A dispatch from 1001 Nights

Goat market in Oman


It's Friday in the Sultanate of Oman. Actually, it is the 25th of December 2015. 7:30 am, the clock says, while the sun is just stretching its rays over the Hajar mountains and winking at us. We roll happily through the morning and head for the goat market. A spectacle that we do not want to miss.

It's Friday in the Sultanate of Oman. Actually, it is the 25th of December 2015. 7:30 am, the clock says, while the sun is just stretching its rays over the Hajar mountains and winking at us. We are already in the car. Rolling happily through the morning, heading for the city center and goat market on the well-developed roads, which today - as every Friday - takes place in Nizwa, the center of the Omani heartland. A spectacle that we do not want to miss, while elsewhere friends and family are certainly still in their beds and later celebrate Christmas. But that with Christmas is another story. Now it's about animals.

A red light interrupts our ride for a moment and I can not stop the grin that is just spreading on my face. Not because of the latest news that the car radio coughs up in Arabic. But because of the scene that unfolds in front of us: A young man in his traditional white dishdasha (that's the name of the long robe the men usually wear here) and his cap on his head just a few yards away, his red-blond and quite a shaggy companion on her leash to cross the pedestrian crossing. Push, pull, talk well, scold and pull again. He does not have that far to the Souq, but his stubborn goat does not seem to have the slightest interest in attending an auction as an object of desire. Complaining, it's half a step forward and two steps back. A small moment in which progress and tradition merge together, become tangible for us and make a nice prelude to what will follow soon.

But first we have to find a parking space and that seems to be an equally big challenge at first glance, because the area around the souq is a jumble of animals and humans. As we are looking for many desperately for a parking space for their car and although nearby, because long stretches to walk, is not so fashionable here. We're lucky and find one, then we jump into the fray of locals hoping for a good deal with their goats or bulls, cows and calves, who are also patiently lying or lying in the morning sun waiting for a new owner.

The still cool air is filled with Arabic murmur, which forms more and more clearly to voices and shouts of men, women and children, the closer we come, and mixed with animal sounds and hoof kicks. While everything is quiet and leisurely on the edge of the action and there is a chat here and there, it is more hectic towards the middle of the square. It is pushed and pushed, the voices continue to increase. We are close to each other, because of course everyone wants to catch a good place and see the animals that are being offered loudly for sale.

Several men run around with their pet, have it thrown over their shoulders if necessary, and call the starting price: 20 rials for this magnificent specimen of a goat!

At the same time, everyone is moving closer together and taking another step forward. The potential buyers stroke the animals through the coat, check the stature. If the product pleases, they call their offer to the seller and the price increases accordingly, before the next round is turned and until an acceptable proceeds are obtained. Some people already seem tired, from so many Fridays and also goats.

By the way, we are not the only tourists in this episode of 1001 Nights. No matter where I look, I always see expensive cameras and thick lenses, which also try to preserve this experience as best as possible. And just as we admire this for us exotic, it is the other way around. A pair of pretty black eyes, with long eyelashes, keep looking up at me as I stand there and take pictures with my bright red camera of men staring at goats. A little boy, maybe seven or eight years old, also dressed in traditional clothes. Shy, he always looks away quickly when our eyes meet. After a few attempts, however, the ice is broken and I get a bright smile back. Not the last one I will harvest in Oman.

Since the goats are only part of what is going on in Nizwa today, we move on. And observe how next door birds and rabbits are offered among other things, with the latter probably still needs to be clarified in terms of sex. A few meters away there are fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, towels, household goods, but also weapons and Krummdolche, which are not only worn on festive occasions. Here and there, Omani, cardamom-flavored coffee is served right on the street. There are one or the other date. It is not untypical that you are invited to do so, and there is no excusable excuse not to follow such an invitation.

  1. People are so looking for "authentic experiences" today. They barely exist in Nizwa. Depending on the season, there are more tourists than traders and animals in the animal market in Nizwa. Because the whole thing as well as the adjacent Souk everything is newly built, which has little flair. For 2.5 years, now also a four-lane highway goes to the center of Nizwa and the city has lost much of its contemplative charm. But "contemplative charm" is probably not on top of the list of priorities of the locals.

    Those who do not know it differently probably still consider this an authentic spectacle. And it's like that somewhere. Exactly authentic Omani life as of 2016. With the new highway, you can unload more tourists even more efficiently. In the face of falling oil prices and a horrendous budget deficit of over 20%, Oman is in dire need of more tourists.

    Soon the animal market will probably be a pure tourist folklore show and for each photo the hand is held up (as already at the camel market in Al Ain). And yet they still exist in Oman: the authentic livestock markets. Small, tight, with wonderful grubby, old houses around it. Just not at tourist hotspots like Nizwa.

    • Hello Guido,

      Thank you for your comment!

      You seem to be more often on site and better able to assess the whole thing. As you say yourself - I do not know it differently. In Nizwa I was only a few days and for the first time. I visited the souk and the animal market for only a few hours. So I can not do comparisons.

      Of course we were not the only tourists, but it has kept within limits. There were a lot of dealers and animals on site and it made an authentic impression on me at this moment - especially since I also react more allergic to it, if I have the feeling, to have landed in a show. Here I have seen locals doing their business and strangers standing there as curious observers.

      But you are quite right that will change in the next few years, maybe just months, even more and faster and faster. This development can not be stopped. But surely that will not be due to the fact that more visitors come to Oman. The country has changed so much in the last 40 years and will continue to do so. Progress makes tradition folklore shows. In so many places. All around the world. Or? I'm afraid you have to accept that. Maybe it is better than if it were completely displaced by the new and is no longer visible? This could probably be philosophized for hours now.

      Let's only hope that the other markets you describe can last for a long time and are discovered by chance as authentic experiences rather than sought after. That's why I deliberately do not ask where they can be found. Although I'm obviously interested in burning.

      best regards

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