Shaquel al Balushi continues his nighttime explorations during Ramadan with a trip to the market at Barka.
Heading out to Barka after Iftar with my family, I was a little uncertain about what to expect. As it’s about 100km from my home in Amerat, Barka is a place that I don’t visit very often and I’ve never ventured there during Ramadan, so it was a new experience for my two friends, Majid and Ashani, who were tagging along for the ride, and I.
I was also interested to find out how night shopping in Barka would compare to Seeb Souk, which, as regular readers will know, I visited the week before.
We arrived shortly before 9pm and immediately hit a traffic jam. The place was heaving with cars; there were more vehicles than people, each one jostling for an inch of space on the road!
Wisely, we parked and set off to explore on foot. I also noticed that the locals seem much more chilled out than their Seeb counterparts, more willing to pose for photographs and many calling out for me to take their picture. I got a nice shot of three cool-looking guys hanging around their pride and joys – their shiny cars.
Walking on, I captured one of my favourite images of the night; a young Bedouin man watching over his toddler sister – who was clambering over the family’s Toyota Hilux pick-up – while their parents were off shopping. I loved the way the big brother was so caring about his little charge in her pink dress and he clearly adores her.
Barka Souk is split into two distinct areas: the old and the new market. The old souk is close to Barka Fort, taking you down dimly lit side streets and back alleys where traders sit outside their shops hoping to persuade a sale. These street scenes seemed to reflect life here, the hustle and bustle, mismatched wares and vibrant clashing of colours. In one small parade of shops, for instance, you could buy a mattress, get your hair cut, have some clothes tailored, pick up an inflatable beach toy or take away a bicycle.
Everyone seemed so relaxed. Even the butcher, cutting away with a knife, jovially shouted out to have a photo surrounded by meat carcasses.
Another alleyway had a meat and chicken shop, while a couple more stores were still shuttered up, perhaps waiting for the later trade. The lights blazing away at Rasasi, a popular store stocking Arabic perfumes for men and women, attracted my attention. I could see that boxes of perfumes were piled on the floor, ready for the Eid rush, one of their busiest trading times of the year.
It felt much cooler and less humid in Barka than Muscat, making it very pleasant to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere.
We wandered around for more than an hour, chatting with locals and checking out some bargains on offer. Afterwards, I made a promise to return to Barka Souk again soon.
Next week, I’ll be on another nocturnal adventure and regaling you with more tales.