“ Large marketplace in Muscat for sightseeing, experience and shopping „
We learned that the city we call "Muscat" today is in fact three smaller towns which have grown together over time. They are:
Muscat - the "walled city" and the site of the royal palaces.
Muttrah- the area where the port and the Souq.
Ruwi - the commercial and diplomatic centre of the city.
The Muttrah Souk amazingly can be found is in the old town of Muttrah which has become a part of the city we know as Muscat today.
On the day of our tour we drove from the Sultan Qaboos mosque back into Muscat and to the port area to visit the Muttrah souk which is a truly fascinating shopping experience. On the tour we had a fairly unpleasantly crowded time being pushed along in a sea of tourists. Unfortunately there was another large cruise ship in the port at the same time as ours which meant you could barely move for tourists down the first few alleys. However when we returned to the souk the next day it was great as there were far fewerpeople as the other cruise ship had left . We also made an effort to get up and into Muttrah quite early before most others so had the place almost to ourselves and the local people.
The souk is a traditional shopping area with lots of stalls and small shops either of long narrow alleys which run into each other in a seemingly haphazard way. The shops and stalls sell a huge variety of wares from perfume and incense, beautiful cashmere shawls and embroidered cloth, stalls with the most amazing braiding for clothing and then jewellery shops with gold or silver or precious and semi precious stones. There were also more basic shops and stalls selling things like pots and pans, foodstuff and kitchen cloths etc. Some of the best shops were like Ali Baba's treasure cave with beaded necklaces hanging from the ceiling and huge vats of gem stones and silver pieces.
The local ladies were all wearing their black abbaya and the burqa while the men their white dishdash and either the small hat, a bit like a fez only beautifully embroidered or the headdress tied neatly like a small turban. The people were all so friendly and despite obviously trying to sell you stuff they were not aggressive or unpleasant if you said no thanks.
I spent a long time in the perfume oils and incense stalls as this area is famous for its perfumes. We bought a small incense burner with little charcoal discs along with some frankincense, myrrh and rose scented resin to burn in it. I also managed to pursued my husband to buy me three different perfume oils which were so lovely and really good value. Each 10ml bottle cost about a pound which I felt was great value as they smell lovely and the scent last quite a while too as it is oil.
On our first visit we couldn't be bothered to go beyond the first few stalls because of the crowds but when we went back on the second day not only did we but the incense and perfumes but we also found a lovely little café where we had a local strong black coffee and a freshly made lemon mint drink for a really good, cheap price. I particularly enjoyed the lemon mint drink which was made of fresh lemon juice mixed with lots of blended fresh mint which was delicious and very minty tasting.
We spent about two hours wandering the souk as there was something different to see in every stall. You had to be aware of where you walked as the alleys ran into each other and there were not any names or landmarks to check where you were. It would be very easy to become disorientated and so lose your way. To keep my anti-shopping husband in a market for two hours without complaint shows how interesting the souk was.
It is nowhere near the same size as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or the souks in Marrakech or Fez but it was a lot less stressful than Morocco and easier to wander around than the bazaar in Istanbul which is truly enormous.
I thought it was particularly interesting because of the perfume stalls although the silver and semi precious stone shops were also worth exploring as they really were a bit like treasure caves. I got a little overwhelmed as you had to dive into huge barrels of stones in different settings and it was all a bit too much as I am not that keen in rummaging for stuff so after a quick look I decided these shops were not for me and concentrated on finding my perfume oils.
Trying to find out what the different oils were made from was quite a challenge as the stall owner's English was pretty limited and my Arabic is even more limited. I did ask them to write the names of the oils on the bottles but as yet have not investigated what they are.
I did find out that both myrrh and frankincense come from trees local to the area and I wonder why they were considered so valuable in Biblical times as the trees are from this area and are widely used for perfume and burning incense to freshen rooms and scent their clothes.
I would thoroughly recommend a visit to this souk as it is small enough to wander around easily but large enough to have a variety of stalls and prices are very reasonable. If you wanted to buy cashmere embroidered fabric then this is one of the places where you could but this at a pretty good price.
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