The flyssa is the typical knife of the Kabyle people, a branch of the Berbers who reside in Algeria and Morocco.  The name “Flyssa” is drawn from the “Iflissen Lebhar”, one of the major tribal confederations of the Kabyle.  The eastern most group of the Kabyle is the At Zouaou who live in the Djurdua range of Little Atlas mountains in NE Algeria. This tribe has specialized as the armorers of the Kabyle and are known as the creators of the flyssa. Among young men of the Kabyle, the acquisition of a flyssa was a rite of passage. 

Elaborate symbolism decorates the flyssa in the form of amuletic geometric figures, and these symbols are a key to the folk religion in these regions. One traditional motif often found includes linear fibular triangles. However, flyssa come in many sizes and decorative details vary. A particular design might be for one individual, or perhaps a group. No two flyssa are alike.

The sword flyssa have unusual weight and balance compared to other swords, leading to much debate regarding the martial techniques used. The long, thin blade and tip suggests suitability for fencing and thrust attack, but the weight of a flyssa is such that they are slow to wield and strong arms are required. Some have said they are a cavalry weapon but the only well known engravings showing flyssa depict dismounted infantry. The oldest flyssa with good provenance is in the French Foreign Legion museum in France, captured in battle with Kabyles in 1857. 

As one collector said, "The flyssa is a very intimidating piece that feels like the kind of last ditch weapon you would want in your belt … or the most substantial letter opener on the planet."

More info about Flyssa


Map of Algeria

Kabyle man with flyssa

Kabyle man with flyssa
19th C French Engraving