If you love to shop, whether it be pottering through ancient alleyways in a traditional souk, visiting local villages for one of a kind pottery pieces, sifting through shelves of high quality silver or spending up on designer fashion in a world-class shopping complex, then Oman is the place for you.
From traditional souks and local villages to the modern new malls of Muscat, here is the low down on where to shop in Oman.
Since ancient times the traditional market places in Oman have been much more than a place to do trade. Omani souqs are places for social gatherings and there is nowhere better to experience this than Muttrah Souq.
The oldest marketplace in the capital, Muttrah Souk- located behind Muttrah Corniche, is a maze of tightly packed, narrow lanes that lead in and out of each other revealing gold, silver, textiles, pottery and dates, together with piquant aromas of incense, spices and varying qualities of frankincense, which waft through the alleyways. Also plentiful, are traditional coffee pots and plates, along with handicrafts, incense burners, Bedouin jewellery and silver khanjars – traditional Omani daggers worn by men. Gold and silver are well priced and are mainly sold by weight.
The best time to visit is either early morning or late afternoon.
Once considered a symbol of wealth, Silver has been one of Oman’s most precious metals for four thousand years. Visitors to Nizwa, a place famous for the work of its silversmiths, will find some superb silver pieces at Nizwa Souq. Don’t miss the Friday cattle market where you will witness locals converge to sell or buy a prized new cow, goat or camel. Afterwards take in the views of Nizwa fort with a delicate cardamom scented Omani coffee and Oman’s most famous Halwa (local sweet) from Al-Saifi’s store.
Based in the centre of this mystical village is Bahla Souq, where if you are lucky you can witness the modern form of magic that takes place daily with master potters creating their wares. Many of the incense burners, pots and dishes you see around Oman originate from Bahla so it is a treat to be able to visit the source and Bahla Fort is also well worth a visit.
One of Oman’s most interesting souqs is at Ibra, where the Wednesday market is a ‘ladies only’ event. Operated by women, the souq’s specialties cater to women and include silks, handicrafts, Bedu jewellery and sandalwood. Although the real highlight, is viewing the women shopping and chatting with their colourful attire.
Al Hafah Souq
Set amid Salalah’s coconut groves in Oman’s southern Dhofar region is Al Hafah Souq, one of the best markets to buy perfume or high-grade frankincense, myrrh and rose. Once worth more than gold, frankincense is in high demand along with the brightly-painted Dhofari incense burners. Local vendors also sell regional food including hummus and mishkak — Omani barbecue meat cooked over a spit.
A New Wave
Oman is full of contradictions of old and new and many modern shopping complexes have recently sprung up across Muscat. Fully air-conditioned, they have a selection of local and international stores, local boutiques, supermarkets, cafes, food courts and play areas for children. Here are 3 of the best:
Opened in 2015, Oman Avenues Mall is the largest mall in the Sultanate of Oman, boasting an impressive line-up of prestigious retailing brands, fine dining options, fun and entertainment experiences to across 72,000 square feet of striking architecture.
With more than 150 retail stores Muscat Grand Mall boasts a modern department store at one end and a traditional Arabic souk at the other with a landscaped oasis in the middle. The family friendly food court is near an entertainment arcade and the upper level offers spectacular sea views.
Home to Oman’s largest cinema, Muscat City Centre is the largest premium lifestyle shopping destination in Oman. With over 200 international and local lifestyle brands over 70,000 square metres, City Centre Muscat is not your typical neighbourhood shopping mall.
Homage to Amouage
When it comes to shopping a special mention goes to Oman’s world-famous scent, Amouage. One of the world’s most valuable perfumes, it is available at the flagship store, The House of Amouge, in Muscat’s Sabco Centre. Guy Robert, the renowned French perfumer behind the scents of Hermés, Dior and Rochas, was commissioned to formulate the celebrated fragrance, incorporating native Omani ingredients – frankincense and myrrh as well as rosewater extracted from the rarest rock rose found in Oman’s Jebel Akhdar region.
Heading off with this prized scent in your luggage will evoke memories of your Omani adventure long after you have departed its exquisite shores.