Recently the Muscat Municipality opened the doors to the long awaited Muttrah Fish Souq, so I’m down here poking around and finding out what’s changed under the roof of this modern building. Has tradition and charm left when we tore down the old? Let’s find out!
The New Muttrah Fish Souq
I’m starting my browse in front of the new building which is located on the same site of the old souq, just between the beginning of the Muttrah corniche and the vehicle entrance to Port Sultan Qaboos. It clearly stands out among the surrounding block buildings and historic houses. The modern architecture gives it away, with its swooping, wave like roof atop a two story glass and concrete structure. Clearly the city wants to make a statement with this souq. It stands tall, proud, and up front for everybody to see.
I see it as a showcase of Oman’s marine wealth for visitors to experience.
Before I head inside I want to take a gander at the dock where a portion of the fish sold inside come ashore.
It’s a long dock accessed by a wide gangway. I’m being careful not to get in the way of the runners ferrying wheel barrow loads of fish from the dock to the souq.
The dock platform itself has seen better days and could use some maintenance, but it’s functional. From here you get a good look at the old section of muttrah straight in front of you, you can clearly see the iconic blue mosque. To the left the short, sharp mountains make a great background to any picture. Look farther left and you spot Muttrah Fort on the lookout for unwelcome sailors, and protecting his Majesty’s private yacht, one of the largest in the world.
Around the stern of the massive craft comes one of the typical modern Omani fishing boats, a long skinny vessel about 20 feet or 6 meters in length. White with blue trim seem to be the colors in vogue. There’s a fish box in the center of the boat, often with ice to protect the finned creatures from spoiling in the blazing heat.
He’s got a small load of needle fish just caught offshore this morning, and two wholesalers are looking to stock their stall in the souq. The foreman steps in to organize an auction.
Just as quickly as it started, the sale is finalized and the wheel barrow handlers haul the fish inside the souq.
Inside I find about 100 stalls for selling fish, all aligned in 4 wave like rows, down the length of the building. It’s cool in here from the overhead ducting. I’m not sure if it’s AC air or some other method of cooling because the room is not enclosed. There are 3 large entrances and the front facing wall is porous with a dot matrix pattern that reminds me of a magnified halftone newspaper print. The back walls are tiled with mosaic images of traditional Omani fishing vessels. They’re big, the height of an average man.
Each stall has something different to offer, all from Omani waters. Sardines are abundant, and right now it’s shrimp season so I see one seller with a whole load of large shrimp and octopuses. A big grouper catches my eye to the right, along with a few yellow fin tuna, one of my favorites.
Outside, in front of the souq stands a small fleet of fully loaded Land Cruiser pick-up trucks with oversized, insulated fish boxes in the back.
They’re unloading their catches from the al Wusta and Sharqiya regions of Oman. I find the crab the most notable creature out here, and I’m not the only one.
There’re folks everywhere coming and going, Omani families buying large quantities of fish for a feast, expat men negotiating the best deal, western tourists trying to catch a glimpse of days long past. They all make a final stop at one of the fish filleter who cleans and cuts your fish to your liking.
The Muttrah Fish Souq may be shinny and new, but I don’t think we’ve lost anything. The tradition and charm of the Omani fishing community lies with the people, and no fancy building can take that away.
- Arrive early, about 7 0’clock in the morning. Visit other sites in the area afterwards (see the links below).
- The Muttrah Fish Souq also has a vegetable hall, which I didn’t report on because there was little activity, but I’m sure soon it will become more popular as sellers move in.
- The site is not complete, so there is still construction happening. Don’t expect a perfection.
Sultanate Ep 021: Muttrah Fish Souq Links
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