was made in Bombay.... Made of some sort of red teak-wood. (very heavy) Signs of wear by ropes around the chest, in the book Alarms and Excursions (London edition) you can see on a photo a similar chest being transported by a camel.


Antique Omani wooden chest mandoos

Antique Omani wooden chest  named Mandoos


 In an earlier article this chest was classified as a Surat type chest. Our chest complies fully with the description of a Bombay chest Type 1 (page 83/84) in the book of Sheila Unwin (Ref 1) :

  • Wood: Teak (very heavy and pretty)
  • Size (lid) 107 by 48 cm and 49 cm high
  • Sheeting (not very thick) perforated and punched
  • Studs and knobs: Handmade, small -headed, with short square shafts. Knobs on the front and on the lid
  • Lid: similar to Surat chest with square corner mounts with arrow like groups of studs pointing inwards. Central studding lobed
  • Hinges: Bombay style finials with 5 spikes above a cutout cross. Looks like an abstract palm-tree
  • Hasp: Elaborate Bombay style hasp with intricate cut-work
  • Handles: on the side C-shaped hung from sockets on a cast phoenix backplate
  • Drawer: Three drawers.One drawer with a Shiraz handle, one with a Rococo handle and one handle missing
  • Secret compartment beneath internal till. In the secret compartment a Maria Theresia Thaler and a few pieces of silver were found!

Our chest is identical to that shown in the top photo on page 83 of Unwin´s The Arab Chest (Ref 1) . These chests are very rare to find in good condition. Pearce in his book on Zanzibar 1920  Ref 9 p 226 writes: The Eastern does not believe in banks. If he has spare cash he prefers to keep it in a strong wooden chest in his house, where he knows it will be guarded by his trusty ancestral blade. These boxes are known to Europeans as Zanzibar chests.The more ornamental and smaller are favorite purchases. They are still used by Arabs in their houses and the brass studded chests are favored by Arab ladies for the safekeeping of their treasures and jewels. Some of these boxes possess a secret compartment. In purchasing a chest the following points are worthy of attention: The lid should be without join, the brass sheet should be thick. and the devices cut thereon should be well-defined patterns: In most genuine chests the remains of a gold colored tinsel will be seen underlying the brass decorations. More brass bosses there are the better; the lock hasp should be as elaborate as possible and the perforations should form a definite pattern" Note the guidance in Sheila Unwin´s book is probably better.

Antique Omani chest


Antique Omani mandoos

Antique Omani chest  

Brass hasp of the above Omani chest

Arab Name: Mandus Mandoos or Sanduq

Period: 1820-1920 Emily Ruete in her memoirs of an Arabian Princess 1886, when discussing the furniture in the palace she grew up says: " 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"   Princess Emily left Zanzibar in 1867, so by then chests with many brass nails were used in the Omani palaces and houses in Zanzibar.

Origin: Oman Zanzibar.

  1. Sheila Unwin The Arab chest Arabian publishing  2006 /2007 p 82-84
  2. Sheila Unwin Dhow-trade chests Kenya Past and Present issue 19 p 34-43
  3. Sheila Unwin in Seafarers of The Gulf: Arab Chests 1992  p 62-69
  4. J.J. Adie A Guide to Zanzibar 1949 page 104-107 contains a detailed description of the different types of Zanzibar "Arab" chests. Main categories Persian, Surat, Bombay and Malabar chests. This was a copy of an article in the East African Standard in 1947. He also mentions that during the 1930´s Omani chests were being imitated for the tourist trade. These imitations have iron rather than brass studs.
  5. Craft heritage of Oman Neil Richardson & Maria Dorr Volume 1 p 246-248; Volume 2 page 277-283;page 461 illustration. 154;
  6. Robert Richmond Tribute to Oman 24th national day 1994 The bottom drawer. p 65-69
  7. Carter Tribes in Oman p 112
  8. A tribute to Oman National day 1987 "chests to treasure: Raising the lid on a fascinating art form" by Robert Richmond Apex p 144
  9. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 140
  10. Zanzibar The Island Metropolis of Eastern Africa by F.B. Pearce 1920 (reprint 1967) p 226
  11. Oman and its Renaissance  by Sir Donald Hawley Stacey International London 1987 page 143 photo with similar item