It’s shopping time any time at the Mutrah Souq on the Corniche in Muscat and it’s an amazing sensory experience. Frankincense pervades the Souq with its strong, sweet scent and it can be bought in all sizes of packaging, along with beautiful incense burners. In all directions colour abounds – in fabric stalls, clothing and shoe shops, glassware and jewellery. Decorative wares fill the walkways and this fat bellied brass frog is just asking to be stroked.
The vendors keep up a constant stream of chat to potential customers: “Madam, come in. Madam, what size? Madam, what colour? You try?” The pashminas are so tempting, in all the colours of the rainbow, silky, soft and luxurious. There are woven carpets from Pakistan, cushions and beaded shoes from India, silver boxes, rose water sprinklers and Turkish coffee pots delicately engraved and embellished.
On the more quirky and slightly weird side are the embalmed, mounted and framed creatures including butterflies, scorpions, centipedes and frogs. They’re not exactly to my taste but fascinating all the same.
One alleyway is devoted to the jewellers’ shops, which are much more upmarket and way out of our league. The solid gold and silver jewellery is priced according to weight and the current value of gold per ounce. We’re told by one shopkeeper that the local ladies like to wear these necklaces when they go to parties to show off their husbands’ wealth.
It’s best to go to the Souq in the afternoon when the rush of tourists off the cruise ships has gone. Then it’s cool, the light is dim and you have the time to browse and enjoy with all your senses, and even make a purchase or two. Would anyone like a fat bellied frog?