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Old 15th January 2021, 09:54 PM   #3
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Bay Area
Posts: 1,386

Thank you Stu, I find the connections between the Zanzibari nimchas (Zanzibari used here to refer to all nimchas from Southern Arabia and the Eastern coastline of Africa) and the Maghrebi ones fascinating. The D-ring feature is found on nimchas from both areas, but it is rarely found on Maghrebi examples and only on really early ones. At the same time, it is prevalent on Zanzibari nimchas. This seems to suggest that the form made it over to the Arab Sea and Indian Ocean quite early (assuming West to East distribution).
Here are some hilts in my collection, which we can use to make some observations. To the left of my new Algerian nimcha are two Moroccan ones - a typical one to the far left and an interesting variation with the two inner quillons perpendicular instead of parallel to the blade. Note also that the outside quillon which is curved towards the blade does not end with the typical Moroccan style ball, but is much flatter, like the quillon on Zanzibari nimchas. It is tempting to categorize this type of guard as a transitional one between D-ring guards and guards without a D-ring. It is rarer than the usual Moroccan nimcha guard, and in the few instances I have seen such guards they tend to be mounted on older blades (mine is on a mid 18th century English hanger with a fox mark, the one in Claude's book has an older blade as well). It appears therefore that this type of guard is slightly earlier than the more widespread later form with quillons all parallel to the blade, probably dating back to the late 18th, early 19th century, which would support the hypothesis that this is indeed a transitional type.
To the right are two typical Zanzibari nimcha guards - the one right next to the Algerian nimcha has a steel plate with cut out decorations inside the D-ring, while the next one does not. It is possible that the plate was added to strengthen the D-ring, which as you can see on the other nimcha has been broken. The Zanzibari nimcha next to the Algerian one is also the higher quality example of the two, with a slightly larger hilt and more decoration, so the plate might have been something reserved for better quality examples.
The next sword to the right is another Zanzibari nimcha, but with a simpler, brass guard and no D-ring.
Finally on the far right is a saif from Southern Yemen. It lacks the nimcha guard with its knuckleguard, replaced with a crossguard instead(and a chain from the quillon to the pommel which is missing on mine), but the grip and pommel are undoubtedly of the same form as on nimchas, except that the pommel is tilted at a 90 degree angle to the hilt, more so than on Zanzibari nimcha pommels which are tilted at a smaller angle.
This is of course only a partial snapshot of the many variations that exist on nimcha hilts, so hopefully other members would share some of their nimchas here, along with their own thoughts.
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