• Travel Stories
  • Mutrah Souq: A Gateway to Aladdin’s World

     

    Every nation has a distinct identity that makes it unique. In my experience the best place to see this are in markets or bazaars. Different from department stores, markets or bazaars are a blend of traditional and modern products and are in settings that showcase the history and tastes of the culture from traditional to modern. Now follow me through my adventure at the Mutrah Souq.

     

    Mutrah Souq is by far the most well-known tourist spot in the Sultanate of Oman. It is one of the oldest markets in the country located within the city of Muscat. Tourists and locals flock to this area to buy items or only to look around. It is locally known as Al Dhalam which means Darkness in Arabic because of the crowded lanes inside the market where the sunlight never gets in, and people from before needs a lamp to navigate the souq. The old traditional market was made before from mud and palm trees, but it has been renovated and made modern yet well preserved to retain its history and culture.

     

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    When I have visited this place, I felt like I entered into Aladdin’s world. The color, the vibrant, the aroma and the people will enchant you. The place is magical. You can purchase souvenirs like shawls for women, dishdashas (robe), traditional caps and khanjars (daggers) for men. They sell traditional handicrafts like silverwares, spices, Omani sweets and Arabic perfumes where you will enjoy the smell inside the market. Gold and silver jewelry can be found in abundance as if it is an ordinary item sold on the market. They also sell local fragrant aromas known as “Bukhoor,” made of local raw materials such as woodchips and aromatic oils.This local fragrant aroma is famous in Arab countries used at home and even in the restaurants. Other things sold are paintings, traditional lamps, Omani pots, and other exotic paraphernalia. It is one of the very few markets that sells gold, frankincense, spices, antiques and household goods, all under one roof. The Souq is a mixed of a traditional and modern market that has something for everyone, tourists, and frequent buyers.

     

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    Colorful lamps displayed at the Souq

     

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    Loving the pure silver jewelry…

     

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    “Bukhoor”

     

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    Traditional caps of the Omanis

     

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    The gate going inside the souq faces the Oman Sea and Mutrah Corniche. The narrow winding alleys characterize the souq. It is somewhat tricky to navigate the souq but not too big to get lost. The stores also tend to cluster together. The gold shops are in one area, then the souvenirs on the other, clothing on the other corner and so on.  It is necessary to learn how to haggle if you wish to buy.The sellers are happy to entertain and will not push you if you don’t want to buy anything. But even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it is always good to take a look around and see how things are going.I enjoyed checking the pure silver items and the fragrant oils sold cheaply. I had fun looking at the antiques, but some vendors will not allow you to take a picture of those precious items unless you buy.

     

    If you intend to visit the souq, fewer people are going in the morning. The market closes from 2 pm until 5 pm and reopens in the evening where the market is more lively. After visiting the souq, you can walk along the Corniche. The corniche stretches from the fish market, past the Mutrah Souq to the Mutrah Fort. It offers an excellent view of the port area. You can take a sit, walk or simply watch the people walking around. There are some restaurants along the stretch to enjoy shawarma and local coffee, tea or shake.

     

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    The Corniche

     

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    Busy street at the Souq

     

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    If you plan to go to Mutrah Souq, I recommend taking the taxi or Mwasalat bus from the airport. The best time to visit is between September and April as the city can get scorching and humid during summer months.  I enjoyed my tour to this traditional market, and I highly recommend for those who hasn’t had Arabic market experience. 

     

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    Location Map:

     

    Have you ever visited a souq in any Arabic countries? Share on the comments below.

     

  • Travel Stories
  • What to do for a Day Visit to Chicago

    It’s been nearly a year now since I had my first visit to Chicago, USA. Chicago is a place that has a lot to offer.  It is a place perfect for shopping, nightlife, museums and even for walking around. I stopped by Chicago to visit family that I have not seen in over 15 years.  Given the short time to check out the place, I have listed down the places to visit if you ever plan to visit Chicago for a day:

    Morning:

    Stroll around Millennium Park

    A first-time visit to Chicago isn’t complete without a stop at Millennium Park. It is the heart of downtown Chicago. Cloud Gate “the bean” as it is locally known is the city’s most iconic feature located inside the park. Due to its popularity, a lot of visitors flock in. From a distance, it will reflect the Chicago Skyline and the people around. From the garden to the cloud gate to the concert area at the park, it is truly the jewel of the city.

     

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    “The Bean”

     

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    Concert area at the park

     

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    Lunch:

    Have a meal at Signature Room 95th floor

    To get a bird’s eye view of Chicago while having an enjoyable meal, the Signature Room is the place to be.  My longtime friend invited me for brunch on the 95th floor. I must say it is one of my favorite places to be in Chicago. The restaurant is very cozy.  I enjoyed the food, the cocktails, and the unbeatable view.

     

     

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    The elegant interior of Signature Room

     

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    Enjoying the sumptuous lunch with my long time friend

     

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    Drooling over chocolate belgian waffle!

     

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    The view from Signature Room

     

    Afternoon:

    Visit Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower

    The Willis Tower commonly referred to as Sears Tower is located 233 S. Wacker Dr. Chicago, IL 60606. It will provide an excellent panoramic picture of the city. If you are brave enough, venture out onto the glass ledges that allow you to stand seemingly in mid-air, 1000 feet up. It truly is an amazing view, but I’m afraid of heights and just looking at the people standing in the glass boxes got me feeling dizzy and slight vertigo. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten lunch before visiting… (Okay, excuses!)

     

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    Enjoy Garrett Popcorn

    Garret is a handcrafted gourmet popcorn that originated in Chicago. There are a wide variety of flavors to choose from. It is just delicious, and it is worth all the penny. I love the cheddar flavor!

     

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    Evening:

    Bar hopping on Downtown

    Practically every corner in Chicago has a bar.  Drinking options are limitless.  Whether you are looking for the best local craft beer, interesting wine selections or cocktails, everything is there. Have a boozy tiki concoction at Three Dots and a Dash, the first basement bar I have visited. Since my cousins were living there, they were my tour guide, and we visited four different bars in just one night! We kind of overdid it, but it was all worth it for a day visit.

     

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    Cousins in Chicago

     

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    Have you visited Chicago? What is your favorite place there? Share on the comments below.