"To this day a number of people would rather die than be seen in public without their Jambiyas," said 32 year old famous sheikh of Rada'a tribes, Abdul Wasie Al-Babli. In a society, where deep-rooted traditions still dominate, men have a different way of showing off their power and social class. Society still has a high regard for a person who wears an expensive Jambiya.
People's need to own Jambiyas make the prices of Jambiyas expensive. The price of a Jambiya is in most cases determined by its head; however, the blade, the sheath, and belt's prices can be determined by the kind of material they are made of.
Jambiya's expert in Sana'a market Souk Al-Melh, Abdullah Al-Ezeri said that Jambiya prices easily reach millions in many occasions. "Some people might think it is crazy but when you compare the prices of Jambiyas to those of art paintings, a Jambiya is cheaper, and both are culture," he added.
Asked about the famous sort of Jambiyas Al-Ezeri said:"The one which has Al-Saifani head is the most expensive kind of Jambiya" "It has a dark shining greenish color. When it is clearer, it turns into a yellowish color and this is called Al-Saifani heart," he added.
He also added that some other kinds of Jambiya heads are also significant; among them are Asadi and Zaraf. Al-Basali, is also a kind whose color looks likes a white onion at times.
Al-Saifani Jambiya is often worn by high class people; among them judges, famous merchants, businessmen, and tribal sheikhs. The blades are constructed from steel, the belts are made of tanned leather and decorated with golden threads.
Old Sana'a city locals still believe that decorating the Jambiya's belts with golden threads is a women's job as it takes men longer periods of time to sew one belt. Also, it is still famous for the reason that handmade belts are more expensive than machine made, and have better quality. "My mother has been sewing Jambiya belts since she was still young," said Ali Hamoud. "She enjoys doing this job, because it does not require much action from her. She spends hours of her day sitting down watching television and sewing the Jambiya belts.
Men in Yemen do not commonly wear jewelry, except for silver rings. However, the one exception in which they wear gold is the jewels tucked to their Jambiyas' head. In Islam, men are not allowed to wear gold, as it is considered a metal for women but Islam did allow men to put gold on weapons and this is why gold is allowed on Jambiyas.
Historical facts revealed that Jambiya used to be worn at the times of Sheba thousands of years ago. The statue dating back to the era of Sheba, which was discovered by an American mission in Marib in the 1950s, was found to be wearing a Jambiya on his belt.
Regardless of the importance of the Jambiya, it is still seen as a weapon to many, as people use it in times of dispute. It is also commonly used in traditional events such as dances and weddings. In addition, when individual or tribal disputes break out, the Jambiya is used as a means of mediation, which is called in Yemen (Al-Tahkim).
Even though it is a strong symbol of the Yemeni culture, it is illegal for government employees to wear their Jambiyas during working hours. However, judges and sheikhs are exempted from this law.
Most Jambiyas in Yemen come from Africa. The animal that is killed to take its horns and form the Jambiya is the rhinoceros. This action has brought down the number of rhinos and fear of its extinction rises. To preserve rhino horns from extinction, the government has been trying to encourage the use of garnet, a local dark red stone, instead of animal horns to make Jambiya handles.
Experts in the General Environment Protection Authority and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), urged craftsmen to replace rhinoceros horn with alternative materials in their daggers.
From his part, Chairman of General Authority for Environment Protection Eng. Mahmoud Mohamed Shidawa said that trading of rhino horns is banned in accordance with international agreements. "Yemen has joined all international agreement, which organizes trade causing animals' extinction.
After Yemeni craftsmen use all the smuggled rhino horns for Jambiya handles, leftover shavings and powder are then re-exported illegally to East Asia for traditional medical purposes. It is believed that the texture, a fine hairy powder, of rhino horn is mixed with different medicines to make them stronger. Sources mentioned that one kg of unprocessed rhino horn is worth nearly USD 1,000.
Pharmaceutical reports said that aspirin was proven to work better when rhino horn powder is added to its components.
An international report said that Yemen imports 1,500 kilograms of rhino horns each year, and at least one rhino is killed every five days. Also, the report included a concern over the water buffalo extinction for dagger purposes.