Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Have a Dagger

The silver dagger at the top and steel dagger in the middle are by
Mohammed. The leather-wrapped dagger is by Houcine.
They range from 16" to 18" long.

Mohammed at work in Shop #34 of the
dagger makers' cooperative in Kalaa,
a space he shares with Houcine.
Tok, tok, tok is the characteristic sound of my village. Heard from morning till night, it comes from the workshops of the dagger-makers all over town. Tok, tok, tok…tok, tok, tok
The village I live in is the center of dagger-making in Morocco. It just so happens that my host father is the patriarch of dagger-makers in the town. And all of his sons – my host brothers – are dagger-makers, too. So it was clear to me, from my first day here, that before I left I would buy a dagger from my family as a memento. As it turns out, I haven’t been able to stop at one. I now have three.

Two were made by my eldest brother, Mohammed, who is regarded as the top craftsman in the region. The other is by another of my brothers, Houcine, who’s right up there with him. My camera and photographic ability don’t do it justice, but the craftsmanship is amazing. I love to watch the dagger-makers as they sit at their anvils making perfect circles, arabesques, and symmetrical patterns freehand with metal punches and tiny hammers on little sheets of metal which they will later solder onto the handle or sheath.
Houcine taps a design into a piece of steel
that will become a part of a dagger's
Of the two by Mohammed, one is made of the usual material, steel, and is entirely new. The other is rarer. It has an antique blade, about 200 years old, to which he added a new sheath and handle made of silver and brass, decorated with fine, traditional designs. The dagger by Houcine is wrapped in alternating bands of leather and metal, a technique unique to him. This was his first piece made this way, though he has since made several more daggers and some letter openers and pens using the technique.
Some of my notes on dagger terminology.

The reverse side of the silver dagger.


  1. Hey, I thought this was the PEACE Corps- daggers?

  2. Remember the old Peacemaker missiles? Same thing, I guess, but with more artistry.

    One of the interesting things about these daggers is that the top of the blade has the longer sharpened edge - the better to cut your throat with.