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Nimcha (Saber) with Scabbard MET DP164599.jpg
One of the oldest Nimcha on display, with a blade from the 16th century, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Type Sword
Place of origin Morocco, or Algeria
Service history
In service16th to 19th century
Used by15th to 16th century:
Flag of Morocco (1258-1659).svg Marinid Sultanate
Flag of the kingdom of tlemcen.svg Kingdom of Tlemcen
Hafsid Flag - Tunisia.svg Hafsid Kingdom
16th to 19th century:
Flag of Morocco (1666-1915).svg Kingdom of Morocco
AlgierRegency2.svg Deylik of Algiers
Tunisian flag till 1831.svg Beylik of Tunis

A Nimcha is a single-handed sword from north Africa, especially used in Morocco and Algeria, [1] [2] a type of scimitar or saif. [3] Becoming popular in north Africa during the 16th century, surviving nimcha are usually from the late 18th century onward and are notable for often using older blades. Stylistically they often bore Arabian type handles with tugrah inscribed on the blade. [4]



an old depiction of hafsid sultan of tunis holding a nimcha Houghton Typ 630.45.277 - Mulay Hasans, 1645.jpg
an old depiction of hafsid sultan of tunis holding a nimcha

Blades on Nimcha came in a variety of forms, and were often imported from Europe. Always of a single edge variety the two main forms were either a short generally more deeply curved 'cutlass style', or a longer more slender form that sometimes bore a clipped point. [5]

Nimcha also have distinct hilts that sport forward pointing quillions, which end in a 'bud' style. The wooden handles are flat sided and squared off at an almost 90 degree "hooked" pommel. The blade and hilt are attached by a stud located on the top of the pommel The cross guard will often have a knuckle guard which starts beneath the quillions and runs to the bottom of the pommel in a distinct 'squared off' fashion; on the opposite side of the hilt this path is normally continued into a 3rd quillion.


Nimcha were popular both on the land and among sailors. As a result of seafarers this style of sword was popularized in far off southern Arabia, Yemen, and Zanzibar. [6] Each of these areas had Nimchas which varied slightly in design, for example Zanzibari swords have more sharply bent handles, a finger guard shaped like a "D", and a turtle shaped cap on the pommel securing the blade and hilt. [5]

In Arabia Nimchas were regularly used as a gift. [7]

Barbary corsairs also preferred this sword, [8] and army units such as the Black Guard and the Odjak of Algiers also equipped their troops with nimchas.

Related Research Articles

A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.

Hilt Handle of a sword or similar weapon

The hilt of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel.

A longsword is a type of European sword characterized as having a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use, a straight double-edged blade of around 85 to 110 cm, and weighing approximately 1 to 1.5 kg.

The spatha was a type of straight and long sword, measuring between 0.5 and 1 m, with a handle length between 18 and 20 cm, in use in the territory of the Roman Empire during the 1st to 6th centuries AD. Later swords, from the 7th to 10th centuries, like the Viking swords, are recognizable derivatives and sometimes subsumed under the term spatha.

<i>Jian</i> Chinese double-edged sword

The jian is a double-edged straight sword used during the last 2,500 years in China. The first Chinese sources that mention the jian date to the 7th century BCE, during the Spring and Autumn period; one of the earliest specimens being the Sword of Goujian. Historical one-handed versions have blades varying from 45 to 80 centimeters in length. The weight of an average sword of 70-centimetre (28-inch) blade-length would be in a range of approximately 700 to 900 grams. There are also larger two-handed versions used for training by many styles of Chinese martial arts.

Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, which is a type of sword.

Talwar Sword

The talwar, also spelled talwaar and tulwar, is a type of curved sword or sabre from the Indian subcontinent.

The Swiss sabre is a type of two-handed sabre design that was popular in Early Modern Switzerland.

Viking sword Sword

The Viking Age sword or Carolingian sword is the type of sword prevalent in Western and Northern Europe during the Early Middle Ages.

Oakeshott typology Medieval sword classification system

The Oakeshott typology is a way to define and catalogue the medieval sword based on physical form. It categorises the swords of the European Middle Ages into 13 main types, labelled X through XXII. The historian and illustrator Ewart Oakeshott introduced it in his 1960 treatise The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry.


