Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Salaams all~ Note to forum.
The decline in ethnic artefacts stretches up and down the entire spectrum of antiques collecting. Regarding Arabian Daggers, Swords and to a large extent old and antique arabian items it is, however, a different situation to that which exists in the west and one which the ethnographic community ought to be aware;
Arab men wear Khanjars and Jambia with pride. The item may be regarded as a badge of office and head of the family. There may well be the occasional person who owns an old dagger but generally the demand is still high for new ones.
At the same time daggers do deteriorate and fall apart or because of neglect fall into complete almost abandoned ruin. They are however cleverly constructed so for example should a new blade be required (or hilt, scabbard, belt, rings etc etc ) it is an easy enough job to fit replacements. Silver because it is oxidising constantly produces a fast acting patina and a brand new silver item can look much older after 5 to 10 years of normal use.
What is apparent is the difficulty for some to realise the nature of antiquity in Arabia. Oman for example was in the dark ages for many centuries and really didn't get going properly in the modern world sense until 1970. Until the advent of oil in other Arab countries the same situation applied, consequently, what people in the west consider as old, ancient, tribal and ethnograhic are still in vogue here. The idea that something is old fashioned and must be disguarded for the modern equivalent took much longer to happen here... and in some remote areas it hasn't happened at all !
Something else, however, happened with traditional weapons.. They were iconised. In Oman, for example, the Khanjar and the Sword are virtually symbols of the country... THEY ARE ITS LOGO. As the late Antony North pointed out in his brilliant book on Islamic Arms and Armour once a system had survived as tried and tested..or trusted ...they didn't change. Thus we have ethnographic weapons, now iconised, that were used for centuries and retained whilst other countries disguarded, modernised and researched new and inovative ideas. In Oman if it worked they didnt change it... Simple?
Thus in Oman there are silversmiths using the same designs and in many cases the same tools with the exception perhaps of a blow lamp and light from an electric bulb ! working in the same way they did centuries ago. High on their list of products are Omani Jewellery and of course Omani Khanjars etc
The other failure I have observed is on the subject of new and or restored items ; Arab men want new Khanjars. The demand is high. A few purchase older items but in their collection of 3 or 4 Khanjars they usually have a new one ... because it is the done thing to arrive at a wedding feast or important meeting wearing the Khanjar, thus, a new weapon shows prestige and wealth etc to all the guests. That is the tradition.
Because the Khanjar is "meccano built'' i.e. from a load of separate replaceable parts it also lends itself to being upgraded easily. A better blade or a horn or Rhino hilt can be fitted..There is technically no end to the upgrade since all the parts are changeable. Many Khanjars get the upgrade treatment at some point. This is normal in Oman.
The fact is that Omani Khanjars and Swords are part of Omani History but they are vitally part of its present and future as well. These are living, breathing artefacts protected by the rich heritage of Oman so they should endure through time.
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.