The aroma of spices, the fragrance of the frankincense, sounds of the footsteps, and the hustle and bustle of people shopping are all going to be experienced once again as the Muttrah Souq resumed operations, but safety first with all precautions in place to control the spread of coronavirus.
One of the renowned traditional markets in the world had to let down the shutters to combat Coronavirus and as the Supreme Committee announced the opening of Muttrah there were sighs of relief and delight amongst the general public and the employees and shop owners in Muttrah.
They had not just dealt with the fear of a virus but also void experienced with a lack of job and income as well as business for the owners. The COVID-19 impact had hit directly on Muttrah.
“We are excited and more than happy as we have been waiting for this for months. I don’t think in the history of Muttrah Souq had ever been shut for this long. First of all, as we head back to the market we have to be very careful of course and take all safety measures of masks and gloves; secondly, the streets of Muttrah with its shops will be back in action. I believe the shopkeepers are ready for the opening. It is a moment to celebrate!” said Murtada al Lawati, born and brought up in Muttrah.
He reflected, “Muttrah is my life, I was born here and I think everyone who has been to Muttrah knows it is fascinating because it is not like any other town. Muttrah has seen many events and is the life of Oman as it is one of the oldest markets in the region. In other parts of the Gulf, they called it the shaded market. There are only a few shaded markets in the region. Muttrah has seen the start of the many business houses you see today, which are prominent.”
The natural harbour ensured a thriving business throughout its history and the seventies saw the prominence grow further with the establishment of Port Sultan Qaboos. The millennium saw Muttrah’s role as a tourism destination, which became an attraction for cruise ships. After staying still for more than five months, Muttrah is ready to buzz again.
“As a child, I remember that behind the police station there was a traditional market where people used to bring toys for children. I remember coming back from the school, which was also in Muttrah, we would see the toys and run home to convince our father to buy for us. This is during the late 70s. I also remember hunting for the kimas, Omani caps, and mussars. The selection would be limited and the best would cost around the 100 Omani Rials, if you bought the ones lesser than 50 Rials they were not considered very nice. We knew the dealers and they would keep them for us. If you were to buy the cheaper ones then one could tell the quality difference. Now we have a vast collection of good designs and qualities with a varying range of prices. Nowadays we find beautiful pieces of mussars with competitive prices,” Murtada explained.