Watch: Janbiya Dagger Making in Najran, Saudi Arabia

Worn as proud adornments, janbiya daggers are a rite of passage in Saudi Arabia’s Najran.

The dagger workshop is located right in the middle of Najran’s market, next to other shops doing the same craft. From early in the morning, craftspeople are busy forging, sharpening and shining blades. Almost all of the men walking past have a janbiya in the thick belt around their waist over a white thobe. The daggers are protected by beautifully decorated sheaths, made from light wood and draped in colourful fabric, leather or embellished metal. Their decorations vary but the form remains the same: the characteristically sharp and curved U-shape.

The roots of the janbiya have a long history – they have been worn in this region since at least 500 BCE, originally as a weapon to defend against feral animals and enemies. Today, the dagger is rarely taken out from its sheath, but remains a precious accessory and symbol of honour – worn with pride and passed down through the generations.

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