Traditional markets in Oman |

Traditional markets in Oman

Oman is a blend of the new and the old. This is true not just of the city, its architecture, its attitude and customs

Posted on

18 July 2013

Last updated on 14 June 2017
Traditional markets in Oman

This is true not just of the city, its architecture, its attitude and customs but also of its shopping. Here you will find a mix of the snazziest shopping malls and the wonderfully quaint traditional markets or "Souqs". This is probably due to the fact that Oman went from being a bedouin country with forts and tribes to a country with developed cities thus the way in which people lived and consumed changed rapidly. Hence, a number of culturally clashing components are visible in Oman and it's great that a person can choose to one day enjoy the luxuries of an air conditioned shopping mall with beauty salons and posh restaurants; only to go to an old-school souq the next day and bargin for goods while enjoying an authentic cup of Omani tea and some delicious and traditional food.

Traditional Market in Oman

A souq is an open-air marketplace. Historically, souqs were held outside of cities in the location where a caravan loaded with goods would stop and merchants would display their goods for sale. Souqs were held when there was a caravan or more available. At that time, souqs were more than just a market to buy and sell goods; they were also major festivals and many cultural and social activities took place in them.

Though each neighbourhood within the city would have a local Souq selling food and other essentials, the main souq was one of the central structures of a large city. A central marketplace, it was where textiles, jewellery, spices, wooden sculptures and other valuable goods as well as the money changers were arranged in a line.A quadrilateral of stone-vaulted streets parallel to or crossing each other or a tight mass of buildings too packed together for roads to intersect them.

The workshops were further away from this centre of exchange as were the main residential quarters – though the wealthier merchants or scholars might live within the centre of the city.
The souk was a level of municipal administration. The Muhtasib was responsible for supervising business practices and collecting taxes for a given suq while the Arif are the overseers for a specific trade.
In a souq, the final price of an item is reached by bargaining with the shopkeeper. Traders of a given commodity would all sell in the same souq, thus ensuring a competitive market. In some African countries the souq was a place where people could come and talk, or sit down to tell stories.

Today, these traditional souqs remain in and around Muscat, Oman. There is even a hybridised souq comprising of both traditional and new age elements such as the Muttrah Souq in Muscat