Muttrah has definitely been one of the most ancient and historically significant cities of Oman with evidence of settlements from as early as 3000BC. This tightly packed port market is surrounded by majestic mountains and is home to Souq Muttrah – the capital’s must-visit traditional vibrant market. With the history of over two centuries, come loose yourself in the complex maze of narrow walkways leading to hundreds of small shops that sell everything from traditional Omani jewelry, antiques to spices with the mixed smells of Lubhan – frankincense, Attar – perfume oils, Yasmin – fresh jasmine that linger in the air.
Souq Al Dhalam or the Dark Souq is the local name for Souq Muttrah. The Souq is said to be one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world. Located adjacent to the harbor of Muscat, it was named after darkness because of the crowded stalls and lanes where the sun rays could not penetrate during the early days and the shoppers needed kerosene lanterns to navigate.
In the early days the Souq Muttrah was the only source of trade for Omanis and residents where they could buy their daily needs when life requirements were simpler than today. Most of the goods were imported, products like weapons, textiles, fruit, vegetables and animals. The Souq was built from mud and palm leaves, to protect from high temperatures as these were the best available materials to build in those times.
Today, the government has put in extra effort to renovate and redecorate the market to maintain the authentic local architectural style and has also introduced modern amenities to attract and make the shopping experience for tourists as well as other ordinary shoppers comfortable.
Souq Dahab – The Gold Souq
While visiting Souq Muttrah, don’t miss a stroll through the narrow alleys that house the glittering gold shops. The gold, worked into headbands, traditional bangles and ornaments, may not be to everyone’s taste, but the sheer accumulation of treasure in the shop windows is exciting on the eye. If you feel comfortable getting lost, the alleyways behind the main gold Souq are home to shops selling from precious stones, goldsmith tools to pure gold and silver.
Souq Samak – The Fish Market
The fish market is towards the end of Muttrah’s seafront. Located close to Port Sultan Qaboos, which has been declared a tourism port, the new Muttrah fish market is getting all set to attract tourists who come visiting Oman in cruise ships and otherwise. The old structure is still an active place where fishermen bring their catch early every morning, it is worth a visit if you’d like to have an idea the kind of fish caught or what some of the local delicacies are.
The Muttrah Fort
The existing forts in Oman offer diverse glimpses of a powerful, wealthy Arabian culture that lived through a turbulent past. The complexities and designs of the forts indicates that these were built by some of the finest architects and engineers. Built in the 1580’s, this fort stands tall at the eastern end of the harbor located on top of a rocky hill, facing the sea inhaling the winds that breezed through the fragrant memory of ships gone by…