Exploring the UAE's Heritage through the Iconic Dagger

Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

A collection of historic photographs of Emarati daggers (2020) by Dubai cultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Bayt Al Khanyar Museum (‘The House of Daggers’ Museum) hosts a collection of rare Emirati daggers dating back to various periods in history. Daggers hold a significant place in the history and cultural tapestry of the United Arab Emirates.

Bayt Al Khanyar showcases a unique collection of historic photographs that tell the story of daggers and their importance throughout history.

Bayt Al Khanyar Museum houses more than 1,500 photographs of the members of the ruling families, illustrating the ancient legacy of the Emirati dagger.

1500 photographs of the members of the ruling families (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Founded by researcher Abdullah Thani Al Matroushi, the museum takes visitors on a journey to the past through its collections of some of the oldest daggers, dating back 80 years.

The dagger parts consist of the handle, mostly made of ivory or wood (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The museum also organizes activities like workshops on making daggers in their ancient forms.

One of the collection of khanjar in Bayt Al Khanjar (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The dagger has been associated with the history of Islamic and Emirati crafts and traditions. The Khanyar has woven chapters of creativity in many fields that are closely linked to the region’s roots.

The details of the dagger in Bayt Al Khanjar (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The dagger, in general, is a weapon with a shorter blade than a sword. It was an essential piece complementing the attire of Emirati men in the past. 

One of the collection of khanjar in Bayt Al Khanjar (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Daggers were made to order, with specifications subject to the vision of the craftsman, in consultation with the intended owner of the piece.

The details of the dagger in Bayt Al Khanjar (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Both parties would agree about the details of its parts, which consist of the handle, mostly made of ivory or wood; the sheath known locally as ‘the chest’; the blade made of gold or silver, which bears various inscriptions and decorations; the belt, woven from cotton or natural leather and hand-embroidered with gold and silver threads, representing the ultimate craftsmanship.

The details of the dagger in Bayt Al Khanjar (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The Emirati dagger is distinguished from other daggers from Oman, Yemen or the Levant region, as it is thinner, longer and its lower part is more curved. In general, it is smaller in size, and its inscriptions are completely different from other daggers.

Bayt Al Khanyar Museum hallways (2020) by Dubai cultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

In the hallways of Bayt Al Khanyar Museum, a photograph is on display of the oldest known Emirati dagger, worn by the late Sheikh Zayed the First in Abu Dhabi. The photograph was taken in 1904 by the German explorer Hermann Burchardt.

Bayt Al Khanjar Museum and the different types of daggers it contains (2020) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The oldest known video of an Emirati dagger was captured in Dubai, belonging to the late Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, in 1937.

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