Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
These 'thuluth' (heavy Islamic script often used in architectural decoration) etched blades are in my opinion from the latter Mahdist period under the Khalifa and believed to have been decorated at the workshops of Omdurman. There were many tribal factions from other African regions brought in for the Khalifas forces, and in order to facilitate the talismanic and magical properties that recalled 'the Sword of the Mahdi', the use of this dramatic theme was applied. This was also well known in use by Mamluks who were previously well established in these regions.
The characters are indeed verses from the Quran, applied in repetition in most cases, but often along with other phrases and invocations. It has often been disputed whether these weapons were actually to be used, or whether they served as standards or rallying point weapons. It seems that many of the indigenous weapons of the many tribes mentioned became part of the armory of weapons of these forces, and this accounts for the wide variety of arms not typically regarded as Sudanese. Many examples of these are found also thuluth covered, and it is thought these may have been awarded to the chiefs or leaders of these factions.
However, I believe that these weapons were typically intended for use, as I know one I have is with reasonably sharp blade, and it is with the brass guard which is typically seen as an element on these. There have been debates as to these thuluth covered weapons being 'tourist souvenirs', however I have seen numbers of accounts of the Battle of Kerrari (Omdurman, 1898) where these were seen among the debris after the battle.