My husband and I visited Oman in January when the weather is mild and sunny. On our first day our hosts were keen to show us the best of Muscat and we headed to the main commercial area, Mutrah.
We strolled along the Corniche, admired the Arabic architecture and thrilled at our first glimpse of an Omani dhow. But the best was yet to come, as we made our way from the glaring brightness into the gloom of Mutrah Souq. It was shopping time anytime, and we were in for an amazing sensory experience.
Frankincense pervades the Souq, or open market, with its strong, sweet scent and it can be bought in all sizes of packaging, along with beautiful incense burners. In all directions colour abounds – in fabric stalls, clothing and shoe shops, glassware and jewelry. Decorative wares fill the walkways and this fat bellied brass frog is just asking to be stroked.
The vendors keep up a constant stream of chat to potential customers: “Madam, come in. Madam, what size? Madam, what colour? You try?” The pashminas, fine cashmere wools used for making shawls, are so tempting, in all the colours of the rainbow, silky, soft and luxurious. There are woven carpets from Pakistan, cushions and beaded shoes from India, silver boxes, rose water sprinklers and Turkish coffee pots delicately engraved and embellished.
On the more quirky and slightly weird side are the embalmed, mounted and framed creatures including butterflies, scorpions, centipedes and frogs. They’re not exactly to my taste but fascinating all the same.
One alleyway is devoted to the jewelers’ shops, which are much more upmarket and way out of our league. The solid gold and silver jewelry is priced according to weight and the current value of gold per ounce. We’re told by one shopkeeper that the local ladies like to wear these necklaces when they go to parties to show off their husbands’ wealth.
It’s best to go to the Souq in the afternoon when the rush of tourists off the cruise ships has gone. Then it’s cool, the light is dim, and you have the time to browse and enjoy with all your senses, and even make a purchase or two.
You can read more from Carol on The Eternal Traveler with her traveling companion, Justin Beaver.
Would anyone like a fat bellied frog?