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Tourists, business return to Muttrah with cruise season

15 Nov 2022 By ANIRBAN RAY

Muscat – There was a buzz in the air in Muttrah Corniche as the German cruise ship AIDAcosma docked at Sultan Qaboos Port on Monday. Muttrah Souq came alive with shopkeepers’ irresistible sales pitches, friendly banter with customers and popping camera flashes.

The European tourists engaged in striking bargains for souvenirs, abayas, kumahs, bukhur and dates.

Salim Balushi, who has been selling frankincense in the souq for over ten years, said, “In the last couple of years, we only saw a trickle of western tourists. There were no cruises. But now cruise season is back and we are once again seeing ships with a number of tourists.”

He is happy with his shop’s sales in the past few weeks. “Germans love Omani frankincense and I have sold stock sourced from Salalah, which is quite popular among them.”

German couple Marita and Tuergen, who visited Oman before the pandemic, were thrilled to be back. “Nothing has changed in Oman. The big welcome and warmth of the people is intact. Also, there is no pollution in the skies and water,” Marita said.

Having bought abayas for her next trip to Abu Dhabi, she said, “Prices of some items, like luban and bukhur, have increased a good deal.”

Shops selling antique items such as colourful lamps, stone rings, and copper and silver ornaments did brisk business during the cruiseliner’s visit to the port in Muttrah.

Robiul Nazrul Alam, an assistant in a souvenir shop, said, “Our sales were down for the last three years, with business mostly dependent on locals and expatriates on Fridays and Saturdays.”

But the resumption of the cruise season has brought cheer to all businesses and the community around Muttrah souq. “We are very hopeful now. Sales are picking up. Today (Monday) morning, we made sales of over RO300. Tourists love antiques and our shop has items that are as old as 300 years,” informed Alam.

Like most other businesses in the souq, food stalls are also witnessing an upswing in sales. Mohammad Harun, who works in a coffee shop in Muttrah, said, “We sold over 50 shawarmas in one hour, which is a record of sorts for us in recent times.”

Delighted with the resumption of tourism, Harun said, “Cruise tourists normally come here for a short visit and love to try the local food. We don’t customise our food and keep it authentic with Arabic flavours.”

With 4,500 tourists onboard, AIDAcosma’s itinerary includes several ports in the region, including Salalah Port and Abu Dhabi.

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