An expat friend once told me, if you want to explore a place deeply, go to its markets, or souq in Arabic. In markets, you will find the heartbeat of the community that lives there.
And I was reminded of that when I went to Oman last November. On the landing page of my search for the list of top things to do in Muscat is a visit to Muttrah Souq suggestions.
As one of the Arab nations' oldest souqs, Muttrah Souq plays an important role in the preservation and presentation of time-treasured customs and history. You will see khanjars (daggers), vases and jars, kumas (Omani headgears), sandals, and even frankincense, myrrh and gold. If you check out my instagram posts, you will read bits of my experiences there. The time I was mistaken as a Japanese tourist. Or the time I haggled for pashminas. Or the time a vendor asked why I was taking pictures of his items.
Before the launch of Mina Al Sultan Qaboos Waterfont, the Omran Group brought us to Muttrah Souq. I admit I didn't enjoy the brief stroll that much because I didn't want to tire myself for a big event ahead. I immediately took pictures of the items and went back to a waiting service driver.
Alone and excited the following day, I commissioned a taxi driver to bring me to Muttrah Souq. Reading online that Muscat is one safe place, I went there without informing anyone. And that's one thing I will never do again. Because that's the time I got a bit lost. After a lot of picture-taking on stalls and items, I got so curious why it was called Darkness Souq. I decided to wander a bit from the wave of tourists, and headed on to a narrow alley which led to narrower ones. Imagine you're in a maze!
So, are souqs or markets a heartbeat of a place? Yes, definitely — Muttrah Souq made my heart skip a beat, but in an unforgettable way!