Oman Shopping Sights

6 Fun Things to Buy at Muttrah Souq

February 22, 2016

There are so many things one can buy at Muttrah Souq, some items are traditional, and some are just fun.  Muttrah Souq has become a little touristy lately thanks to the large number of cruise ships that call into Mina Sultan Qaboos, but when compared to other great markets or bazaars of the world, it’s still very much serving the locals. 

Historically Omanis would travel to Muttrah Souq from the surrounding area to purchase their needed household products; clothing, kitchen ware, perfume, and even gold was, and still is, available here.  Today you will still see Omani families visiting the souq usually after Maghrib (sunset) prayer, however the souq is mostly focused on tourism today, thanks in part to modernization.  Muttrah Souq is still worth a visit, especially of you have some gifts to buy.

It’s always fun to purchase silly little gifts for friends and family when on holiday, and Muttrah Souq is for sure the best place for it. Some items are subject to availability as they can come and go with the season or year, so here’s my suggestion for fun things to buy at Muttrah Souq.

D. Michael’s 6 Fun Things to Buy at Muttrah Souq

Mosque Alarm Clock - Muttrah Souq buy1. Mosque Alarm Clock (starting price 2.5 OMR)

Probably one of the most fun gifts to buy at Muttrah Souq, the mosque alarm clock will surely be a big hit back at the office.  You can probably score this gem for 2 OMR if you haggle well, and possibly lower if you buy more than one.  Be sure to purchase one for yourself, you don’t want to forget that feeling of being woken for Fajr prayer at the crack of dawn.

 

2. Kuma (starting price 4 OMR)Omani Kuma Hat - Buy at Muttrah Souq

Purchasing a Kuma at Muttrah Souq is a difficult experience because there are so many different colors and patterns to choose from.  Adding to the difficulty is the many levels of qualities.  Some are machine made, while others have local handcrafting.

The Kuma is a traditional local hat that has origins back in Zanzibar, and some sources claim this hat first started as a cap for boys, then grew in popularity among men. I can see how men would prefer this style of cap, as there is no need to tie it up like a massar.

Kuma shop - Muttra SouqThe kuma is made in various sizes so you will need to try them on for size, or pick a few common sizes if it’s for a gift.  Haggling will get the price down from 4 OMR, but you’re going to pay more than 4 OMR if you fancy a handmade version in one of the dedicated Kuma shops.

 Camel Pashmina Scarf - Buy at Muttrah Souq3. Camel Pashmina Scarf (starting price 11 OMR)

Something more appropriate for a lady to wear at Muttrah Souq would be the Pashmina Scarf, particularly the camel version.  I don’t know why I love this scarf so much, maybe because it is silly yet practical all at the same time.

If the camel is too wild for you, try selecting one of the many tame pashmina options available all over the souq.  Also, be sure to use the vast availability to your advantage to get the price down.  Depending on the quality one can probably expect to bargain down to 5 OMR.

The pashmina is not Omani despite what the local merchants might tell you. These pashminas are imported from India, Patistan, and China; and have little historical connection to Oman.  They are nice however, and make a fun gift, so don’t let that stop you!

omani massar4. Massar (starting price 4 OMR)

The massar is my favorite gift to buy when leaving on holiday.  It’s light, unbreakable, unisex, and practical.  There are so many colors, styles, and quality options available, so you are sure to find something you like for a gift.

You might be thinking, how is a traditional Omani men’s dress garment unisex? Well, one can easily wear it as a scarf, something I do often when traveling in colder climates, as does Lady M.

I like to look for a massar that is thicker and of greater quality.  These tend to last longer and serve the user better when the weather is more cold, which is probably when you’re going to be wearing a massar the most.  I rock the massar often with pride.  When I do, I get a lot more, “where are you from?” Ha, انا من امريكا

Click here to learn how to tie an Omani massar.

Omani Massar

5. Pottery Tea-light Holder (starting price 3.5 OMR)Omani tea-lights

These pottery tea-light holders are another one of my favorites and usually a big hit among my friends and family.  The downside is they are extremely fragile, so I counter that problem by purchasing many more than I need expecting some to break along the way.  They aren’t too expensive and the unglazed version is even less expensive than the glazed.

Again, these aren’t ‘Omani’ traditional items, but make a nice souvenir or gift with arabic flare.  Try to bargain down to 1.5 OMR for the glazed small tea-lights and 1 OMR for the unglazed.  There is a small factory in Ruwi where the unglazed version can be had for .5 OMR wholesale if you give a wink and a nod.  That is useful information for haggling, so good luck.

