Omani/Mandingo kattara

length: 33"
blade: 26"
blade width: 15/16" base
grip: 7"

The ongoing saga of a well-traveled cross cultural weapon:

My initial identification of this sword, in February 2001, was that it was "from Oman or one of the other Persian Gulf area Islamic countries, 18th or 19th century. Flat steel blade with single wide fuller on each side, wooden grip over-sewn with leather, brass pommel. You can see where the swordsmith peened the end of the tang through the pommel. May have been a light European blade rehilted for Arabic purposes. Tooled leather scabbard in very good condition. Circa 1700's or early 1800's."

Late in April I was exchanging some email with a nice fellow with a .om address who had more to explain about these blades (he had asked about the mountings on the scabbard):

"Hi Hal I have been collecting Omani swords and khunjars for about 25 years and live in Oman. I put together the largest collection of Omani swords anywhere (over 100) and which is now housed in a private museum here. I have probably bought and sold several times that!!
The reason why I asked about the mounts was because there are some very old ones which are in brass and which have Islamic calligraphy. In that case the mounts are valuable, never mind the sword!
I have not seen one with a leather button, very unusual, although I could not say how durable that would be. Mounts are usually silver, brass, steel.
The tooled leather scabbard shows that it is a genuine piece made and used in the interior of Oman. The coastal pieces were generally more refined and had string work scabbards.
The blades are nearly always European and Solingen blades from Germany, 16th and 17th century are still available in swords here but you need to know what you are looking for! Most prized is a named and dated sword, the Portuguese held the several coastal towns from 1540 to 1650 and I have had 2 swords which are dated "1640 Lisboa" and with "Lourenco de cavalho" on the reverse."

And here's a note received in September from Artzi Yarom of Oriental-Arms(Antique Asian and African Weapons):

"A while ago we were corresponding on your curved Kattara. I suggested that it is a Mandingo sword, and with your permission I wish to elaborate on it somewhat more: Most of the Omani Kattara will have a straight blade. See for example:
The Kattara will be characterized by the shape of the hilt (wide near the blade heel and gradually narrowing toward the pommel) and the heavy square pommel used as counter-balance to the long heavy blade (usually the older ones). The scabbard is mostly leather with metal fittings. The decoration of the grip is characterized by the leather strips interlaced or braided with silver wire or brass wires or strips. Very seldom you find a kattara with a curved (saber shaped) blade. I recently found one, see:, (which BTW raised again my interest in your sword). In your sword, except from the square heavy pommel, everything else is "screaming" Mandingo: The leather covered grip with the side stitching, the construction and materials used for the leather scabbard (partially seen near the scabbard mouth which is slightly damaged), the style of the scabbard mouth partially covering the hilt and above all the leather buttons on the scabbard.
May I suggest that it was originally a Kattara blade that lost all its fittings, scabbard and grip, and only the square pommel (which as you correctly noticed is riveted to the tang) is left. It reached somehow the central west Sahara and was fitted by a local craftsman with the local style hilt and fittings."