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