Last week, David and I left home early with Robert to go to the Friday market in Sinaw. After a two-hour drive, we arrived, only to discover that the market has been changed to Thursday morning. The souq was bustling with activity, however, so we went in to see what we could find.
But mostly, there were khanjars. These are the knives with curved blades and the curved scabbard that you see on belts of well-dress Omanis and Yemenis. They used to be worn most of the time, but now, they are just for formal occasions. (By the way, those small round things are shields made of rhinoceros hide.) If you know what to look for, you can tell the area where the knife was made and even for which family by the handle and the decoration on the scabbard.
Here is the inside of the shop – with David and Robert at the back checking out the wall of khanjars.These are handles – they are mainly made from sandal wood or bone, although some are horn or ivory. The design is made by tapping small silver nails into the handle.
The sheath is made of wood, and usually covered with of leather, with fine silver wire the thickness of sewing thread either sewn into the holes in the leather, or twisted into ornate designs and soldered to silver or gold plates which are fastened to the leather surface, There will be from two to seven rings – the more rings, the more important the wearer….. seven is reserved for royalty, as is the distinctive cross-shaped Al-Saidi handle.
This is Said Abdullah Al Rashdi – the patriarch of the business. He was really interested in selling this Yemeni khanjar.This is his son, Omar, weighing some gold that a gentleman had come in to buy. He is apparently very knowledgeable about khanjars, as he received this award from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2005.As well as khanjars, he also makes gold and silver jewellery in traditional forms.
This young man was sitting in the shop, watching the proceedings – I’m not sure I even heard him speak other than to greet the shop owners. That is a camel stick in his hands – the men all seem to carry them. They are made of bamboo, and are so flexible that they will bend right into a circle. Some have silver tips and ornamentation.Robert decided to purchase the Yemeni khanjar, as he doesn’t have anything like it in his collection. After a bit of bartering, me playing translator, we proceeded around the souq. I’ll close now and tell you about that later.