The Muttrah Souq is one of the oldest markets in the Arab world. This antiquity has perhaps increased its beauty, magic and allure. Mutrah Souk or Al Alam Souk has been named after darkness because the crowded stalls and lanes do not allow the sun rays to infiltrate through during the day and the shoppers need lamplights to see where they were going. The market used to be a source of supply for Omanis where they could buy their needs in the 1960s for simpler life requirements. In addition to local products like fruits, vegetables, textiles and dates, there were imported goods too. The souk sells traditional textiles, garments, jewellery, incense, frankincense, pipes, pottery and craftwork. Purchase souvenirs like Khanjars and coffee pots, Bedouin jewellery, and clothing (dishdashas, kummas (caps), massar (turban) and khanjar for the men; dishdashas, surwal (trousers), lihaff (shawl) for the women).
Mutrah Souk has narrow winding alleys roofed with wood. Among the local Omanis, this souk is called the Market of Darkness, with its myriad of alleys and roads lined by shops that block the sun during the day. This name applies to the section that extends from the Prophet's Mosque to Khawr Bimbah. The east and west parts of Mutrah Souk, separated by Khawr Bimbah, are also known as 'the small market' and 'the large market'. The Market of Darkness is the small market, whereas the large market is the wholesale market.
What to Buy?
The marketplace is wonderfully aromatic and comes alive with its many isles and alleys with uncountable stalls. Make your olfactory senses buzz with the heady concoction of fragrances of frankincense, perfume oils, attar, fresh jasmine and spices. Clothing pieces like embroidered clothes, headscarves, hijabs, and other garments can be found in the small shops that line the marketplace. While some stalls are stacked up with Indian antiques, Omani antiques, and gold decorations, others are piled with brightly coloured spices and powdered dyes. The souk has numerous gold shops located west of the main entrance, and the entire street seems filled with gold and silver jewellery. The market was earlier built from mud and palm leaves to suit the high temperatures and hard climate conditions. Keeping up with modernisation and yet maintaining a popular Arabic style of architecture, the souk has been renovated by the Muscat Municipality and is now a vision with colourful stained-glass windows, bright lanterns and lights, a traditional Omani wood roof along with modern amenities to make the tourist experience a comfortable one and make them coming back for more.
Best Time To Visit
The Souk is best enjoyed when you can take your time to take all the sights, sounds, and smells in. It is least crowded in the mornings and late afternoon and busiest in the evening hours after 6 PM. The main north-south thoroughfare becomes livelier after dark. Join the exciting marketplace atmosphere or watch it all go by from a seat in a coffee shop. The souk tends to get crowded during Eid season as Omanis, and people from all over the country come here to shop for garments and jewellery.
What To Eat?
When you are done walking around, exploring and shopping, stop for a delicious meal at any of the restaurants lining the promenade. Visit popular Omani restaurant Bait Al Luban which translates as 'house of frankincense' and serves a delicious Omani shuwa: slow-cooked pulled lamb with Omani spices.