The most authentic Omani shopping can be experienced at the traditional souks (souqs) – time-honoured markets that take pride of place in nearly every town across the country. Early mornings are the best time to visit the local souk when heated conversations in Arabic whirl through the intricate laneways, tangled in the fragrance of frankincense and sharp spices. Souks are more than just a place to shop, they are a place to meet up with friends old and new and embrace vibrant culture and customs.
It's easy to spend your Omani Rial at the souks, but the sensory experience is worth a trip on its own merit. Some of the best souks in Oman are found in Muttrah (Muscat), Nizwa, Bahla, Ibri, Sohar and Al Hafah (Salalah). While locals frequent the souks for their weekly stock up, they are also a fantastic place for souvenir shopping. Unique gifts to keep an eye out for include trademark Omani silver jewellery and homewares, incense powders and perfumed oils, handcrafted pottery, replica or antique khanjars (ceremonial curved daggers) and colourfully embroidered "kuma" hats.
If you're basing your holiday around the capital city of Muscat, there are plenty of westernised retail opportunities to indulge in too. In the suburb of Qurum (Qurm), Al Araimi is a popular mall with a wide range of international labels, while the larger Ruwi district is home to the stylish Capital Stores and the longstanding Sabco Centre. When it comes to buying big and spending less, the Muscat International Airport has a large duty free outlet boasting premium perfumes, accessories and more.
Shops in Oman generally open from 09:00 to 13:00 and 16:00 until around 22:00 every day except Friday, when retailers don't generally open until 16:00. It's also important to be aware that opening hours may be considerably reduced during the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Muscat City Centre
This large "lifestyle" centre is home to nearly 150 stores where you can spend time and money with ease. Housing the latest runway looks, Arabic-inspired perfumeries and everything in between, Muscat City Centre's convenient location along the Al Sultan Qaboos Highway in Seeb makes it one of the most frequented shopping destinations in town. Many brands, both local and foreign, made their Oman debut at the centre, along with around 18 restaurants and cafes and essential institutions such as pharmacies, banks and grocery stores. Muscat City Centre trades from 10:00 to 22:00 Saturday to Thursday and 14:00 to 22:00 on Fridays.
Omani Heritage Gallery
The Omani Heritage Gallery is your one-stop shop for genuine Made in Oman handicrafts. The nonprofit organisation was set up to encourage local artisans to pursue traditional works, ensuring the creative side of Omani culture remains alive and well. Craftsmen and women around the country weave, sculpt, paint and forge their wares, guaranteeing quality to match the price tag. The Heritage Gallery, which aims to preserve the past while creating a future, takes residence in Muscat's Jawharat Al Shatti Complex, a short from the beach in Qurum, opening 10:00 to 22:00 every day except Friday.
If you can't find what you're looking for at a LuLu Hypermarket, chances are you might not find it anywhere. LuLu Hypermarkets have a strong presence across Oman as well as in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. A playful take on the mainstream supermarket, LuLu Hypermarkets are spacious with a world of brands united under one roof; a favourite haunt for Omani shoppers. It's easy to find a LuLu outlet anywhere from Salalah to Nizwa and Khasab, with most operating between 08:00 and 23:45 seven days a week.