Souq es Sabt: A guide to Oman's new farmer's market

T-Mag Wednesday 04/January/2017 19:01 PM
By: Times News Service
Souq es Sabt: A guide to Oman's new farmer's market

in cities around the world, especially in the cities of the west, farmers’ markets are known as place where one can not only buy fresh, local produce, but also a place to find other handcrafted, locally made goods, and to try a taste of fabulous dishes from around the world, made right there in the city. Now, at long last, Muscat has one such place for foodies, passionate home cooks, art and music-lovers, health-fanatics, and the curious looking for something new to do on a Saturday morning.

The sprawling garden of InterContinental Muscat in Qurum transforms into a one-of-a-kind al fresco souq every Saturday afternoon, so last week, I finally made my way over.
After meandering through the lanes and facing down the parking ordeal, I made my way through a swarm of people and finally managed to reach the hotel’s garden. Having been there previously to attend formal events, I was surprised to see the serenity of the place replaced by the liveliness and bustle of a happening market.

Nothing like other vegetable markets in Muscat, the space was well organised with stalls of produce, handicrafts, and prepared foods, along with live entertainment. Known for the organic fruits and vegetables brought straight from farms around the city, I saw trucks full of organic produce being sold, some looking waxed and sparkling clean, while others looked as if they had been pulled right out of the ground that morning and brought directly to the market.

As I held a lovely, dirt-covered organic beet, I heard a familiar sound. I looked up to see one of my favourite local bands, “Jams” on their guitars and drums performing. I wandered over to listen, and then made my way down another row of shaded, open-air shops. The vendors were from all over the world, displaying their handmade goods and inviting people to come sample, touch, and try everything from fresh-baked Iraqi bread to homemade South African sausage; hand-crafted jewellery and re-purposed antiques.

With a multitude of farmers, florists, artists, and chefs pedalling their wares, there is far too much to explore in one weekend, and plenty of reasons to keep coming back. I spoke to the vendors themselves to find out what makes this souq so special, and it turns out, it is the vendors themselves who are the heart and soul of this market. So I put together a quick guide to some of the amazing people to pay a visit to this weekend. [email protected]

Studio Drip
The first stall that caught my attention was Studio Drip, which had a massive portrait of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, hand-painted with water-based colours on a white canvas. The place is a home for art aficionados who appreciate fine painting and photography. As I stood there admiring the art, I met Istabraq Al Ansari, one of the co-founders of the brand. Istabraq has been a fan of travelling all her life—she’s a nomad at heart who has a strong passion for the arts—and Oman is her current home. Inside her stall, she brought London to Muscat, creating an atmosphere similar to that found London’s central market, with pictures hung on ropes in a very modern style. More than just a business woman, she’s also into humanitarian work, raising funds through her art for children in need.
Istabraq, Studio Drip +968 9124 8568

Plum Design Studio
Another inspiring art shop is Plum Design Studio. Here you’ll find artist Anupama Mehta displaying her beautiful work, which varies from paintings to clothes. She grew up inspired and influenced by her mother, who was an artist too. After having her first baby, she decided to stay home, which seemed like a golden opportunity to perfect her brushing skills. Today, Anupama paints on glass, ceramic, wood, and silk. She also makes super cool gifts such as a hand-painted XO game set, which is ideal for camping and gatherings. She also does customise paintings on request.
Anupama, Plum Design Studio +968 9287 8672

Halayil’s Honey
This simple yet interesting shop sells organic honey,
and was opened out of a passion for East African Honey. The family named the shop after its youngest member, Halayil, and specialises in authentic East African honey, which is organic, corn starch-free, and comes in a number of flavours. There’s honey with ginger, honey with black seeds, honey with nuts, honey with saffron, and of course, good ol’ plain honey.
Halayil’s Honey +968 9069 9901, @halayilhoney

Mrs Salvages
A lovely Slovakian woman, Mrs Salvages has a passion for recycled art for which she takes old stuff and makes it new again using techniques she learned from her mother. At the shop you’ll find a variety of marvellous home decor items from little boxes for gifts and candies to flower-patterned chairs, and hand-painted rocks that could liven-up any flower pot. Even her business cards have creative flair, as they are miniature rocks etched with her contact details.
Instagram @mrs.salvages

Salama Mustafa, is an Omani mother and artist who adores art and culture. Inspired by her daughter who convinced her to take a dive into this business, Salama didn’t want to start just another artsy shop, instead her main goal was to explore and then introduce Omani heritage in a modern way through art. Her shop is filled with handmade goods, which include East African tribal fabrics, printed-on-fabric art from Omani painter Moosa Omar, fine linen and cotton goods, and carved gift items made of wood and ceramic. I especially loved the cute little bowls covered in Omani-inspired designs.
Salama, Rozna-Muscat +968 9937 4139

G&W Lekker
As my stomach started to grumble, I noticed a stall with a long queue of other hungry-looking souls. It seemed like a good sign, so I joined them. Turns out, G&W Lekker is the only place around where you can get authentic, home-made, South African sausages in Muscat. Served on a split roll, I sat and savoured a sweet-chilli sausage with mustard and caramelised onions as I had a quick chat with the vendor, Wally Adjiet and his wife. They explained that they started making their own sausage two years ago when they craved a taste of home and couldn’t find any proper, homemade sausages in the city. Their sausages were an instant hit, and they have continued to make ever since. Mixing imported South African spices with high quality beef, the sausages come in BBQ, sweet-chilli, and coriander flavours, which are sold in sandwich form and uncooked by the kilo. And if you’re wondering what Lekker means, it’s a colloquial word in South Africa that means ‘cool’.
Adjiets, G&W Lekker +968 9513 9230

Paradiza Organic Farm
Paradiza is the shop you’d expect to find in a farmer’s market; only better. I stopped at their stall to taste their halloumi cheese, which they served on a piece of bread with a slice of organic cucumber. A family business founded by Narjis Al Ajmi, Paradiza is a one-stop-shop for healthy, homegrown, natural products from their farm in Barka. They also offer a variety of organic products like herbs, cupcakes, muffins, kale chips, vegetable and chicken stocks, and halloumi cheese, along with their excellent home-grown vegetables.
Narjis, Paradiza +968 9900 0059

Baghdad Bakery
“Perfection is our mission, quality is our religion”, reads the slogan hanging over the Baghdad Bakery booth. The decor of the rustic booth was as appealing as the products, which include all kinds of breads, from meat breads to an Iraqi bread known as ‘Iraqi Samoon’, as well as Iraqi sweets, date-stuffed biscuits, and homemade date vinegar and infused olive oils. It is the first authentic Iraqi bakery in town and the stall is an outpost of the brick and mortar shop in Azaiba near Millennium Hypermarket.
Baghdad Bakery, +968 9272 0278

Bella’s Bakery & Kitchen
As I was exploring and eating my way through the souq, I caught a whiff of grilled steak and caramelising cheese. It lead me to Bella’s Bakery, where they were handing a steak and cheese sandwich to an awaiting customer. The Lebanese vendors moved to Oman from London, where they gained their passion for baking and sandwich-making. The stall is an extension of the couple’s shop in Shatti Al Qurum (Opposite City Cinema), offering fresh, handmade bites including cookies, muffins, homemade chutneys in exotic flavours, sandwiches, and their signature Italian focaccia bread.
Bella’s Bakery & Kitchen, +968 9140 6610

Spend a Saturday at the farmer's market
Souq es Sabt Second Season
Dates: January 7 to February 25
Day and Time: Every Saturday, 3pm-7pm
Location: InterContinental Muscat
Contact: [email protected]
Facebook/Instagram: @souqessabt