Al Dhalam (Darkness in Arabic) Souq is the local name for the Muttrah Souq. The Muttrah Souq is perhaps one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world. It is located adjacent to the harbour of Muscat harbor and has seen immense trade in the age of sail, being strategically located on the way to India and China. It has been named after darkness because of the crowded stalls and lanes where the sunrays do not infiltrate during the day and the shoppers need lamps to know their destinations. The name of the market has been drawn specifically from the part that extends from Al Lawatiya Mosque to Khour Bimba where the place is really full of stores and stalls and the narrow area of lanes does not allow the sunlight to enter. The market was a source of supply for Omanis where they can buy their needs in the 1960s when life requirements were simpler than today. Most of the goods were imported, in addition to local products like textiles, fruit, vegetables and dates.
In the past the market was built from mud and palm leaves, which suit the high temperatures and the hard climate conditions and hence were the best available materials to build the market at that time. Today, the Muscat Municipality has renovated and decorated the market to maintain the popular style but has also introduced modern amenities and redecorated the market heavily to attract tourists and make the shopping experience comfortable for tourists as well as other ordinary shoppers.
The market becomes more crowded and active during Eid seasons when Omanis come from all over the country to buy garments and jewelry.
The main thoroughfare of the souk carries mainly household goods, shoes and ready-made garments. Further inside, you can enjoy the mixed smells of frankincense, perfume oils, fresh jasmine and spices. Enthusiastic shoppers and travellers can also discover a selection of tiny shops (on the side streets and alleyways leading up to the souq) full of Omani silver, stalls of gleaming white dishdashas and embroided kumahs, brightly colored cloth and multicoloured head scarves. Shoppers can even get their hands on old Arabian muskets at these souqs.
Other things sold at the souq include Omani pots, paintings, hookah pipes, framed khanjars (daggers), leatherwork and incense.