January 14, 2017

Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman

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.

*Al Dhalam (Darkness in Arabic) Souq is the local name for the Muttrah Souq. It has been named after darkness because of the crowded stalls and lanes where the sunrays do not infiltrate during the day and the shoppers needed lamps to know their destinations.

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.

A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on

A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on

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!

These alleys have stalls that offer items at much lower prices than those offered in the main souq. And before I went in, an Indian vendor who was in a rush to leave his stall, asked me what I needed. I asked him where that alley will lead me. He might have heard me wrong because he answered, "Just go straight, then turn right then you will find it..." Huh? Again, my curiosity got the better of me so I followed his directions and after about two turns, I noticed that as I went farther, the less people and closed stalls I see. Products in big plastic bags and boxes were scattered on the floor, momentarily left by owners for a brief lunch. When I turned my head back, I saw that the long alley was empty! I took a few steps farther to look for people I can ask directions for but I saw no one! I immediately turned around, and ran my way back to the main souq. On the way out, I again bumped into that vendor, and asked me, "Did you find it?" "Uh, no." I answered and quietly blended with the crowd.

A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on

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!

*source here

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