Muscat is the shopping capital of Oman and offers a cosmopolitan range of shops and goods. From expensive boutiques to handicraft stalls and everything in between, shoppers are never far away from finding what they want. The fact that goods are tax-free means items like carpets, textiles and gold are often cheaper than they are in other countries, while many imported goods fetch prices similar to what they do elsewhere. The key to shopping like a pro in Muscat is to bargain where possible or to wait for the sales when prices can be cut up by up to 70%.
Oman has some of the liveliest, most authentic and colourful traditional markets (souks) in the region. Distinguished old men in their dishdashas sit behind the counters in small shops, while bejeweled women in their abayas haggle with authority. Modern shopping centres, replete with global brands and ample parking, are pivotal social settings. They provide air-conditioned entertainment for a mix of nationalities that are there to see and be seen, shop or just pass the time.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights are the busiest shopping times and it can get a little too crowded, even for the serious shopper. During Ramadan, some shops are open until midnight, supermarkets are packed to the brim with unbelievable amounts of food, and the queues are long, especially in the evenings. Many shops have sales during the annual Muscat Festival in January and in the months around the two Eid holidays, and there are invariably numerous promotions and raffles up for grabs.