I took a lot of pictures in the Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman! Here Are the best!
A city’s market is where I like to visit to really understand the character and culture of a destination. It’s a meeting place, a bustling place for trade, for sales, for buying, for socialising and for eating and drinking. And especially so in the Arab world, and in Muscat Oman, where trade is as old as the rock the city is built on. The Muttrah Souq, along the Muscat harbour shore front is the gateway to the city from the sea, and a market place that offers a lively insight into both Oman’s history and its present ways of life.
I went exploring into the labyrinth alleyways of the Muttrah Souq in Muscat, haggling for Omani goods and touristy trinkets with the shop owners, and taking far too many photographs of this busy and photogenic marketplace!
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Here are my photos from the road, the most beautiful pictures from the Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman!
Welcome to the Muttrah Souq in Muscat, one of the oldest trading places in the nation!
This old Souq is on the Muttrah Corniche, in the Omani capital. The entrance faces out to the harbour where for centuries traders would arrive by boat from the Arabian Sea, travelling from Africa, India and all over the world. These days the market is a more touristic affair, and rather than traders arriving on Dhow boats the shops cater more to the cruise ships which berth in the harbour. While not as traditional a market as it perhaps once was, it’s definitely a symbol of the ever changing times and the positive growth of tourism in Oman.
The market doesn’t just straddle the shoreline though, it stretches back into the heart of old Muscat, where trade is all that’s ever been known.
The arched entrance leads into a dark, but shaded interior offering respite from the blistering Muscat sun. To locals, the Souq is even known as Al Dhalam. This translates as Darkness. It’s gloomy inside, but blissfully cool.
The streets inside the Muttrah Souq are narrow and seemingly built with no plan at all. It’s far too easy to get lost amongst the hundreds of shops that fill the stone floored alleys.
Amongst the shops there are plenty of opportunities to stop for refreshments, with juice bars selling blended smoothies concocted from mixes of fresh fruit a particular favourite amongst the locals.
A lot of the stalls sell touristy gimmicks and Omani souvenirs, but plenty of locals still visit to pick up traditional Arab wear which is stocked to the rafters in some shops . I even had a head scarf fitted for me in the local style.
The colourful clothing for sale brightens the dark Souq. The local headgear comes in many, many styles, colours and sizes. I was careful to try on plenty to get the best look.
Haggling is a must in the Muttrah Souq. The trader will start high, but just enjoy the game and throw numbers backwards and forwards until you both come to an agreeable price.
The Kumar is a traditional hat, which is worn either on its own or under a headscarf. Like most Omani clothing, it comes in an array of colours and intricate patterns.
The alleyways are full of shops, and it’s not just clothing for sale but all manner of goods from footballs to frankincense.
The Souq is roughly divided into different sections, which in theory should make navigation easier and allow the market to work more efficiently, with close competition for similar products keeping prices tight. In practice, it’s easy to be overwhelmed…
If you know what you are looking for, then the Souq can be an excellent place to get a good bargain though. Shops sell antiques and some specialise in gold and silver.
On the busy streets in the sunlight outside there’s plenty of taxi drivers waiting for passengers with more shopping than they can carry.
But rather than rushing off, I recommend taking a seat on the street, watching the Muscat world go by and ordering a refreshing fresh fruit juice.
Where Is Muttrah Souq in Muscat Oman?
Muttrah Souq is open daily from 8am-1pm and then again from 4pm-10pm. There’s parking on the streets outside along the the Corniche, but this costs when the Souq is open (except on Saturdays, when parking is free!).
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All Photographs Property Of Richard Collett
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For more Omani adventures then have a look at these spectacular photographs from Khasab and the beautiful fjords of Oman HERE!
Love your photos. We visited Muscat back in 2009 and loved the souq but didn’t get to spend enough time there. I loved that it felt very local and not geared toward tourists as some markets can.
Thanks Laura! Yes Oman hasn’t quite been overtaken by tourism, at leat for joe, which makes it a very enjoyable place to travel around because there’s still a lot of authenticity left. It’s a beautiful place!