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 home wares, 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 capital city 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.