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Elevating woodworking into an art form


Sitting in his modern workshop surrounded by the trappings of his trade, Moosa al Zaabi is hard at work on an exquisite piece of household furniture that he knows will eventually find a home in a chic villa or residential apartment.

MOX.WOOD, as his outfit is called, is not the typical carpentry workshop. It’s distinctly upmarket in its product offering and quality — the realisation of the entrepreneur’s dream to fashion functional works of art from wood.

But MOX.WOOD, an up-and-coming Omani woodworking brand, is more than just the story of a young Omani with a passion to succeed in a field that is decidedly off-the-beaten track for people like Moosa. It’s also a story that speaks of enterprise, resolve and agility.

Sharing his remarkable story with the Observer, Moosa says his current trade as a woodworking specialist was, in part, the culmination of many twists and turns in his educational pathway.

Following the completion of his schooling in his native Al Khabourah, the youngster moved to Dubai where he obtained a diploma from the Academy of Technical Training for Aviation Management and Safety. Travelling onward to the UK, he studied Environmental Health and Safety and also acquired an armful of qualifications in, among other areas, NEBOSH, IOSH, First Aid, VIP Protection Security, SIA Security and even Dog Handling.

It was during his stay in Britain that an innate interest in carpentry was rekindled and fostered into a rewarding career, says Moosa. Trained and mentored by British woodworkers, the young apprentice worked on his woodworking skills till he was satisfied that they would hold him in good stead if he chose to open a workshop upon his return to the Sultanate of Oman.

MOX.WOOD became a reality in the summer of 2017. The brand name derives from ‘Mox’ — an affectionate nickname that Moosa earned from his friends in the UK. Located in the Wilayat of Al Khabourah the workshop currently specialises in the crafting of wooden doors, roofs, chairs, tables, kitchen units, cupboards, beds and other pieces of furniture.

Over the years, Moosa has seen his carpentry business thrive and grow, necessitating the relocation of his workshop to more expansive settings to include a training centre, showroom and office as well. Going forward, he also plans to position MOX.WOOD as the leading woodworking brand in the Sultanate of Oman before exploring options to establish a presence in overseas markets as well.

Part of his longer-term vision is to elevate MOX.WOOD into a centre of excellence where young Omanis can acquire international-class qualifications in woodworking.

“I have a strong desire to educate people who are interested in carpentry work’’, Moosa explains. “My primary objective is to empower Omanis, and especially the youth of Oman to look at careers outside of the traditional areas of office work. Working in construction using wood brings a new avenue of growth, and skill sets for our workforce, instead of relying on international labour. Omanis have the potential to be self-sufficient in this trade, which in turn allows us to be independent financially and technically.”

Moosa strongly believes that young Omanis should learn the basics of woodwork so they can be self-sufficient when they need to do certain jobs around their homes. “Learning how to re balance a door, fix a fence, put shelves up, use power tools in a safe way are all good examples of DIY. This will help to save money and avoid the hassle of bringing someone in to do these jobs. In England I observed a broad spectrum of people from ladies to teenagers doing gardening and DIY work around the house, without the need for external support. There’s no reason why we can’t empower our whole Omani community to be able to help themselves in these small activities.”

MOX.WOOD, he adds, is a signature woodworking brand — a standard made possible by the procurement of equipment and hardware from leading international suppliers. “To guarantee the quality of my work, I decided to import machinery, accessories and materials from the UK, which was hugely expensive’’, he said.

However, while the demand for his specialist services continues to be strong, a big dampener is the high cost of wood, materials and tools, he laments. Adding to his woes has been the pandemic and its aftermath, with the prices of wood, paint and aluminium having quadrupled since the outbreak. Availability of some supplies has also been proving problematic on occasion.

“In the circumstance, we had to stockpile raw materials which required a large investment. That, combined with the market conditions and limited ability to work due to the lockdown in place at the time, presented cash flow issues. However, the market is now reopening and we are starting to rebuild the business once again’’, Moosa noted.

An accomplished craftsman, Moosa’s woodworking skills are evident in a range of homes and projects that were undertaken in the UK during his stay there — work that is now showcased on MOX.WOOD’s social media platforms. The brand has also represented the Sultanate of Oman at the International Carving Association’s event in Bahrain, and the Wood Maker Fair in Muscat as well.

But long-term, Moosa aims to create wooden homes that amount to works of art. “My goal is to bring alive the dreams of people who wish to live in wooden cabins amid the beautiful outdoors. This will give me a sense of purpose and accomplishment’’, he remarks.

The talented woodworker’s fascination with wooden cabins began in the UK where he and his family visited so many beauty spots and had mini vacations in log cabins. “Taking that ideology and flogging the experiences across Instagram and YouTube sparked so much interest from the Omanis. I wanted to re-create these little pockets of happiness where our own people can step away from their normal life into rustic luxury that our cabins afford.”

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