HvWO 001

Omani antique chest named Mandus in Arabic This is an antique wedding-chest in Malabar style made of Rosewood

Mandoos Omani antique wedding-chest Malabar style



Rare Omani wedding Chest named Mandoos / Mandus in the  Malabar style.  There is no evidence that a Malabar chest was made in Malabar. These are the only chests that are carved.

Antique Omani wooden chest

Antique Omani carved wooden chest (Malabar Chest)

Our chest without stand / drawers is very similar to that shown in The Arab Chest (Ref 1) on page 85. For details see page 88:

  • Wood: Rosewood
  • Size: (lid) 95 by 45 cm  and 42 cm high
  • Brass: Slightly thick plates/inlays.
  • Front carved with very fine (!)  flower and fruit symbols. Brass inlays. One lock. No fleur de lys finials.
  • Hasp: Simple and  similar to that for the small Bombay chest. Normally not present on this type of chest.   Behind the hasp is a lock.
  • Back and sides beautifully carved with detailed geometric patterns.
  • Reinforcing straps Perforated on the front and plain on the back.
  • Lid four  corner-mounts elongated with fleur de lys finials pointing inwards. Central oval disks sparsely arranged horizontally. Moldings on edges are attached to the undersides and the join strengthened with quatre-foils. separated by vertical brass strips. On our lid some of the inlays are very worn and or missing.
  • Hinges heavy and thick having a bulbous finial with cut-outs terminating in a fleur de lis.
  • No secret compartment. Drawers in the stand (not here)
  • Handles: shallow W shape carried on cups attached to qua trefoil disks.
  • One compartment inside

The carved fruit can be "breadfruit", or "Durian" or "Pine-apple", but breadfruit most likely. Note that the Breadfruit tree is native to Malabar as well as to East Africa. Malabar chests in southern Oman tend to be made from teak wood and not very old. Malabar Chests with such fine woodcarving are rare.  See the slide-show for an example of woodwork on the traditional Omani dhow.

Antique Omani malabar chest

                                                                              Front of the chest

Antique Omani chest

   Back of the chest


Antique Arab chest

Side of the Chest


Arab Name: Mandus Mandoos or Sanduq

Period: 18501900

Origin: Oman (note the similar carving on doors in Oman and Zanzibar) ; Unwin unclear on origin ;  Carter ref 5 page 109 shows an example with poor carving he says: This chest is from Bombay (??) and the pineapple pattern is much favored in the region of the Hadramawt (Yemen) and Dhufar (Oman)  . This one was acquired in Salalah Comment: Carters chest is a later copy made of teak wood. 

  1. Sheila Unwin The arab chest Arabian publishing  2006 /2007 p 85-89.
  2. 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 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.
  3. Sheila Unwin Dhowtrade chests Kenya Past and Present issue 19 p 34-43.
  4. Craft heritage of Oman Neil Richardson & Maria Dorr Volume 1 p 246-248; Volume 2 page 277-283;page 461 illustration. 154
  5. Robert Richmond Tribute to Oman 24th national day 1994 The bottom drawer. p 65-69
  6. J.L. Carter Tribes in Oman Peninsular publishing 1982 page 109
  7. A tribute to Oman National day 1987 "chests to treasure: Raising the lid on a fascinating art by" Robert Richmond. Apex  p 144
  8. Athman H. Athman STYLES OF SWAHILI CARVING, AAP 47 (1996). 11-29