Monday, 29 June 2015

Souvenirs from Oman

When I travel back home, I like to try and find souvenirs to give to family and friends. Summer is here, and the mass exodus of people has probably already begun, but I thought I would share a few things that you could consider gifting. Very few of these things are Omani made, but they have a distinctly Arabic feel and, well, they were purchased here so close enough.

Souveniers from Oman
Dates

I'll start with the obvious and the most abundant thing you will find here; anything date related. There are date wines, jams (a particular favourite of my family), biscuits/cookies, and of course dates themselves, covered in chocolate or filled with nuts, whichever way you like them. Of the chocolate variety, I recommend Chocodates, they have the best date:chocolate ratio, in my opinion. My family also like the Date Bars, which are similar to Fig Rolls. Carrefour has all of these available, so a one-stop shop is possible.

While in Carrefour, I always like to pick up sweets/chocolates/crisps from different places around the world. Ok, you can't hand them out as "gifts" but bringing home a selection of these has always gone down well with my family, they particularly like Sohar Chips and Tola bars. Another local food you could purchase is honey, and there are independent stands to buy these in Muscat Grand Mall and City Centre, Muscat.

Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Perfume

If you want to be particularly fancy, and very generous, a gift from Amouage I am sure would be appreciated. Amouage is an Omani brand, and the factory is in Muscat. I've heard that they produce the most expensive perfumes out there, so I have never actually stepped into a store.

Slightly cheaper is Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, a Saudi Arabian brand. I like the presentation in the shop; the perfumes are stored in huge phials and then decanted into the size container you want, which makes the whole buying process unique. You only need to purchase the smaller size since it is pure perfume and, therefore, you only need to apply a tiny amount and it lasts a very long time on the skin. Unless you are a particular fan of the strong oud smell, I would recommend Misk (musk) and A-Shamiya (sp) if you are after something that is more subtle.

Omani silver

Jewellery

There is of course gold everywhere, but if you are after something a little more unique, then I would head to Muttrah souk. They sell silver rings and bracelets, and you can also find Omani silver. Now I think they are missing a trick in Oman not having a place showing how the Omani silver pieces are made. When I first saw Omani silver, honestly, I thought it was tin or some metal mix, but when you hear about how it is made you start to appreciate its beauty. For example, in the picture, all that detail you see is the result of one strand of silver being placed down into the design. If the designer was particularly good, you can't even make out the join. Because each piece is unique, it does make it more expensive that the other silver jewellery you can buy. For the smallest pieces, the starting price is around 15OMR.


Oman camel

Others

Muttrah souk is a great place for other gifts and souvenirs. You can find the Omani dagger (Kanjar), which you will notice has the same level of detail and design process as the Omani silver jewellery. I am not sure you would want to try to get this through airport security though. The souk also offers cute wooden animal sculptures; a camel would be the most obvious choice.

I also need to mention Omani Halwa, a sweet made from starch, eggs, sugar, water, ghee, saffron, cardamom, nuts and rose water. It is usually served with coffee (another possible gift). I have never tasted the same halwa twice; each place makes it slightly differently. The general rule is the more you pay, the better the halwa. There are independent shops all over Muscat, a shop in the souk, and Carrefour also sells it.

Finally, another distinctly Middle Eastern gift would be oud. This is the stuff you smell being burnt in malls, the souk, and probably every Omani home. Personally, I find the scent too strong, and I don't understand what you should look out for, quality-wise, to be able to recommend that you buy it from a souk. There is a shop, which can be found in all the shopping centres, called Arabian Oud, and they can direct you with buying the oud and the burner you need to light it in.

I like to think that if you purchased all these you would be sufficiently spoiling your friends and family.

Have I missed anything? Let me know what gifts you like to give.  

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