Touring Oman: Second Stop Nizwa Souq

We drove to Nizwa about 140 kilometers from Muscat.  Nizwa was the capital of Oman during the sixth and seventh centuries.  It also served as the cultural capital being known as the town of poets, writers, intellectuals, and religious leaders.

We did not stop at any libraries but instead parked in the souq parking lot.  It was Thursday the day before the big Friday cow and goat sale.  Goldi, a staunch vegetarian, had vetoed the Friday market visit as she did not want her dreams plagued with visions of what happened to the purchased goats.

The animal, fish and vegetable souq is part of a typical tour.  However, it was very quiet when we walked through the wooden gate.

Inside the smell of slaughtered animals and blood in the street moved us quickly into air conditioned building with its brightly lit vegetable stalls.  People were not bustling about.  A few vendors sat patiently waiting for buses of tourists to come through, taste their halwa and hopefully purchase a kilo or two to carry home.

Halwa is the Omani sweet.  It is like thick paste made of dates with cardamom and decorated with pistachios.  Both Goldi and I tried a piece.  It was not overly sweet but my palate did not appreciate the jelly texture.  Neither of us wanted another bite and declined the offer to buy any.

At the next stall the man wearing the lavender thobe tempted me with his halwa.  It had a re-useable tin bowl and cover.  I nearly bought it for the container but decided carrying 5 riyals of heavy halwa in my suitcase, knowing no one in my family would eat it, was a waste of good luggage space.

We succumbed to the elderly man selling cashews.  Even after my purchase, he declined a photo.

Outside the vegetable market was the entrance to a Nizwa street store just outside the Fort/Castle’s front door.  The shelves were filled with ceramic replicas of the fort.  At first it looked enticing and we eagerly entered hoping to find the perfect souvenir.

Silver daggers lined the walls. The jewelry cases were filled with traditional style necklaces made of semi-precious stones and silver beads.  At first it looked fun but upon further examination the silver jewelry all began to look like very unwanted silver jewelry that had gathered dust there for years.  The men sat bored, watching at us paw through the piles of trinkets.  We found nothing.  The jewelry was not modern enough to wear, nor special enough to hang up as decoration.  My guess was it all came from India.  We wandered outside.

The crude clay pots were handmade and fired in wood burning ovens.  They become hard but would not last forever.  Nothing appealed to us.

We walked towards the fort entrance and found another street filled with tourist treasure shops.

Goldi led me into one that interested her.

As I entered and took pictures of the camels, the shop keeper asked where I was from.

“America.”  I said smiling as I perused the shelves packed with every type of momento you could imagine.

“Hi Golden Gate Bridge!” he shouted.  His voice reminded me of Maz Jabroni, the Persian comedian on Axis of Evil.  “I love the Golden Gate Bridge.”

“In San Francisco.  I lived there.” I told him.  “But I live in Bahrain now.”

“Ah Bahrain.  My family lived there for many years until the 1970s.  We came back to Oman when Sultan Qaboos came into power.  He made many changes and brought the Omanis back to Oman.”

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has led Oman since 1970 when he took power from his father.  Oman’s absolute monarchy had been passed down through the male line of the Al Busaidi Dynasty for the past five generations after Sayyid Turki bin Said Bin Sultan overthrew the Ottoman Turks in 1744.

“You like Sultan Qaboos?” I asked curious whether the Sultan was as popular as he seemed.

“Yes, we LOVE Sultan Qaboos.  He has made many changes to Oman.  Where are you from?” he directed his question towards my flaxen haired friend.

“California,” she nodded.

“California.  Arnold Schwarzenegger!” he shouted.  “He is no longer your governor – no?”

“Actually, I don’t know.” Goldi answered.  “I just moved to California.”

“I don’t think he is governor anymore.  No more Terminator for California,” he said.

“Can I take your picture?” I asked.  I wanted to remember this man.

“Yes you can,” he said.  “First, please wait.”

He reached into his shelves and pulled out a silver khanjar.  It too looked new, probably recently made in India.  He held it next to his cheek and posed for me.

“Thank you.” I said.

No money exchanged hands but we had a good time.

Next Stop: Nizwa Fort


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 20:14:54

    You know the Middle East Souvenir market indeed. Nice photos. No junk for you.


  2. Eva the Dragon
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 20:43:09

    I am not sure that is a compliment – except for the photos part. Thanks.

    It’s the case wherever you go. Every destination spot is a shopping opportunity and as a tourist you are steered right down the middle. It is a challenge to find anything “authentic” because most of the trinkets are Made In China. Or in Oman, Made In India.

    Even the Vatican has a large shopping hall with different product price ranges to suit every tourist. I was surprised at the number of kiosks of Vatican-ized key chains, calendars, pens and notebook paper stationed throughout the museum.


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