The Omani Khanjar or Dagger, for the people of Oman has always been more than just a crude weapon used for self-defence in the harsh conditions of the desert; it’s a beautiful piece of art that symbolises the very soul of the nation: beautiful, tough and eternal. It’s a part of the national emblem of Oman and is given as a ceremonial ornament to the male members of the family by the household elders; upon reaching puberty as it denotes manhood and courage.
Fun Fact: Before the 1970’s it was considered taboo to remove the dagger from its sheath as one was only meant to do so if they were seeking revenge or for self-defence, and the dagger could not be returned to its sheath until one’s revenge was complete.
Today no traditional Omani formal wear is complete without the khanjar worn in its sheath at the front of one’s body by means of a special belt called a shal.
While one can easily get a souvenir imitation for OMR 30 a real one could cost anything up to a whopping OMR 800. Considering the fact that this fine piece of tradition takes craft smiths up to a month to make and is intricately designed upon layers of gold and silver upon its jewel encrusted scabbard, it is well worth every baisa.
In the past the silver used to make the Khanjar was obtained by melting down used Marie Theresa silver coins while the hilt is made from a rhinoceros’s horns or substitutes such as sandalwood, marble or in some cases pure silver. Similarly the sheath is traditionally made of plain leather with silver threads worked into it while the more expensive ones have a combination of gold and silver. It’s interesting to note that despite the gold and silver inlay the worth of a khanjar is indicated by its blade and old blades are never thrown out but rather worked into new ones.
Contrary to an outsider’s belief there are several different design styling’s of the Omani Khanjar based on the region in which they are made, the basic types are Saidiyah, Dakhiliyah (Omaniyah) , Nizwany, Sharqiyah (Suriyah) and of course the full pedigree, Royal Khanjar or Sa’idiyyah Khanjar.
The Saidiyah khanjar is distinguished by its narrow hilt covered by silver, while the Dakhiliyah khanjar is characterised by a very thick handle of ivory or horn. The Nizwany on the other hand is distinguished by its large side and is also considered by some to be a short sword while the Sharqiyah or Suriyah (called so as it is made in the Wilayat of Sur) is distinguished by its small size.
The Royal Khanjar or Sa’idiyyah Khanjar, considered by some to be the most charismatic dagger, is generally handmade in the capital and is believed to be designed by the previous Sultan’s wife; it is noted for its 7 rings called the hilqah and its highly ornate hilt and scabbard, another striking feature of this Royal Dagger is its odd little triangular link attached to it from the top of the chape to the belt.
So the next time you’re in the region be sure to keep a keen eye out for a piece of our Omani heritage.