Muscat: Oman’s first farmers’ market, which aims to promote home-grown businesses in the Sultanate, can help contribute towards efforts to diversify the Sultanate’s economy, its founder Sara Alasfoor said.
The fourth season of the Souq-es-Sabt market begins on Saturday, the 13th of January, and will feature more than 50 vendors, up from just 15 who had participated when it was launched.
“Our aim was to ensure that people graduate from the stalls to permanent establishments, and we have been successful in that regard,” she added.
Anupama Mehta, a trained designer, now plans to start an online business to sell her homemade paintings on ceramics, glass, wood and silk, across the Middle East after she received a positive response during the last season of Souq-es-Sabt.
“I was working as a designer, but after my son was born, I did not have enough time. This is usual with life in the Middle East where working women often have little time for children,” she said.
“I, therefore, decided to pursue my passion for art since Muscat is brilliant for handmade crafts. People here aren’t too interested in designer goods, but handicrafts elicit a tremendous response.
“Souq-es-Sabt is a beautiful concept for anyone working from home,” added Anupama. “No one was doing the kind of stuff that I do, so I have had a very good
Ali Mohammed Jawad is the owner of Baghdad Bakery in Azaiba. Having watched his cheese and olive focaccia, stuffed breads and barley breads selling like hot cakes at the souq, he is now planning to build a factory and open more branches in the Sultanate to meet the demand. “This really helped introduce a wider audience to our products,” he revealed. “There are a lot of bakeries around, but they don’t do what we do. We received an excellent response because of the quality of our products.
“People started coming back to us, and a lot of them had been recommended by those at Souq-es-Sabt. Our zucchini and carrot cakes turned out to be very popular and we received a lot of orders for these,” he added.
“We are now going to expand in the next 12 months. At the moment, we are constructing a factory and have also started looking at the prospect of opening more shops in other areas.”
Sara shared with the Times of Oman what inspired her to set up Souq-es-Sabt. “We were on a family vacation in Poland, in the town of Gdansk, and it was just a coincidence, but that town had a farmers’ market running that month. They had closed a major section of the road to accommodate more than 1,000 participants from all over Europe,” she said.
“They had a large number of traditional items and homemade things, such as cheese, sausages and breads, in that market. That was Europe’s largest farmers’ market with vendors from all over Europe, and all the items they had were natural,” she added.
“The existing stores in that area were owned by actual entrepreneurs, whose parents and grandparents had previously been part of the market. I found it very interesting because of the way this contributed to the economy, and I wanted to have something like this in Oman as well.
“Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the government, which extended support to allow us to function,” said Sara. “They came up with a framework and regulations for us to operate safely and properly. We’re now setting a standard in Muscat because farmers’ markets are organised in all cities and villages. Now, this is happening in Muscat as well and can be a catalyst for the economy. The community is very supportive of local products and this is an effective way of bringing the community together.”
Souq-es-Sabt will take place every Saturday, starting January 13, and will continue for six weeks from 3 pm to 7 pm, at the gardens of the Intercontinental Hotel. For more information, please email [email protected] or visit their Facebook and Instagram pages at @souqessabt.