Shopping in Oman: Frankincense & Myrrh Minus the Three Wise Men


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Middle East » Oman » Muscat
December 21st 2014
Published: December 22nd 2014
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Dad's Coconut StandDad's Coconut StandDad's Coconut Stand

Dad sat here long enough people probably assumed he owned the place. He watched the activities in the port while I scoured the souq for great deals.
We momentarily left UAE and headed to Oman. We are in Muscat, a gulf city on the coast, enjoying beautiful weather, gorgeous architecture, fantastic food and more shopping than you can shake a camel stick at!

Our visit to the Old Souq at Mutrah turned into a day long excursion that included people watching, strolling along the corniche and lots and lots of shopping. The wares consisted of the usual suspects: jewels, pashminas, tacky souvenirs and "handmade antique one-of-a kind" items that seem to be in every shop.

Omani currency is the Rial, and 1 Rial is the equivalent of about $2.60. Prices were reasonable and food seemed somewhat cheaper than in the Midwest. Despite the reasonable prices, cash turned out to be a barrier in Oman. We had money, but it was almost impossible to get any from the ATMs. We all notified our banks of our travel and took the necessary pre-trip precautions, but it did not seem to help. We noticed other foreigners experiencing issues too.

The cash was especially necessary because the shopkeepers typically reported they could not take credit cards, but in every instance the shopkeeper took us to their "other store" to charge the purchase. It turned into this funny game of running from one shop to another after reaching an agreement on purchase price.

We also found that the taxi cab drivers, restaurant owners and store owners were willing to take American Dollars--they actually seemed willing to take any currency. But it was interesting how they inspected the non-Omani currency. Dad gave a taxi driver a tip that included an American Dollar. The driver gave it back to dad and pointed out that it had a burn mark on it. He wanted a different dollar!

I purchased a coffee cup for Granny (no surprise there!), but did not have any local currency left so I exchanged money at our hotel. The front desk manager who exchanged my money gave me back one of my $20 bills and said it was too old! It was in great condition, but he said the bank would not accept bills older than 2006.

With all the currency and exchange issues aside, we had a successful day at the souq. Luckily, we packed empty bags for the trip home! Let's just say we are doing some last minute holiday shopping!!

While we were in the souq, dad overheard people speaking American English (not very common in Muscat). We investigated and met three people working on a Yahoo Travel Video (associated with the blog A Broad Abroad). They were very nice and seemed as excited as we were to see other Americans. They had been all around the world, but also seemed to respect our travel resume. They were shocked we were from Kansas and the woman starring in the video (Paula Froelich) asked if we knew of Salina, KS. She had friends who lived there--talk about a small world!

We compared travel stories and advice about Oman. They were curious about us having camels in Kansas and obliged by looking at photos of Siwa and Algiers. When we got back to the hotel we attempted to look up their travel blog, but as they told us, it had been banned in Oman due to decency violations!

All in all, it was a successful day in the old souq of Muscat. The sights and sounds and smells quickly transported us back to a time when the magic of the spice route traveled through this historic gulf.


Additional photos below
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Pashminas and ScarvesPashminas and Scarves
Pashminas and Scarves

There is a reason this guy is smiling and it is reflected on my credit card bill...
FrankincenseFrankincense
Frankincense

The smell of frankincense wafts through every corner of the souq as Oman is well-known for it. Many of the shops also sold the dark crystal-like clumps of myrrh.


22nd December 2014

Good stuff
I've never seen such a colorful place. I don't think I've ever smelled any Frankincense. Being a Catholic we used a lot of incense, especially at funerals. I knew some of the dead and the only thing going up was the incense! Joe
22nd December 2014

Good stuff
I've never seen such a colorful place. I don't think I've ever smelled any Frankincense. Being a Catholic we used a lot of incense, especially at funerals. I knew some of the dead and the only thing going up was the incense! Joe
22nd December 2014
Dad's Coconut Stand

Roy's Coconut Stand
The only thing Roy's missing in this pic is his cup of coffee (you know, the one that's a dark caramel color, like the stripe marked out on his desk). I barely recognize him without it!!
22nd December 2014

Theola
Hi Vals, Your mom wanted me to let you know that your grandma died in her sleep last night(the 21st). We discussed whether you would want to know but since you guys were fully aware that Theola ( I hope I'm spelling her name right) was in poor health when you left, your mom thought that this news wouldn't be a shock to you. They are having Theola's funeral on the 27th. I'm sorry about this Vals. Losing two grandparents within a month of each other isn't easy for you I'm sure. Sue wanted you to know she is doing o.k. and definitely wants you guys to enjoy the rest of your adventure in Oman. Naturally, I am sending this on your blog because you can't get email so Sue was afraid to use her Cap Fed email to answer through your blog. Take care and again I send my sympathy to you on your grandma's passing. Nancy
23rd December 2014

Thanks Nancy
Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate you letting me know. We were aware this could happen. We are having lots of technology issues--will write more later.

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