Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 March 2019

19. Khanjar dagger, circa 1930s

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.
Silver khanjar. Courtesy Mohammed Al Fahim
Silver khanjar. Courtesy Mohammed Al Fahim
The khanjar is the traditional dagger of Oman, but no compilation of objects that have shaped the United Arab Emirates would be complete without it.

Once used for personal protection and as a tool for hunting, it has become a symbol of manhood across Arabia, worn by everyone from herdsmen to sheikhs.

The cap badge of the Trucial Oman Scouts, the internal security force formed with British army officers 60 years ago, featured crossed khanjars.

The dagger's blade is made from high-quality steel, sometimes from Damascus or Yemen, attached to a handle, typically of ivory.

The glory of the khanjar is its distinctive, curved scabbard, hung at the waist and elaborately decorated in silver and gold by craftsmen who spend their entire lives on its art.

This particular khanjar was found in Muscat, but came to Abu Dhabi with its new owner, Mohammed Al Fahim, in the early 1960s.

"We were on a trip to Oman once and visiting the souq," he remembers. "I was looking for something original to buy. While looking I found this old gentleman who asked me what I was looking for. I told him I was looking for khanjars - 'like the one you're wearing'.

"He said that it was not going to be cheap and cost Dh500. I said if he was willing to sell it I would buy it from him.

"I said I can offer you Dh1,000 so you can buy two khanjars instead. He thought for a minute and decided 'why not?' So he gave me his khanjar."

Today, the dagger holds pride of place in Fahim's private collection. It is, of course, worth rather more today than the Dh1,000 paid in the souq at Muscat.

Updated: December 1, 2011 04:00 AM