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Old 30th May 2012, 07:56 AM   #24
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams all ~ The question arises " Where and when did the Omani Khanjar originate''? For this episode I rely heavily upon my main reference "Omani Silver" by Ruth Hawley.

It could be that a full answer is not possible, however, part of the answer lies in the origin of the Omani people and in the great migration caused by the degradation and final collapse of the irrigation system in the Yemen known as the Marib Dam. It is estimated that aproximately 50,000 people were displaced by this phenomena between 300 and 600 ad and that many migrated along known trade routes by camel and sea to Oman. Oman had long been trading with that region because of the frankincense route. The dam break did not happen overnight and as such a gradual filtering of people must have occurred culminating in a mass outflow or peaks of transit as eventually the entire system became useless.

What I intend to show is how this migration brought with it the Omani Khanjar that we see today but for a comparison we need to look at the Asir regional dagger. ( The Asir has been part of Yemen up to about 1923 but is now part of Saudia Arabia. The capital is Abha and the main seaport of the region is Jazan.) For further references to the Asir dagger see the following~

For a comparison I have compared the Muscat Khanjar with the above style though I do not show a photograph of the sa'idiyyah khanjar ( royal khanjar) since it was only designed (hilt) in about 1850 therefor it is only partially relevant; if at all.

The Muscat Khanjar, however, is very similar so the two are clearly linked. The two weapons are almost identical though the Asir item is narrower in the body and has a more substantial crown (Quba). The work is different in that Yemeni craftsmanship employs more sand casting techniques whereas Omani work shows more repousse, embossing and engraving moreover the decoration in the two hilts is quite different. To the untrained eye, however, they are very similar.

Whilst Asir is not Mahrib it can be argued that movement away from the Marib could have been in that direction in addition ( in a sunburst pattern rather than a straight line) rather than in one specific N.E. direction since the major seaport of Jazan is there and trade between there and Salalah and Muscat must have been ongoing at the time. Needless to say Jazan being an important seaport would have attracted migrants wishing to move to other locations by sea. Caravan trade between Oman and the Asir and Marib was well known ( naturally both methods of travel must have been used).

The questions are ~
1. "Was the dagger an Asir or a Mahrib weapon or both"?
2. "Did the weapon migrate from the Marib region or through maritime trade with Jazan only"?

We may never know exactly. What is very specific, however, is that only one general type of Khanjar did appear in Oman though there is another basic dagger and scabbard variant that occurs in Salalah (see later post) related to another Yemeni weapon .. Essentially however there is only one generally described as "Omani Khanjar" which appeared from somewhere. Perhaps the Asir / Marib conundrum is pointing the way to an answer.

Photos below are two Muscat Khanjars ( the black and white is attributed to the book by Ruth Hawley "Omani Silver") and a third picture with two Asir Daggars. These are generally attributable to the Asir region in and around Faifa, Jazan and the regional capital Abha. Generally they are termed Hababi though the precise reason is not yet known.

In selecting Yemen as the likely origin of species the decision simply reflects the senior status of the ancient Hemyaritic country that spawned the great migration to Oman in or around the 3rd to 6thC A.D. therefor logically it is from there that we look for the Khanjar origin. That is rather an attempt to deflect the question why did it not all go the opposite way i.e. Oman to Yemen.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; One subtle difference between Oman and Yemen weapons above is the slightly smaller and less curved Omani blade.

Salaams all~ Note to Forum. In the quoted refernce above I have set down a particular theory on eveolution of the Omani Khanjar and details in respect of a specific design The Royal Khanjar (the sa'idiyyah khanjar) and its likely provenance. Whilst I am convinced that the evolution of dagger style (The Khanjar) originally emanates from the Yemen I wish to formulate a second theory as to where the design of Royal Khanjar entered the equation and in which direction it spread.

This new theory reverses my previous assumption that the Royal Khanjar design may have been copied from the Jalan region which was about 100 years ago absorbed into Saudia Arabia from Yemen.

There appears to be a second region in Saudia that its occupants have adopted the similar style ~ In the region to the south of The Bahrain Islands in Saudia where the dominant tribal group are Hibaabi (not to be confused with Wahaabi) The dagger there is almost identical though "fatter" than the Jilan version. Readers are requested to excuse the apparent error since travel to the Jilan and other areas in the region is quite difficult and approaching research from the Yemen perspective, on the ground, is impossible at this time. On the other hand readers may observe that if I insert a theory but later discover that it is unsound I will be the first(hopefully) to blow it out of the water !

To back up the second theory which like the first is largely hypothetical I draw the attention of readers to certain facts;

1. The Royal Omani Khanjar was designed in about 1850 for the Sultan by one of his wives... The infamous Sheherazade.

2. None of the other Yemeni or Saudia dagger styles look anything like the Omani Royal Khanjar. The majority are monumental by definition. The Omani style could be described as delicate by comparison.

3. Trade routes by sea between Oman (Muscat, Sur, Sohar, Salalah Musandam) and the two key affected areas Jalan and the coast of Saudia in the Bahrain region were well known as were the overland trade and slave routes at the time of the appearance of the new form of dagger.

4. The main composition of the Royal Khanjar is built around the general framework of the Muscat Khanjar. This is entirely natural as this is where it was designed. It is said that she used Indian designs taken from a variety of Indian works to eventually end up with the finished product. It would seem plausible that having been designed in Muscat that it would if successful branch out from that point overspilling via trade routes into neighboring countries.

The new theory, therefor, is very simple ~ The Princess Sheherazade having designed the Royal Khanjar for the Omani Sultan in about 1850. It was immediately successful and swept across the Arabian Peninsula by tried and tested sea and land routes being adopted in the Yemeni Jalan and in the broad swathe of Saudia south of Bahrain by the Habaabi tribe.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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