Throughout the centuries Omani sultans, sheikhs and tribesmen have adorned their waists with Khanjars, a symbol of tradition and prestige. Today the Khanjar features on the country’s flag and coat of arms. These beautiful handcrafted blades are worn for official functions, weddings and important gatherings. The dagger’s exceptional beauty and intricate details makes it one of Oman’s most identifiable cultural icons.
Making one of these daggers is still a serious and lengthy process and requires a skill unsurpassed by families who have been for over a century masters of Khanjar craftsmanship. It is an art which has been handed down from generation to generation. The Omani Khanjar can be broken down in three vital parts: the hilt, the sheet and the blade. In the past the hilt was made of ivory or horn but today they are commonly made in sandalwood. The second part is the sheet, a curved piece of wood topped up with silver. The sheet covering distinguishes the Khanjar from any other dagger in the world. The final section is the blade itself which made of sharp iron. The khanjar is then attached to a belt of fine quality leather augmented by beautiful silver threads.
The Omani Khanjar hails from different regions in Oman. The most detailed designs come in unique styles such as Saidiyah, Dakhiliyah or Omaniyah and Sharqiyah or Suriyah. These three fundamental types are what sets apart the Omani Khanjar from other variations across the Gulf. These beautiful designs are named after the regions they come from and vary in size, shape, cover and the metals used. The Saidiyah Khanjar, named after its namesake the 19th century Sultan Said Bin Sultan is the largest khanjar and is covered in fine silver. The Dakhiliyah Khanjar was originally made with an ivory handle with sheet decorated in silver. The Sharqiyah is smaller in size, lighter in weight and exude elegance. The Al Batini Khanjar originates from the coastal regions in the north of Al Batinah while the Al Batini Khanjar is on the smaller side and is delicate in appearance.
Depending on the materials used, the Omani Khanjar is a symbol of status. A sheath made with gold is typically limited to the Omani upper class. White Ivory handles and sheaths are favoured by the Sayyids or the Hashemites affirming their revered place in their communities. Depending on the preferences of the wearer, a Khanjar is handmade and can take anywhere from three weeks to several months to complete. The international ban on ivory and rhinoceros horn prompted craftsmen to look to other materials such as wood, plastic and camel bone for the handles. The top of the hilt is usually flat but the royal family favours a tip in the shape of a cross.
Regardless of the materials used or where it was made, the Omani Khanjar remains a powerful symbol of Omani culture and celebrates the skill of Omani craftsmanship throughout the generations.