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Buy in Oman

Posted by in on 5-16-13

Currency

The currency in Muscat is the Omani rial (OMR). One rial is made of 1000 baisa and is officially tied at 2.58 US dollar per 1 Omani rial. Exchange rates on the streets are 1-2% lower.

There are ATMs at the airport and many other in Muscat and every main town, but not all of them take foreign cards. You can change foreign currency at the counters inside the airport and at money exchanges throughout Oman.

Shopping

The Omani national symbol is the silver-sheathed dagger known as the khanjar. These vary widely in quality and cost, but almost every shop will stock several different models. Most of the modern ones are made by Indian or Pakistani craftsmen under Omani direction, while many are actually made in India or Pakistan. There is a large variety in quality, from the handles to the sheath. The best handles are made of silver-adorned sandlewood, while the lesser quality handles are made of resin. Look carefully at the sheath to determine the quality of the silver work. A good quality khanjar can cost upwards of 700 OMR. Typically, those will come in a presentation box, and include a belt.

Another reminder of the country’s tribal past is the walking stick known as arsaa. This is a cane with a concealed sword in it, which can prove quite a talking point at home. Unfortunately, in many countries, it will prove a talking point with customs officials rather than friends and family. In Musandam, the khanjar is frequently replaced by the Jerz as formal wear, a walking stick with a small axe head as the handle.

Omani silver is also a popular souvenir, often made into rosewater shakers and small “Nizwa boxes” (named for the town from which they first came). Silver “message holders” (known as hurz, or herz), often referred to in souks as “old time fax machines” are often for sale as well. Many silver products will be stamped with “Oman” on them, which is a guarantee of authenticity. Only new silver items may be so stamped. There is a large quantity of ‘old’ silver available which will not be stamped. Although it may be authentic, stamping it would destroy its antique value. Caveat Emptor are the watch words. Stick to reputable shops if you are contemplating buying antique Omani silver of any sort.

There is a wonderful selection of Omani silver available as jewellery as well. Items for sale in the Muttrah souk may not be genuine Omani items. Instead visit Shatti Al Qurm just outside of Muscat or the Nizwa Fort.

The distinctive hats worn by Omani men, called “kuma” , are also commonly sold, particularly in the Muttrah Souk in Muscat. Genuine kumas cost from 80 OMR.

Frankincense is a popular purchase in the Dhofar region as the region has historically been a centre for production of this item. Myrrh can also be purchased quite cheaply in Oman.

As one might expect, Oman also sells many perfumes made from a great number of traditional ingredients. Indeed, the most expensive perfume in the world (Amouage) is made in Oman from frankincense and other ingredients, and costs around OMR50. You can also find sandlewood myrrh and jasmine perfumes.

Opening hours during the holy month of Ramadan are very restricted. Supermarkets are less strict, but don’t rely on being able to buy anything after iftar. At noon, most shops are closed anyway but this is not specific to Ramadan.

Using credit cards in shops is hit or miss. It is better to get cash at an ATM. Small denomination notes are hard to come by but necessary for bargaining. Unless you are in a supermarket, restaurant or mall bargaining is recommended, and this should be conducted politely.

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