Muscat’s souk exists in a half-light, cobble stone alleyways leading off the old town corniche, illuminated by narrow beams of sun. Here in the shadows, Frankincense dominates the senses: white whorls of incense smoke, rise towards the beamed ceiling, wreathing you in musky fragrance.
Choose your moment to visit, on busy days, when the cruise ships disgorge a glut of tourists to choke the corridors there’s a proper buzz of trade. Kaftans and scarfs flutter in doorways, painted trinkets dangle in windows, stalls are stacked with souvenirs, now’s the time to haggle for brass padlocks shaped like lions’ heads, antique compasses, silk scarves, cardamom chewing gum and my favourite find, Persian eyeliner and of course the finest Frankincense in all of Arabia, rubbly piles of gleaming amber stacked in cellophane against the walls.
If you’re accustomed to the great souks of Marrakech or Istanbul, Muttrah may seem somewhat lacking in size and stature. But the pleasures of Oman’s largest souk are less about amassing a haul of Eastern delights and more about enjoying quirky cultural differences like the literal translations of shop signs and kitsch electronica, and the universal art of people watching.