Thought to be one of the oldest marketplaces in the world, Muscat’s Souq Muttrah is the stuff of your Aladdin dreams. Our visitor’s guide to Muttrah Souq will help you navigate the lanes and get the best bargains — although getting lost is definitely part of the fun!
Souq Muttrah is located in Muscat’s busy Muttrah cornice. It’s quite a busy street, so don’t count on easily finding parking. It’s best to take a cab or a bus. There are two entrances to the market, both clearly marked. Before entering from the main gate, be sure to pick up a samosa and karak tea from an Indian-style deli. There are many different routes through Souq Muttrah, all going in different directions, so follow your intuition and have fun getting lost. But it’s quite organised, clean and safe, so don’t worry about a thing.
Souq Muttrah is an intriguing market maze where one can find an eclectic range of products: from rare, one-of-a-kind vintage artifacts to high-quality frankincense, gold and precious jewels to funky, hand-made purses. Afghan war hats, compasses from World War 2 and pashminas… you can enjoy quite a treasure hunt. If you collect furniture you are bound to find something, or if you’d rather a cool new hand-made bag or t-shirt, these can also be had.
One section of the souq is famously known as Souq Al T’halam, which translates as ‘market of darkness.’ It is one of the largest alleys. Look up at the ceiling to see the beautiful lanterns, coloured glass and etched wood, ancient yet still vibrant.
The market is well-organised, and you will find shops selling the same kinds of things in the same areas. Many shops sell jewellery and accessories from Oman and around Asia, including beautiful hand-made necklaces from Nepal, embroidered Kashmiri jackets and vests, and rugs, carpets and lanterns. There are shops selling frankincense, oud and other perfumes used in every Omani home, as well as soaps and oils. The frankincense comes from Dhofar, in the south of Oman, and is considered the best quality in the world. The souq also has lots of gold and jewellery shops, most of which sell goods made with pure Omani silver, which is often more expensive than other silver pieces.
You can also find the Omani Khanjar for sale. These unique daggers are worn by men around their waists, and also appear on the national flag. They are an important part of Omani culture, and Omanis are very proud of them. Each is hand made and etched by professional craftsmen. You can buy them at the souq, including fine examples that are framed for display.
Like any popular, traditional old market you can find real bargains if you haggle. This makes the shopping experience all the more entertaining. Usually you can get reasonable prices because of Oman’s consumer protection laws, but you can always try for a bargain, especially when it comes to the more pricey items. Expect to be treated like a celebrity when strolling through the souq, as all the shop owners want you to stop by.
When you are done walking around, exploring and shopping, stop for a delicious meal at French seafood bistro La Brasserie, or popular Omani restaurant Bait Al Luban. The latter translates as ‘house of frankincense’ and serves a delicious Omani shuwa: slow-cooked pulled lamb with Omani spices. These are super close to the souq, within walking distance, and opposite the fish market on the cornice.