Muscat: Shopkeepers in Muttrah Souq are hopeful of business returning to their stores in the next few weeks, but they know that it will take time before they are thriving once again, as people’s spending capacities have been significantly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muttrah Souq is among the establishments allowed to reopen under orders from the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19.
Abdul Salam runs an incense shop in Muttrah Souq. After Muscat Municipality sanitised the entire souq, he and the two others who worked in his store began tidying up their shop and arranging their products once more. Although he is optimistic customers will return, he knows times are tough for everyone right now.
“For the last five months, we’ve had no business here so times have been hard. Fortunately, our landlord has not asked us for our shop rent during this time, because he knows our plight. Tuesday was only the first day of the reopening, but we are looking forward to more and more people coming to our shops to buy things now.
“Before this disease came to Oman, I used to get a lot of tourists who used to come to my shop, and sold about OMR100 worth of goods every day. I hope that I can get back the business that I used to receive previously.”
Samid Saha works in Silver World, which specialises in the sale of handicrafts, jewellery and souvenirs. Located near the main gate of the souq, the shop is popular among both tourists and locals. Samid hopes his shop does well in the coming months, although he knows it will not be easy.
“Business has been slow over the last few years because of the financial difficulties people have been facing, but we’ve had no sales at all ever since we closed the shop around 17 March,” he recalled. “Let us hope for the best now and may all the shopkeepers here get business in the days to come.”
However, Samid also has a request for the public who come to Muttrah Souq, to avoid the spread of the infection amongst themselves, and the people working in the market.
“Despite the reopening, the coronavirus has not gone, so everyone needs to be careful,” he said. “COVID spreads through contact, so if people come to our shops and touch and feel all the things we have on display, then there is a chance that they could transmit the disease to us and other customers. On Tuesday morning, I had a customer who was touching and handling everything in my store, and I had to ask him not to, because of the dangers involved.
“I would ask everyone coming here to please not touch the items, and ask the shopkeepers to show it to them,” added Samid. “Muscat Municipality officials were here on Tuesday morning to see how people were behaving, and they took photos of the shops to see if all of us were following the rules, so I am sure they will put up some signs with official guidelines soon.”
Souqs around the country have been allowed to resume activities, as have car wash facilities, tailors, and phone shops. The printing of newspapers, magazines and other material has also been allowed to resume, while pools and gyms in hotels can now be used by guests who stay there. Some restaurants have also been allowed to reopen.
Fish markets have been told they can resume business, as can shops selling camping goods. Professional sports teams can now resume training at stadiums, which will be opened to them for this purpose. Private training activities can also be restarted.