Shaquel al Balushi visits the bustling night market at Seeb to experience Ramadan when the sun goes down.
First and foremost, I would like to wish everyone Ramadan Mubarak. It’s that wonderful time of the year when people leave all their worries behind and make an extra effort to get in touch with their spiritual side.
This week, I decided to make a small change for my Destination piece, opting to head to Seeb Souk after dusk as opposed to my usual outdoor adventures.
With temperatures touching 45 degrees Celsius on most days, it is getting harder for me and my friends (who are also observing Ramadan) to explore areas surrounding Muscat.
So, I’m making a temporary switch from my usual daytime explorations. This decision also makes sense as my point of interest – Seeb Souk – only rumbles to life after Iftar, when people are fresh and ready to get some shopping done.
Accompanying me for this adventure was my trusted travel buddy, Imran. We didn’t want to be late so we left for the souk right after breaking our fast. This gave us a chance to experience the authentic ambience and atmosphere of the souk, and the people who shop there.
Also, this being my first destination for the month of Ramadan meant that I could observe what people were doing in the after hours and how the changes in operating times make a difference. And the souk’s multicultural demography makes for a perfect spot to achieve this.
But first things first: if you’re preparing to head to the souk for shopping, brace yourself for a sweaty night. Imran and I quickly agreed that we were a little optimistic in assuming that the Muscat weather would be a little bit more forgiving past sunset.
The humidity levels on the night were off the charts and we were sweating profusely. I was scared for my precious camera gear. I think that the souk’s close proximity to the beach – it’s just a short walk away – is the reason behind the sauna-like night air. While the humidity levels in the souqksurprised us, we quickly realised that we were probably the only ones complaining. The number of people who turned up was staggering and shopping spirits were running high here.
Of course, I’ve been to the souk countless times before and I know that the atmosphere here is always vibrant, with shoppers bustling around looking for a bargain, traders looking for customers and people scurrying around the streets.
It didn’t take me long to find my favourite shot – of a cobbler at a shoe store sipping on a cup of black lemon tea. He was very friendly and even allowed me to photograph him.
From his face, I could tell he was extremely tired but determined after his long day, which is true with most shopkeepers around the souk. But I particularly like this shot because his face reflects his inner strength. Following that, I was on my
way across the busy streets, looking for another picture to snap.
I notice that it is the shoe and clothing shops that are jam-packed with shoppers, which is normal when families get ready for Eid. Most people tend to purchase new clothes and shoes prior to the occasion.
Tailors and cobblers are working overtime here.
Among the commotion, I also noticed a tailor working quietly in his shop, probably working on bulk orders. I quickly snapped a photo of him because he seemed to have found a way to shut out the crowds and the distractions away from his work.
I have to be honest, I envied his level of concentration as he worked on the cloth, taking measurements and making alterations.
Walking around the souk, I also stumbled upon a cat. The little fellow was one of the most beautiful street cats that I have seen. It was elegant and passionate, just like a model staring at the lens and striking a pose.
Moving into the darker areas of the souk, I noticed a relaxed atmosphere. More people here hang out with their phones than move about. They were probably texting their loved ones back at home. I distinctly noticed a young man looking at his phone, smiling, as he was typing.
It made me realise how much technology has advanced and how it helps keep people and loved ones in touch with each other. Amazing, isn’t it?
Time passed quickly. And it was close to midnight. Both Imran and I were hot, tired, soaked in sweat, and ready to leave. But the souk was still very much alive and rumbling.
I’m guessing the hustle and bustle would continue until the early hours. I knew that going to the souk would make for some brilliant pictures – and I wasn’t disappointed.