Piecing the Alamut Puzzle Together

By Nadir Mackwani

“Jigsaw puzzles help toddlers to develop their concentration, patience, sense of logic and observation. They allow their players to observe the picture in all its details, even the smallest…I hope the idea will receive a warm welcome from the Ismailis.”

The box set containing the 1000 Jigsaw Puzzle pieces for the Rock of Alamut, manufactured by Sindbad Puzzle. Image: Nadir Mackwani, Founder and Manager. Website: http://www.sindbad-puzzle.com

The box set containing the 1000 Jigsaw Puzzle pieces for the Rock of Alamut, manufactured by Sindbad Puzzle. Image: Nadir Mackwani, Founder and Manager. Website: http://www.sindbad-puzzle.com

As you can see from my educational background, I have always been interested in Islamic civilisation and arts. Within this framework, I sought to combine my extracurricular interest in jigsaw puzzles with my field of study. Therefore, I set out in search for puzzles featuring Islamic monuments and paintings. I wanted to introduce both to my children so that they might also develop some knowledge, admiration and appreciation for Islamic arts and architecture in an entertaining way. I particularly love Persian miniatures and Indian paintings from the Mughal period. To me, these pieces of art might also be presented in jigsaw puzzles, just as are the paintings of Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Hokusai and consorts, more so to learn about their details and art form, when piecing them together.

Where were these jigsaw puzzles to be found?

Nowhere. Failing to find any, I decided to create my own!

Months of hard work followed, as I began selecting paintings (all from prestigious manuscripts). Additionally there were considerations when obtaining commercial rights from museums, researching details about manufacturers, dealing with unexpected problems related to framing and sizing, including trying to preserve the pictures during the printing process without losing the genuine feel.

Then, boxes for the puzzles had to be designed, and a website created. Further details are still to be arranged, but to my delight, a first result has recently been accomplished.

The product has complied with the best standards of quality. The pieces are solid, the image glossy. The size for 1000 pieces puzzles is : 48 x 68 cm. ( 18.9″ x 26.8″ ). Once completed, one recommendation is to frame the puzzle for it might decorate a room with taste and art.

In this collection, I wanted to highlight the beauty and the diversity of Islamic art without leaving behind the legacy of Ismailism. Our collection of jigsaw puzzles displays beautiful presentations of the Kaaba during pilgrimage, the Dome of the Rock, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture (the monograph of Oleg Grabar on this monument is a must read), the beauty of the Islamic calligraphy with the Shahada in the shape of a man in prayer, the Basmallah in the shape of a fruit.

The Rock of Alamut – the completed 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Some smaller puzzles, 40 pieces, feature Arabic calligraphy. They also conform to the CE* regulations related to safety and have been tested in laboratory. An amazing picture of Alamut in its impressive surrounding is part of this collection. My hope is to also create puzzles of the Fort of Baltit, the al-Azhar Mosque, the mausoleum of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah overlooking the Nile river in Aswan, and perhaps the Mosque of Mahdia. But this will be possible only, of course, if there is market for this creative endeavor, and I hope the idea will receive a warm welcome from the Ismailis.

Jigsaw puzzles are not traditionally played in the Ismaili families. Many parents fail to understand their educational and entertaining value. Jigsaw puzzles help toddlers to develop their concentration, patience, sense of logic and observation. They allow their players to observe the picture in all its details, even the smallest. Jigsaw puzzles are particularly suited to Persian miniatures as a distinctive specificity of this art work is its avoidance of unused space. Every available area on the canvas must be filled and no area is void of expression. Persian miniatures are full of detail, some tiny and intricate. As the late Oleg Grabar said:

 “Miniatures need to be seen through a magnifying glass or enlarged by printing in order to reveal each and every detail because in one of them lies the key of the secret meaning of the painting.”

Doesn’t this process parallel and reflect a quest of the batin behind the zahir? Yes, very much indeed. Studying miniatures is an act of contemplation that leads the viewer from the shore of this world to the abode of the other through the path of art.

Date posted: Saturday, November 24, 2012.

Copyright: Nadir Mackwani/Simerg, November 2012.

Please visit www.sindbad-puzzle.com for the Jigsaw puzzle of Alamut as well as magnificent works of art from Islamic history.

* The CE marking is a mandatory conformity mark for products placed on the market in the European Economic Area (EEA). With the CE marking on a product, the manufacturer declares that the product conforms with the essential requirements of the applicable European Community directives.


About the author: Nadir Mackwani, manager of Sindbad Puzzle (www.sindbad-puzzle.com), holds a Master degree in Religious Science from the Sorbonne University in Paris with specialisation in Islamic Studies. As part of his degree, Mackwani wrote a paper on Nasir Khusraw’s Wajh-e Din.


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13 thoughts on “Piecing the Alamut Puzzle Together

  1. The puzzle is a beautiful idea!

    About this blog – there is so much information and knowledge about the Ismaili faith and history as well as Hazar Imam’s numerous activities. Thank you very much.

  2. This is a brilliant idea. I have never in my life done a jigsaw puzzle so it would be a good test of patience and time keeping. Thank you Nadirshah.


  3. Dear Malik,
    I would like to express publicly my gratitude toward you for the interest you have shown and the help you have given me for the Sindbad Puzzle project.
    I especially thank you to have offer me the opportunity to present my initiative on your website. Fortunately, there is Simerg, a website due to your untiring efforts. It has become a plateform where Ismailis can interact with each other, a place where those who have launched a project related to the faith can present it and make it known to others. Apart Simerg, where such thing is possible ? I admire your website for the level of its articles, all beautifully written and illustrated with stunning rare images that you see nowhere else but on Simerg.
    But what I like best in Simerg is its “grande ouverture d’esprit”, it shows that religion is not strictly related to faith and devotion but also art, culture, science, i e the world.
    Thank you,
    Wish you all the best for Simerg.

  4. Nadir Mackwani’s endeavour is to be hailed in view of the fact that besides the Baitul Ilm material (BUI) , which is essentlally a resource for teachers to be used as a curriculum with some activities to be carried out in classrooms, the Institute of Ismaili Studies and the Ismaili Tariqah Boards have not produced one single item for children to pursue at home over the past few decades. There have been no story books, no puzzles and no games of any kind either in hard copy or electronic fomats. There has been an emphasis on scholarly publications but the needs of children, youth, parents and ordinary members of the Jamat at home have been largely ignored. Kudos to initiatives such as Sindbad’s and it is hoped that they will receive the encouragement they deserve.

  5. What a fabulous idea! I love puzzles and these choices are so beautiful! I’m so glad someone has done this for so many people to enjoy!

  6. Wow!! I would love to purchase these puzzles and work on them. There is so much beauty to discover and feel in these puzzles.

    Inshallah, I wish you a very creative and a highly successful journey in this endeavour.

  7. Great news. It is about time we had educational material with Islamic background. Puzzles are a great way of engaging childern and grown ups in the cognitive development. Will watch the site. I am an early chilhood educator.

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