Going through Souq Muttrah may be a confusing experience for a tourist expecting to find the magic of Arabia in the most historic seaside market of Oman. Souq Muttrah is full of Indian shopkeepers selling pashmina, strange looking golden idols, unconvincing copper coins, and strange juice mixes that feature Vimto and vanilla ice cream, but do not despair, OmanTripper is here to provide you with a simple guide on the most authentic Omani sovenirs that you can easily find in Souq Muttrah to make sure that you come out with a geniune Omani treasure, rather than a cheap replica of a statute of buddha.
The Kummah is one of the clothing items that distinguish the clothing of Omani men from those worn by other Gulf nationals. It is quite iconic and easy to pick and wear making it a nice little sovenir. The Kummah is a hint at Oman’s historic link with Zanizbar as it originates from Africa and is today considered part of the casual Omani dress code that is worn on daily basis by men and boys alike. There are two main kinds of kummahs, hand woven and machine woven, the hand woven kummahs are more expensive and can be identified by the visible round woven circles of colored thread that make up the colored part of the cap. Prices of kummahs vary greatly depending on the quality and complexity of the design.
This biblical resin is a real thing that is extracted from frankincense trees in Dhofar – the southern part of Oman, which has been known for thousands of years as a trading port and a source of frankincense. It is still widely burnt around Omani houses around the year as incense to improve the smell of the home or clothing after they are dried in the hot air. Frankincense is also chewed or ingested with water for medicinal reasons. The price of a frankincense varies depending on the quantity and quality of the product in question. The more transparent the resin is, the higher its quality.
(3) Incense Burners
As an incidental part of the frankincense business, Omanis had to create their own incense burners, each known as a Majmar to consume frankincense and other forms of woods and oils which are burnt for their smell. There are many different kinds and sizes of these traditional clay burners depending on the region in which they are made, some are minimalist in design while others have elaborate engravings and make extensive use of colors. The majmar is operated by placing a hot piece of coal on it and then placing the incense over the coal to make it burn.
(4) Modern Omani Clay Artwork
The clay industry has existed in Bahla in Oman for thousands of years and it still thrives until this day. While traditional clay pottery was made to create pots for storing water and food, a recent attempt at modernizing the industry has led to the creation of some creative little pieces which can be used as candle holders or general house decore. Some of these pieces are colored while others come in the natural color and texture of Omani clay.
(5) Wicker Goods
Date palms have traditionally been an essential asset to the life of the people in this region, especially as all of its parts were used in different aspects of live. Dried date palm leaves were used to make a variety of household items such as baskets, mats, food covers, and hand fans, but unlike other regions in the world, Omanis did not commonly use date palm leaves in the fabrication of clothing. An easily item to pick is probably a basket or a hand fan, the baskets come in different sizes, while the hand fan comes in a standard size, but in a variety of colors.
(6) Mandoos Chests
Mandoos chests are wooden chests historically used as domestic closets for storing clothes and precious items such as money and jewelry. Nowadays, the Mandoos is used for decoration at Omani homes and is ceremoniously used to deliver the wedding dowery when someone gets married and transporting the belongings of a bride to her new home. Mandoos chests come in small and large sizes, are usually made up of fully wooden bodies, and have geometric shapes drawn onto them using copper needles and sheets.
In Arabic, the term Halwa literally means sweets, but in Oman the term Halwa means a specific Omani delicacy made up of starch, egg, nuts, ghee, saffron, rosewater, cardamom, and sugar. These ingredients are blended together in a specially designed huge pots heated over wood fire and then left to cool down into a rich jello-like pudding. There are kinds of halwa that use slightly modified recipes which are usually identified by the color of the halwa. It can be bought in a variety of sizes, but they are never expected to be consumed by a single person. An individual would have a scoop or two of an overflowing table size spoon at a time, and it would shared with other people and consumed over a number of days.
Omani sicks are called Khaizaran or Assa and are sticks made up of a variety of woods, these woods may be treated with specific kinds of oil and engraved using copper, silver, and special stones. Sticks are traditionally carried by Omani men at certain social occasions, such as when invited to the wedding of another person or when attending a funeral. The prices of sticks can start from a rial or two to tens of rials depending on the work done on the stick.
The khanjar is the holy grail of Omani sovenirs, it has been historically a symbol of Omani pride and mastery of craft and is the official emblem of the country and can be seen on its flag. Nowadays these curved daggers are worn at special occasions and formal functions. Omani khanjars are made up of silver, steel, and wood, and may incorporate other materials such velvet and leather. The different variations in the khanjar may indicate its origin to a certain region in the country or a certain tribe. Ivory and horns of other animals are now prohibited by law from being used in manufacturing khanjars. Antique khanjars and brand new ones can be bought at varying prices depending on the age, material, and workmanship.
(10) Framed Sovenirs
And of course, if you do not want to buy a full scale genuine Omani sovenir, you can always buy little framed replicas which can be found all over Souq Muttrah, these come in a variety of sizes and can found to display anything from camels to khanjars! It might not be the real deal, but hey at you least you still bought something!