Omani Frankincense 6. Frankincense (price widely varies)

The last thing I like to buy at Muttrah Souq, as do the Omani locals, is Omani frankincense.  This ancient fragrant tree sap is native to Oman, and is harvested in the southern Dhofar Governorate.

Prices vary widely depending on quantity and purity, so one should take the following advice to avoid over spending: 1) buy from a shop that solely sells frankincense. 2) never pay the first quoted price. 3) the more white, the more pure, the more expensive.

I like to purchase my Omani frankincense from the row of shops out the back of the souq, adjacent to the small parking lot.  Here you will find true Dhofari men and women selling their harvest and wares.  Be sure to notice their physical differences compared to other, more northern, Omanis you have come in counter with.  This group I find exciting, raw, and timeless.

A small container of decent quality Omani frankincense should only cost you a few rial, and that’s probably all you need.  Maybe you’d like to add a ceramic burner and charcoal to your purchase because, how else are you going to light it up?

Another way to use frankincense is to eat it.  Yes! Frankincense – AKA – Omani Gummy Bears.

Finally, this purchase might bring back some religious memories for you; just be aware. So, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holly Spirit. Amen.

What is your favorite gift to buy at Muttrah Souq?  Leave me a comment below.

Dhofari Men Selling Frankincense

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12 Comments

  • Reply Lady M May 30, 2016 at 0307

    A camel pashmina could be the perfect attire for the Sharjah Book Fair! I must revisit the souq one day and buy one. Also, I had no idea that you could eat frankincense…

    • Reply D. Michael May 31, 2016 at 1119

      I have never eaten it, but I’ll take their word.

      • Reply D. Michael April 19, 2017 at 1622

        Update: I did try and eat frankincense. It’s not objectionable, but not tasty either.

  • Reply Johnathan June 19, 2016 at 0410

    Do you ever buy spices in the Souk?

    • Reply D. Michael June 19, 2016 at 2050

      Hi Johnathan,
      Historically spices would be a popular item for sale in the souq, but nowadays there are only a few shops selling spices.

  • Reply Victor April 19, 2017 at 1001

    Hi,

    How can I make direct purchases of Frankincense for shipment to the U.S.?

    • Reply D. Michael April 19, 2017 at 1616

      Thanks for the question Victor. I’m not an import/export specialist, but probably the easiest answer would be to come to Oman, and speak to the traders who are in the back of Muttrah Souk. I am sure you can make a deal with them and arrange an export company to sort out the local details. You should also know that the United States and Oman have a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), dramatically reducing duties between the two countries, and allowing Americans to start business in Oman as if they were Omani citizens. It’s an amazing agreement. The U.S. Embassy, Muscat has a whole section to support American business in Oman, as it does in many countries. However it has special focus because of the FTA, and they hold amazing web conferences to grow areas of mutual interest between the two nations.

      They might be able to answer your question more precisely. Do let me know if your are coming to Oman.

      • Reply Victor April 19, 2017 at 1648

        D. Michael,

        I greatly appreciate your time and advise. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make that trip any time soon. Hopefully I can find another option until then.
        If possible, can you provide some information about the local prices, say per kilogram? I understand they have 4 grade levels for Frankincense in the souk: houjri, najdi, shathari and shaabi. As well as significant price differences between them, something to the effect of 36, 26, 12 and 6 OMR, respectively, from an article that is a few years old.
        Again, thank you for your time and help.

        • Reply D. Michael April 20, 2017 at 1224

          Hi Victor,

          It sounds like you know more about it than me, because I don’t know all the details about frankincense. Also, the Dhofari guys who deal frankincense in the souq and mainly Arabic or Jebali speakers, so communication is difficult with my limited Arabic. Maybe the folks in the business section of the embassy can help you out better.

  • Reply Robert Wilson June 18, 2017 at 0927

    Hi,

    I’m planning a trip to Oman, and I’ll probably have a couple of days in Abu Dhabi on the way. I understand Oman is more expensive. I’d like to pick up a few items that are common to Arabia, like a coffee pot, oil lamp, etc. So I’m wondering if I’d be better off getting those in the UAE, or is the difference in price not that great? How much, roughly, would an average sized, metal, traditional coffee pot cost (not antique)?

    Thanks,
    Robert

    • Reply D. Michael June 19, 2017 at 1528

      Hi Robert, I’m not sure how the prices compare, or know exactly the cost of an Arabic coffee pot. If I had to take a stab at it I’d say one would cost about 20 OMR in the souq. I hope that helps.

      • Reply Robert Wilson June 30, 2017 at 0902

        Thanks! I can’t wait to visit Oman.

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