Omani Saidi Khanjar with 7 silver rings
The Omani khanjar (dagger) is iconic of Oman. Which is illustrated by the fact that it is part of the Omani flag. Omani men still wear it on official occasions, however in recent years the wearing of Khanjars is declining as fewer young Omani men are wearing them. Below you find 17 examples of antique Omani khanjars, a knife (that sits behind the khanjar) and Omani silver belt buckles. Many photos are included! The scabbard of an Omani khanjar is bent at an angle of 45 degree angel which differentiates it from the other daggers in the Middle East.The Khanjar blade is made of steel, the hilt is made of wood or horn (in some cases rhino horn) with silver ornaments, the scabbard is made of embroidery/gold thread or silver. The belt is is made of silver embroidery or brocade. There are typically 2, 4 or 7 silver rings on the khanjar. The antique clasps are cast in silver by using cuttlebone as a moult. In other words, many skills / techniques are required to produce an Omani khanjar and matching embroidered belt. From the very valuable anterior horn of a rhinoceros approx. only ten khanjar hilts could be produced. Because of the Omani colonies, trade and influence outside Oman the Khanjar was used not just in Oman, but also in Zanzibar, East Africa mainland and even the Comoros islands etc. The Khanjar was also a welcome present during official foreign visits hence there are photos of the King of Jordan wearing a golden Omani khanjar in the book by Elgood. So far it has not been possible to exactly link the different styles of Khanjar to a particular region. Also no dedicated book or study exists regarding Omani khanjars, to our knowledge. Until puberty a boy will wear a silver buckle rather than a khanjar (see below for several good examples) The blades of old khanjars typically originate from Iran or Europe (not from Oman) see e.g. the old book by von Oppenheim. The British Museum in its description of the daggers and blades in the Ingrams collection, attributes these later blades to Sanaa in Yemen see e.g. blade BM 2012,6030.173. The inner side of the chape (top) of the scabbard we sometimes find a signature of the khanjar maker also sometimes floral symbols have been added on the back of which we do not know the meaning.
mentions that the silver filigree work does come from Oman and not from East Africa
The best book on Zanzibar and East Africa for the second half of the 19th century is Land und Leute in Deutsch Ost Afrika Berlin 1890. The text is by J.Wangemann and the beautiful illustrations based on original photos are by J.Sturz. Page 6 states in German that: "The Omani swords are made in Lamu (Wituland)?? and the Saidi khanjars are made in Muscat. The value of a Saidi khanjar is at least 120 mark (a lot of money then) and these are difficult to obtain as they are primarily heirlooms"
Illustration from "Land und Leute in Deutsch-Ost-Afrika. Erinnerungen aus der ersten Zeit des Aufstandes und der Blokade " by J Wangemann (text) and J. Sturtz (photographs / illustrations) 1890. The above khanjars were conquered by German soldiers during the Arab uprising 1888-1890.
The Sa´idiyyah / Saidi Khanjar is named after the Royal house of Al Said for which they are traditionally made, however they can also be worn by ordinary men. The story goes that Sultan Sa´iyd bin Sultan had a Persian wife (which is true) who became bored with her husbands dagger hilt and designed him a brighter one. Persian influence also seems to appear in the sophisticated design on the basal scabbard. The memoirs of princess Bibi Salme (Sultan Said's daughter) has details on this flamboyant, wild and adulterous Persian princess. Because of her behaviour Said bin Sultan divorced her and sent her back home. The earliest photo with a Saidi khanjar is that of Sultan Seyd Madjid bin Said Sultan of Zanzibar (1856-1870) published in "zur geschichte des Deutschen handels mit Oastafrika Teil 1 Wm Oswald & Co" page abb 40.
Already in the 1980´s the large majority of antique khanjars offered in the souq´s were made up of the parts from different old khanjars and most frequently not even matching (and still very expensive) Several of the khanjars in this collection came from Germans who worked / lived in East Africa and purchased them before the first world-war, so genuine old pieces and generally in unusual good (original) condition in particular the ones with gold-threat decoration.
Ín 1931 W.H. Ingrams in his book "Zanzibar its History and its people" writes on page 398 "The work of Ali Muhammed , a Comorian , on jambiyas or curved daggers is very famous, and specimens of his work command high prices and are scarce. One speaks of Ali Muhammed jambiyas as one does of Chippendale chairs" Hence high quality khanjars were made during the first quarter of the 20th century in Zanzibar, but we have not yet identified one yet accurately. Apart from Ingrams, I found no reference to these very fine khanjars made in Zanzibar.
Antique Omani Khanjar with Rhino hilt
Silver pins have been systematically hammered into the hilt, which makes it look like fish-scales
The Omani princess Emily Ruete writes in her book Memoirs of an Arabian Princess (German 1886 / English 1888):
"As already mentioned repeatedly, weapons, of course, are part of the full dress of an Arab. They are usually handed to him by his wife, daughter or son when he prepares to go out"
"The most favourite presents were all sorts of weapons. It may seem odd to European ladies that an Arab woman presents her husband, her brother, her grown-up son or her chosen one with costly weapons. But the Arabs consider weapons as their greatest luxury, they try to obtain any beautifully worked piece, and never have enough of them"
The annual magazine A tribute to Oman edition 11 "Nizwa Portraits" page 158 -162 contains an interesting interview by Catherine Lonie with Ali bin Jabir al-Sulaimani who has been making high quality khanjars for 55 years.