Every day this week I’ve been giving you the essentials on 7 must-sees in Muscat, the capital of Oman. It’s day 5 and we’re headed, for some haggling and shopping, to the Mutrah Souq.
Established around 200 years ago on Muscat’s Mutrah Corniche (bay road), Mutrah Souq is one of the oldest traditional Arab markets in Oman.
As a prototype of old Eastern markets, Mutrah Souq is characterised by an extensive maze of narrow winding alleys roofed with wood, giving one innermost part of the Souq the fabulously threatening name the Market of Darkness!
Wandering around Mutrah Souq, then, is a full-on authentically Arabian experience, heightened by inhaling the wonderful fragrance, which pervades throughout, of the Arabian perfume and frankincense sold by many of its shops. Oman was once the biggest global producer of frankincense, and effectively it’s the national scent. Frankincense resin is not only sold for burning for its scent, but higher grade resin is sold for dissolving to make a tea, which more than one Omani assured me was soothing for stomach problems. (I still need to look up the science about that!).
Shops in Mutrah Souq also sell a wide variety of other Omani and Indian goods which are great for souvenirs and presents. These include silver and gold jewellery; traditional Omani daggers (khanjar); wood carvings; dates; Omani halwa; spices; antiques; clothing (traditional and modern); and hardware. They also sell the distinctive hat, the kuma, that Omani men wear as everyday dress (see main picture above).
Many shops also sell decorative frankincense burners, and you may well want to have one if you’ve brought some frankincense resin to take home. Just don’t make the mistake that I did of also buying the necessary charcoal at the same time, only to realise when packing on my last day that I wasn’t allowed to take such flammable material on the plane!
When making a Souq purchase, haggling is expected, although if the thought of that stresses you out, you can liberate yourself by choosing not to bother, and console yourself that discounts in Omani souqs tend to be small anyway.
My experience is that traders in Mutrah Souq, and elsewhere in Muscat, might well try to attract your attention to come into their shop and look at their merchandise, but in a good humoured and non-hassley way. Certainly I was never harangued hard for a sale, in the way that you may have experienced on your travels in some other countries
So if you do come here, just relax, chat with the traders, and give yourself up to becoming a bit lost in the winding alleys for an hour or two. You’ll find one of the exits eventually(!) (there is one main entrance/exit on the Mutrah Corniche, and one at the back of the Souq), and in the meantime you’ll have massive fun exploring, never knowing exactly what new delight you might discover as you turn the next corner.
Click individual photos to enlarge & scroll