Yemeni Tuza Jambiya

AN38 Yemeni Tuza Jambiya

Code: AN38

Here is an older tuza jambiya (janbiya) from Yemen (pre-1920). The thumah style scabbard extends downward without the strong degree of curvature found in the 'aseeb style scabbard. The thumah ends in a traditional silver-ball type decoration called a "kawthara". An exquisite silver plate, called a "tuza", decorates the thumah scabbard. On the rear of the thumah is found a small metal piece bearing the name of the creator. This confirms a date of manufacture prior to 1920 when it became forbidden to sign jewelry of any kind in Yemen. This type of jambiya is sometimes referred to as a tuza.

The tuza jambiya was reserved for the religious elite of the country, including those who claimed direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad. Imams and those especially learned individuals who served as judges, teachers or administrators for the Imam also wore the thumah. The thumah-scabbard of dignitaries and townsmen of high degree (seyyids and qådis) is often dark, offering high contrast with the ornate silver decoration.

Most tribesmen in Yemen prefer to wear their jambiya vertically in the front, stuck through their belt, often leaning outward at an angle up to 30 degrees from the body. In contrast, those wearing a tuza jambiya set it diagonally at the front of the belt, slanted from the wearer's upper left to lower right. All of these features of the jambiyas and their manner of wear send strong social signals within the culture of Yemen.

This jambiya was likely created by a Jewish silversmith of Yemen prior to the migration of Yemen's Jewish population to Israel in 1949/50. It may be much older. In Yemen, work with silver and jewelry was restricted almost exclusively to Jewish craftsman. The few Muslim silversmiths were frequently descendants of Jewish familites that convered to Islam.  In Yemen, excellent silver smithery is still praised by the phrase "ami yuhudi" (Jewish work). 

Read more about Janbiya / jambiya in my collection.

More jambiya in my collection