Muscat: Merchants at the Muttrah Souq say their businesses are endangered because of a lack of parking space.
“Parking difficulties have forced many of our customers to buy goods from hypermarkets and malls, even though they know they can buy goods cheaper at the souq,” Harris Hussain told Times of Oman.
According to many shopkeepers, they are not currently busy, even though it is the Holy Month of Ramadan.
“There are days when we are not able to earn a rial. Even today, I opened the shop at nine in the morning and there is no business,” said Sadiri, said a shop owner.
“We are forced to close our shops at 10PM because of no business,” he added.
Most of the shop owners in the souq say if this situation continues, business in the souq will worsen. “Many commuters consider it a lottery to find parking,” noted Rafeeq, another merchant at the souq. “Some customers drop their families near the souq and go around for hours to find a parking slot,” he added.
According to Jamal PK, who works as a salesman in a perfume shop, it’s very hard to find parking near the souq after 5PM.
“In the past, most of our customers came from different parts of Oman, such as Seeb, Barka, Quriyat, and Sur, but now the number has decreased,” said Siddique, who owns more than seven perfume shops in the souq.
He added that many customers have been fined for parking their cars illegally, and this makes them think twice about shopping at the souq. “Even residents living near the souq won’t go out after 5PM in their own cars because it is very hard to find a parking place later,” Mohammed Gafoor told Times of Oman.
According to merchants, the closed parking building, which is near Oman Arab Bank at Muttrah, could solve the parking issue if it was opened to the public.
“It (parking building) can accommodate more than 300 cars and could solve this issue, to a large extent,” Jabeer, who has worked as a salesman for the last 20 years, told Times of Oman.
The market sells everything from traditional clothing, ornaments, bags, perfumes, toys, crockery to mementoes, say shop owners, which is why many people prefer shopping at the souq.
“The parking issue is the main problem that is holding back customers,” Jabeer added.
“We are hoping that business will be better after Ramadan, as people will receive their salaries next week,” added Nasser, another shopkeeper.
There is a move to establish parking lots at Muttrah Souq, as well as at Ruwi, according to an official at the Muscat Municipality.
“Buildings, including government offices, will be replaced by parking slots for Muttrah Souq visitors,” according to Ibrahim Al Hsani of the media department at Muscat Municipality.
According to the official, the plan has not yet been approved.
“The plan is not yet approved, but the move is clear. It’s part of a big plan to develop Muttrah Suq, and the municipality is now working in the planning stage,” said Al Hsani.