How far would you go to transform a national symbol? Would you be willing to study it, redesign it and rework it until you created something so unique that you could patent it? Well, if you are Sameer al Zadjali you would, and you would be just as proud. Oman born and Indian educated, Sameer, like many nationals, returned to his birthplace to start something very Omani, something local, and he could not have picked something more iconic than the national symbol that at some point adorned the head of every man in the sultanate.
Sameer went to India to study when he was just four years old and stayed there until he was almost 19. “I was always fascinated by my older brother's mussar and asked him how to tie it, especially since I had never learned how to, despite being Omani,” said Sameer as he explained why he embarked on his ambitious goal. “The beauty and craftsmanship of the cloth used for the Omani turban is something that is mostly lost when we tie it. I found that although the entire turban, unfolded, was exquisite, only 30 per cent of the design was visible. It was a terrible waste and, as I learnt later, a travesty on the time and effort that artisans invest in making them.”
With the support of his family, especially his parents, and his close friends, Sameer started working on a way to better the mussar. He bought ten plain white headscarves and tied them, one by one, asking his mother and sisters to mark the different sections that emerged after tying them with numbers. “When I unfolded that first one, I was shocked. The numbers were all over, spread mos-tly on the edges and corners,” said Sameer. He used this framework to start designing patterns that would adorn his mussars.
“I went through seven white headscarves until I got it right with the eighth,” said Sameer. Once he had his design, it was off to see how mussars are made, and that meant a trip to a tiny village in Kashmir, where generations of artisans and weavers have been making traditional mussars and Kashmiri turbans. Sameer spent a fortnight with them - with temperatures often falling below 0°C - learning about the dyeing and stitching processes. “If you go there and see how hard they work to produce such wonderful pieces of art, you would feel for them, too. That is why I was so keen on my new design; more than 90 per cent of the art is seen and people can truly appreciate the artwork and the effort that goes into making mussars,” said Sameer.
He returned to Oman with a newly designed mussar and a new company, Paradise Muscat Trading, and approached the Oman Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) - the authority responsible for granting patents and intellectual copyrights in the sultanate. “When I approached the official, he quizzically enquired as to what exactly I was trying to do. After I explained the new design and tied my mussar in front of him, he was astounded.” After some paperwork, Sameer became the first Omani to acquire a patent from MOCI and his patent was the first that the ministry had issued.
“I have a deep connection with India, and after seeing the artisans in Kashmir - sometimes entire generations under one roof, all working on their own projects - my connection grew even more. I really want to help them and show people their exquisite work. But most of all, I hope that one day I can bring them here, to Oman, and train Omanis to make mussars like this. Then it will be a truly national symbol, made in Oman, by Omanis for Omanis.”