Arms & Armour

Arms & Armour

One of the oldest known surviving documents that references the use of gunpowder is Chinese and dates from AD 1044. This formula for gunpowder was eventually passed through nearby India and then Persia before reaching the Arabs, with the first reported use of gunpowder in Europe occurring during an Arab siege in Spain in AD 1324. It is this use of gunpowder and firearms that ultimately allowed the Ottoman Turks to crush the armies of Aq Qoyunlu, the Safavids, Mamluks and Eastern Europe in the 15th and 16th century AD. The Mamluk Sultanate, like most Muslim states of the Middle East at this time, intensely disliked the use of firearms in warfare and resisted their adoption until they were eventually defeated by the Ottomans. Upon the Mamluk Amir Kurtbay’s defeat at the battle of Marj Dabiq in AD 1516, he was brought before the Ottoman Sultan Selim the Grim and is recorded to have lamented “We are the people who do not discard the Sunna (practices) of our Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), which is the jihad (Holy War) for the sake of Allah with sword and lace. And woe to thee! How darest thou shoot firearms at Muslims?”. The success that the Ottomans enjoyed on the battlefield is what lead to the adoption of firearms across the Islamic world and India. The importance of the adoption and use of firearms in the Near and Middle East cannot be cannot be underestimated, with their use ultimately working to shape the history of the entire region.

The Tareq Rajab Museum houses an important collection of arms and armour. As well as a collection of swords, daggers and armour, the most notable part of the arms & armour collection is the Islamic firearms, of which there are over 150 from Spain to South-East Asia and almost every country in between. Notable firearms include an exceptionally fine pair of gold inlaid, silver-gilt-mounted Turkish flintlock holster pistols (AD 1800), a magnificent Algerian miquelet flintlock gun, silver-mounted and inlaid with hundreds of fine shaped pink corals (AD 1793) and a remarkable gold-mounted Malayan matchlock gun (AD 1700). 

Other notable objects in the Museum, aside from the extensive firearms collection include a beautiful intricately carved buffalo-hide and leather shield from India (AD 1886) along with a number of Arabian swords and daggers constructed with the use of precious metals, and many intricately designed gun powder flasks.

Collection Highlights

A few examples of the notable objects housed in the museum

Click on each image for more details!

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