Al Qala'a Souq for Trading and Handicraft: Bustling center for shopping for local craft
While driving in the city of Suhar in November 2003, we discovered this beautiful fort like structure. It turned out to be a center for handicrafts. On Eid day, it was closed and many tourists were seen clearly disappointed. Here an Indian family discussed amongst themselves the alternate ways to enjoy the vacations.
People told us that it is a bustling center for trading and shopping in local craft.
We saw a restaurant open and many Omanis were seated enjoying sipping Arabic liquids and smoking Sheesha (Hokka in Urdu, Hindi and Turkish). However, it was not a family oriented seen.
A look at the shops suggested that it would be a great bargain center for shopping for local handicrafts.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
- Family Travel
Mutrah Souq: Souq Shopping
The Mutrah Souq in Muscat (near corniche) is one of the most popular places for souvenir shopping in Muscat, Oman. The men will ask you for a price but through my experience start extremely low. The local Khanjars made of silver make a great present but the local men demand a high price. Dont buy from the first 10 shops in the souq because they are the most expensive, go deeper into the souq and the prices generally drop by 25%. Another tip, a real Khanjar should cost around 50 RO and you can tell that it is legitimate by counting the rings on the handle of the blade (more rings means better quality).
What to buy: Special items include Khanjar as mentioned and a dishdasha(no more than 8 RO).
What to pay: Khanjar in a souq (real one cost 50 to 60 RO) and the fake ones run 15 RO.
Football jerseys cost no more than 2.5 RO
Sandals cost no more than 4 RO.
Mutrah Souq: Mutrah Souq
This is an essential to-do and shopping experience in Muscat. Very lively and quite a variety. What really makes it enjoyable is that you are not hassled like similar areas in Tunis, Marrakech or The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
You will also find places to eat or have coffe in the souq.
There are many winding alleys, but you can't really get lost. If you get to the other side (back entrance) of the souq, there are many nice shops which is not part of the covered souq.
One will probably not leave the souq without buying an insence burner and frankinsence (about 2 OR each).
What to buy: Frankinsence, ceramic burners, dishdasha, perfume and oils, silver jewelery, khanjars etc.
The textiles are mostly from India.
What to pay: Prices are more or less the same from shop to shop. Haggle only if you really feel you need to.
Oman, the country of frankincense
Oman has been associated with its trade in frankincense. So nearly everywhere in Oman you can buy incense, but the Dhofar Province is the place where the frankincense trees grow. So we bought our burner and different types of incense in Salalah.
Frankincense is divided into four types according to quality: Hujari, Najdi, Shasry and Sha'abi.
The criteria for quality depends on the colour and purity. The white-blue frankincense (Hujari) is the best and more expensive. The reddish variety is of lesser quality.
What to buy: A typical Omani incense burner painted in bright colours and of course the frankincense itself.
What to pay: The local burners are rather cheap.
The price of the frankincense depends on the quality you will choose.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Ruwi Souq: Little India
Many different shops, including supermarkets, textile shops, many clothing stores, electronics etc. It reminds me of India, and most shops are also run by the Indian community. There is a great atmosphere at night, many people coming to do shopping, socializing and to eat at the many small eateries.
What to buy: Textiles, electronic goods and clothing.
What to pay: Prices are cheap, but check the quality
There are shops selling perfumes in the various souqs in Oman, including the Mutrah Souq in Muscat. The perfume in Oman is very famous and you should buy some for yourself, family and friends. There is a large variety to choose from, and it can be placed in a traditional bottle to make it look very presentable. A small bottle will cost about 5-10 Omani rials depending on which type.
Any gold shop: Cheap Gold! Cheap Gold!
What to buy: Gold is an exceptionally good buy in the Sultanate and, indeed, everywhere in the Gulf countries. Every city and town has at least one shop where you can buy the glittering yellow metal. Gold is still considered an essential part of a woman's wardrobe, so even the poorest own at least a few pieces. Designs range from the elegant to the utterly tacky, but you can always be sure that it is the real McCoy.
What to pay: They charge by weight: you pay the current London spot price for gold plus between 7 and 10% for workmanship. Bear in mind, you will find nothing lower than 18k and much of what is for sale is 22k, so the much darker yellow color may put you off if you're used to 9k or 14k. These lower qualities are illegal here.
The market in Muscat has a wide range of shops. Dates, spices and silver sold together with western tat!
All hotels have small gift shops.
What to buy: You can get some lovely souvenirs made with Omani Silver. Its so beautiful. The Kanjar dagger is perhaps the most well known. I buy Bedou necklaces or little silver boxes with stones set in them.
Muttrah Souq: Muttrah Souq
Muttrah Souq is the oldest market place in the Capital Area and is located behind the Corniche of Muttrah.
What to buy: Frankincense, spices, dates and antiques jostle for the limelight with electronic products, Barbie dolls and fashion accessories.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Frankincense & its burner
Frankincense is a hard resin (comes in many grades) obtained from the bark of the Boswellia tree which only grows in southern part of Oman, Yemen and north-eastern part of Somalia. Throughout history, frankincense has been very precious and it was more valuable than gold in the past. Frankincense is famous for its nice aroma when burned with coal, and the Omanis use traditional frankincense burners (see photo) to burn it.
What to buy: Therefore, buying frankincense & its burner is a must when you are in Oman. You can obtain them for about 6-7 Omani rials.
The famous traditional pottery at Bahla
One of the things you must buy from Oman is the traditional pottery in the town of Bahla if you are there. The design is very simple and beautiful, and the price is cheap. They have lots of stuff like vases, frankincense burners, candle holders etc etc. More information & photographs are at my VT Bahla page.
Khanjar (traditional Arabic knife)
Many people in Oman still carry the Khanjar, especially in the rural areas where people are still very traditional. Khanjars are made of silver and a normal sized Khanjar will cost at least about US$100. If you cannot afford it, you can buy the minature Khanjars (also made from silver) at about US$15 each.
When you are visiting the fish markets in Oman, you should buy the dried small sardines back home. What you can do is fry them and they taste very delicious when fried. One packet costs about 1 Omani rial and they can be stored for very long.
along road: pots and carpets
Driving into Oman from the UAE there is not much to buy except fruit from a few stalls, and carpets and pottery. These last need to be bargained for.
there are shops where there are villages with all basic commodities too.
What to buy: pots and carpets
What to pay: according to your bargaining skillsRelated to:
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
There are many shops on the Muscat souk that sell sterling silver. Most pieces are stamped .975 OMAN, which makes for a nice souvenir. Shop around.
What to buy: Very popular are napkin rings, chains and charms, decorative boxes and my favourite a very elaborate cylinder with stand that was meant to hold verses of the Koran but can be used by to hold important papers such as marriage or birth certificates.
What to pay: I bought 10 charms with stones of various sizes and three 22 inch chains for 10OR ($26 US). I didn't spend that much time negotiating, it could be cheaper.Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Arts and Culture
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