Muscat: Haji Baba, fondly known as Cap Haji in and around Muttrah and Muscat, has forgotten for how long has he been making and selling the traditional hand-stitched Omani caps in Oman.
"I don't remember the exact year when I started making Omani caps. May be for the last 30 years...I am not sure. It has been a long time. I have hundreds of regular customers. Everyone loves my cap. They know it is unique," Haji Baba, who migrated to Oman from Karachi in search of a job in early 1970s, told the Times of Oman.
According to Haji Baba, who is also not sure of his age, claims that he came to Oman when he was 19 or 20. But he is sure that he arrived in Oman the very next year after His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said came to power. "I am bad when it comes to remembering dates. When I came I was desperately looking for a job. I had only a little money to survive. So, finding a job was important for me. However, some good Omani friends helped me a lot. Slowly, I started making carpets, something I had learnt from my father. Carpet making was our family business. So, I was confident about making unique pieces here in Oman, too," Haji Baba, who used to walk several kilometres along unpaved roads carrying carpets on both his shoulders for sale during those days, said.
Even though, Haji Baba was into weaving and selling carpets, he slowly tried his luck in making caps.
"Making caps was not a new thing for me. The lessons I learnt in weaving and designing carpets helped me a lot. I even design and stitch multi-colour caps. I have weaved 13 colours in one cap, which was a hot item among Omanis. Still, some who have bought those caps, use it only for special occasions," Haji Baba added.
Haji Baba makes caps by outsourcing these to women.
"I select the material and design and instruct them how to make it. I am quite strict in this aspect because I don't want to compromise on the uniqueness of Haji Caps," Haji Baba said.
Haji Baba also has made limited edition caps.
"Once I made 50 caps with special designs and goldwork. It was sold like hot items. Even though, there was a demand from customers to make more, I didn't. Limited editions cannot be repeated," Haji Baba added.
Haji, who is married to a Filipina lady and has fathered three children, had applied to the ministry to procure an Omani citizenship long back.
"I came here when I was young. I used to play football with Omani friends when this area was deserted. It used to take more than two hours in a car to reach Muttrah from the airport. Now, things have changed. I earned my bread and butter by working here. I am witness to Oman's growth. I would love to be an Omani citizen. Hope I may get it soon," Haji Baba said.
Haji Baba's caps are sold for OMR17 apiece.
"Some come and bargain. Even though it causes me a loss, nowadays, I sell these to them at a price of OMR15. Business should go on," Haji Baba added.
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