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Old 20th May 2011, 04:08 PM   #25
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Default Tipu Tib and Sword Origins etc

Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Ibrahiim,
I'm puzzled by the reference to 1860 slave trader "Tipu Sultan' ? What post was that in? The sword appears to be a military sabre blade (carrying rings) and probably corresponding blade with the Omani type hilt. Where was this slave trader said to be operating, or where was the photo from.

Also, what is meant by the 'hawkshead' hilt ? Is there an illustration? In any case the curved sabre is by no means from Caucasian ancestry in Arabia though the trade blades from there did come in through various means.
The use of some of these Caucasian blades is mentioned by Elgood in "Arms and Armour of Arabia", and the preference for Persian blades is also noted. We have discussed many times the use of Persian trade blades on Arab sabres. Many of the straight blades are known to have arrived through Indian trade contacts.

The martial swordplay/'dancing' is also described by Sir Richard Burton in 1884, and as noted is also known in India, particularly in the case of use of the pata in which deep slashing moves are made. The Mahrattas distinctly favored slashing moves, despising the thrust. In Khevsuria, in the Caucasus, these dance type moves leaping from crouched position and using bucklers are key to the well known duels practiced well into the 20th century.

I am inclined to think that the guardless Omani hilt developed in the Arabian Peninsula, and not in Zanzibar, nor was it influenced by the swords from the African interior. While the importance of Zanzibar was considerable as a trade and center including slaving commerce, I feel that it was much more receptive as far as weaponry than it was innovative, and the weapons in use there were an amalgam of many forms used by the many traders frwquenting there. It is known that later in the 19th century many makers there did produce swords of established forms using trade blades and copying styles from numerous influences. The well known 'Zanzibar' type of 'nimcha' hilts is essentially the Moroccan sa'if type hilt with a perpandicular loop on the guard (as seen in Buttin, 1933).

All the very best,

Salaams Jim, My mistake in calling him Tipu Sultan (sultans on the brain!!)His real name (tipu tip) was; hamed bin mohammed a swahili which is good to punch into google search ~ The greatest slaver on the African East Coast and controlling about 2 million square miles of territory. posted 11-24-2004 14:05 ( picture 7.) The sword is rigged on a scabbard that would hang at the long carry usually seen on scimitar and shamshir varieties... Anyway it is the hilt which intrigues..

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tippu Tip
Tippu Tip or Tib (1837 - June 14, 1905), real name Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Sa‘īd al-Murghabī, (Arabic: حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي‎), was a Swahili-Zanzibari trader of mixed descent. He was famously known as Tippu Tib after an eye disease which made him blind. A notorious slave trader, plantation owner and governor, who worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar, he led many trading expeditions into east-central Africa, involving the slave trade and ivory trade. He constructed profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa.

He built himself a trading empire that he then translated into clove plantations on Zanzibar. Abdul Sheriff reports that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. However, by 1895, he had acquired "seven shambas [plantations] and 10,000 slaves."[1]

His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His paternal great-grandmother, wife of Rajab bin Mohammed bin Said el Murgebi was the daughter of Juma bin Mohammed el Nebhani, a member of a respected Muscat (Oman) family, and an African woman from the village of Mbwa Maji, a small village south of what would later become the German capital of Dar es Salaam.[2]

He met and helped several famous western explorers of the African continent, including Henry Morton Stanley. Between 1884 and 1887, el Murgebi claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between Arabs (Swahili) and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Stanley Falls, el Murgebi went to the Belgian consul at Zanzibar to assure him of his "good intentions." Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting. In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said agreed and on February 24, 1887, Hamed bin Mohammed el Murgebi accepted.[3]

Around 1890/91, he returned to Zanzibar where he retired. He wrote his autobiography, which is the first example of this literary genre in Swahili. El Murgebi wrote his autobiography in Swahili in Arabic script. Dr. Heinrich Brode, who knew him in Zanzibar, transcribed the manuscript into Roman script and translated it into German. It was subsequently translated into English and published in Britain in 1907.

He died June 13, 1905, of malaria (according to Brode) in his home in Stone Town, the main town on the island of Zanzibar.

I have put up two fotos one is Tipu in the photo in the 1860s with the Kattara long handle on what looks like a kattara or sayf and the other a sketch of Sultan Barghash later in about 1895 annoyingly sporting the Old Omani Sword with turned down Quillons !!!

Hawkshead hilt ~ Possibly from the hilt known as Karabella and often simply leather covered in Arabian swords. It occurred to me that Shaska have similar hilts and that perhaps the hilt transferred at the same time as the blade in this variant. It would make sense that this short curved weapon was used aboard Omani ships however I cant prove that. (yet) I have put up photos of the curved smaller sayf with the hawk or falcons head simply leather covered.

Reference your "I am inclined to think that the guardless Omani hilt developed in the Arabian Peninsula, and not in Zanzibar, nor was it influenced by the swords from the African interior".

I agree but I cant quite prove it. The quote I made I think is important from the 1931 publication stating that the dance routine or "Razha" seen in Zanzibar was Omani so we look today for a similar terminology and sure enough the Omani Sword dance is called RAZHA ! That should be Game Set and Match !! but it doesnt put a suitable date on the sword entering use in Oman.

If there is no Zanzibar/ African link when did the kattara long enter use in Oman? It certainly entered folklore in the form of a martial dance and that points to a very early date. I would suggest between 9th and 13 th century ~ and on the Oman coast (BECAUSE COASTAL OMAN WOULD BRING THE RHINO HIDE SHIELDS MATERIAL FROM AFRICAN SOURCES AS OPPOSED TO IT BEING BROUGHT BY THE INTERIOR OF OMAN ~ THE TWO FACTIONS "THE INTERIOR AND THE COASTAL BELT" BEING MORE OR LESS AT WAR WITH EACH OTHER CONTINUOUSLY.

I have the Short Omani Battle Sword frozen in a time warp in the Omani interior, Abbasid influeced, entering use about 850 A.D. and remaining in use at least up to the 1890s when it was sketched on the waist of Sultan Bargash. (picture attached)

The influence of Caucasus blades may have also included handle design on shorter curved sayf likely to have been used on board the very active Omani merchant and Naval vessels.
I also conclude that the Omani Long Kattara could pre date estimates by 4 centuries in view of the estimated time that folklore would need for the sword and shield dance to be imprinted and that the two systems were in use variously and together until the early 1900s. as defined in the pictures attached.
It remains to be uncovered as to wether the long curved sayf was used in the same fashion as the kattara since it is also seen with the same handle... The long flat connical hilt and pommel with a hole..

Shukran Jim


Reference your "The well known 'Zanzibar' type of 'nimcha' hilts" For years there has been a muddle over these hilts to often attributed to Moroccan.. see Antony North Islamic Arms p 29 ~ I have seen some almost identical but now attributed to Zanzibar.
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