The shashka or shasqua, is a kind of sabre; single-edged, single-handed, and guardless backsword. In appearance, the shashka is midway between a typically curved sabre and a straight sword. It has a slightly curved blade, and can be effective for both cutting and thrusting.

Parrying dagger

The parrying dagger is a category of small handheld weapons from the European late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. These weapons were used as off-hand weapons in conjunction with a single-handed sword such as a rapier. As the name implies they were designed to parry, or defend, more effectively than a simple dagger form, typically incorporating a wider guard, and often some other defensive features to better protect the hand as well. They may also be used for attack if an opportunity arises. The general category includes two more specific types, the sword breaker and trident dagger.

Migration Period sword Sword

The Migration Period sword was a type of sword popular during the Migration Period and the Merovingian period of European history, particularly among the Germanic peoples and was derived from the Roman era spatha. It later gave rise to the Carolingian or Viking sword type of the 8th to 11th centuries AD.

Scimitar Sword

In English the word scimitar refers to a backsword or sabre with a curved blade. Adapted from the Italian word scimitarra in the mid 16th century from an unknown source, the word became used for all 'Oriental' blades which were curved, compared to the more commonly straight and double edged European swords of the time. This is apparent in Thomas Page's The Use of the Broad Sword. Published: 1746:

"The Sword was of enormous length and breadth, heavy and unweildy, design'd only for right down chopping by the Force of a strong Arm; till Time and Experience discovering the Disadvantages, by Degrees contracted its Length and lighten'd its Weight in to the more handy Form of the Scymitar; which was first invented by the Eastern Nations, and has continued to be their principal Weapon to this Day:....""The Saracens, Turks and Persians, made use of but three different Throws with the Scymitar, and one of those, only on Horseback; the other two on Foot."

Claymore Sword

A claymore is either the Scottish variant of the late medieval two-handed sword or the Scottish variant of the basket-hilted sword. The former is characterised as having a cross hilt of forward-sloping quillons with quatrefoil terminations and was in use from the 15th to 17th centuries.

Basket-hilted sword Sword with basket-like hand protection

The basket-hilted sword is a sword type of the early modern era characterised by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand. The basket hilt is a development of the quillons added to swords' crossguards since the Late Middle Ages. In modern times, this variety of sword is also sometimes referred to as the broadsword.

The Moplah sword is a sword used by the Muslim population in the Malabar Coast in southwestern India.

In the European High Middle Ages, the typical sword was a straight, double-edged weapon with a single-handed, cruciform hilt and a blade length of about 70 to 80 centimetres. This type is frequently depicted in period artwork, and numerous examples have been preserved archaeologically.

Arab sword

The Saif, sometimes simply called Arabian sword, has its origins in Arabia prior to the 7th century. Not much is known about this particular weapon, other than what Al-Kindi wrote in his treatise On Swords in the 9th century.

Turko-Mongol sabers Cavalry Sabre

These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 8th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context.


  1. David G. Alexander (31 December 2015). Islamic Arms and Armor in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 179. ISBN   978-1-58839-570-2.
  2. Tristan Arbousse Bastide (2008). Du couteau au sabre. Archaeopress. p. 129. ISBN   978-1-4073-0253-9.
  3. Zaky, A. Rahman (1961). "Introduction to the Study of Islamic Arms and Armour". Gladius. I: 17–29. doi: 10.3989/gladius.1961.211 .
  4. Mohamed, Bashir (2008). The Art of the Muslim Knights: The Furusyya Art Foundation Collection. p. 77. ISBN   978-8876248771.
  5. 1 2 Buttin, Charles (1933). Catalogue de la collection d'armes anciennes. Rumilly.
  6. Elgood, Robert (1994). The Arms and Armour of Arabia in the 18Th-19th and 20th Centuries. ISBN   978-0859679725.
  7. Journal. 1851.
  8. Cordingly, David (1998). Pirates: Terror on the High Seas, from the Caribbean to the South China Sea. JG Press. ISBN   978-1-57215-264-9.