Yemen Symbolism, Al Jambiya (جنبية)

Store Display of Jambiyas in Market

Store Display of Jambiyas in Market

Yemen, the Arab Felix which is fundamentally unknown by most is not an undiscovered region but merely overlooked. The hidden jewels of this marvelous country vast from every region within it.  One of the most prevalent symbol’s representing lineage,  culture, and economical status is the Jambiya (جنبية).    Al Jambiya, also spelled janbia, or jambia, (Arabic: جنبية‎ janbīyah), is the Arabic term for dagger, but it is generally used to describe a specific type of dagger with a short curved blade that is worn on a belt.  Typically this belt is worn with a thoob which is the middle eastern long dress worn by males.  Jambiya is widely available in the middle east but predominantly worn as daily attire in Yemen.

The Jambiyas range in colors and styles.  The handle which holds the blade can come in multiple colors but mainly ranges between a yellowish to dark brown appearance.  The price of the Jambiya is not only determined by its fancy casing or size of the blade but mainly by the handle’s origin.   The handle can be made of wood, animal horn, or silver.  The cheaper of the three is the wood version which can be bought for as low as 10 dollars american – 6000 dollars or more depending on the it’s quality.



The majority of the nation is under the poverty scale and more than likely would purchase a wooden handle due to its affordability.   A large amount of Yemeni’s however, will save their money to purchase a more expensive Jambiya as it represents their self worth within a society.

Jambiya represents a man’s style but more importantly his lineage and culture.   A person would purchase a more expensive Jambiya to represent his lineage of being of a class that is substantially higher than others.  A persons tribe may even wear a specific type of Jambiya to represent the origins of background.  The Jambiya stands for the Yemeni Culture as an iconic image of Manhood or masculinity.  Al Jambiya is an integral part of the Yemeni Culture and will remain the icon of our culture.



4 replies »

  1. I have always heard it referred to as “jambiya” but I noticed that it is “janbiyah” in Arabic. I would like to purchase one made in Yemen, not China or India. Is there anyone in the US who handles imports? Thank you. شكرا


    • Yes, it’s a Janbiyah but may also be pronounced was an M instead. Different dialects may pronounce it slightly different. They have official Jambiya being sold in old souk style markets in UAE, there was a Yemen market in Dubai’s Global Village that sold Yemeni Jambiyas. Also, you can find official Jambiya on ebay, look for the ones that say “Yemen” in title.


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