I’m not really a souk person, in the core of my soul.
I don’t like haggling, crowds, or stuff, really. But while there’s plenty of stuff to bargain over in the souks of Oman, the two souks I visited were far more chilled out than the ones I’ve encountered in, say, Marrakech or Istanbul.
For example, when I visited the souk in the capital city of Muscat last week, I had time to admire the stained glass domes that marked the intersection of the passageways pictured above. It just wasn’t that hectic.
In part, I’m sure this is due to the fact that Oman is not exactly deluged with Western tourists. But while its neighbors are places where Americans, and especially those with lady bits, may not feel so comfy cozy — Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran just a Gulf away — I felt quite comfortable during my visit there last week.
Oman is trying to boost its tourism trade — many hotels are planning to open; I was a guest of the well-located Radisson Blu — but if I can make one of those incredibly sweeping statements about the population of an entire country, I get the feeling that the Omanis are fairly relaxed by temperament.
The souks are also relaxed, and while the merchants are plenty ready to accept a tourist’s money, they’re still largely serving locals. This was the scene at the souk in Nizwa. I was there on a Friday, which is a big shopping day.
Interesting fact: in Oman, the shopping is traditionally handled by men. Once I learned this, I had an additional excuse to add to my natural disinclination towards shopping: respect for the local culture. Like a good Omani woman, I decided to leave the shopping to my husband back home. I left the souk without making a purchase.
Alison J. Stein
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