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
1. 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)
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.
The 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
5. Pottery Tea-light Holder (starting price 3.5 OMR)
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.
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.