Muttrah – a visit made because I should have gone into the jebel but was lazy, hit the alarm off button and then overslept…………
The place is only like this early in the morning, by later in the day it will be a busy crowded area full of merchants, customers and these days, tourists and one cannot move!
Muttrah or Al Dhalam (Darkness) Souk in probably one of the oldest market places in this part of the Middle East.
The city was walled, with two gates; Bab Kabir & Bab Mathaib, they were always guarded & by royal decree, all camels were left outside the gates, thus avoiding traffic jams ! 🙂 the best way in & out was boat.
Trade has gone on here for centuries with everything from dates, dried fish, limes, spices, coffee, cloth, and luxuries such as gold and silver: the list today is endless and all cards taken thank you very much…..!
In the past payment would be mostly the Maria Theresa silver thaler (first minted in 1751) and used right upto the beginning of the 1970’s. For larger transaction gold, along with the gradual introduction of all major middle eastern currencies and of course the Indian rupee.
The method of transaction/transportation tax was complicated; it depended on the item, quantity, quality and production area – actually it seems that at some time or other, just about anything one could dream up to justify tax, was !
Muttrah had the first hospital in the whole country…….. set-up initially in Muscat but almost immediately moved to Muttrah in 1893 ( a mission hospital by the Dutch Reform Church of America) it was fully functioning by 1909 and only closed once during the First World War.
There are many fine old merchants’ houses and at least one area (the Liwatiya quarter) that as a stranger one is always looked on with some suspicion even today: not in any hostile way, but if not accompanied by a resident one is usually kindly asked to leave.
The size of the Al-Lawati population cannot be determined precisely, but is estimated to be approximately 80,000 people Most Lawatis reside in Muttrah, but some live on the coast of Al-Batina. Some Lawati families reside elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region such as U.A.E, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Traditionally, Al-Lawatia have been known as prominent merchants on the coasts of Muttrah which lies 2 kilometers from Muscat. They have worked in the incense, jewelry and clothes business as well as in general trade. The community occupies a gated quarter of Muttrah known as Sur al-Lawatia. The quarter still boasts attractive houses with a unique Islamic architectural view and a large mosque known as Al-Rasul Al-Aadam Mosque or The Greatest Prophets Mosque.. The Sur has seen a major exodus in recent decades as Lawatis have moved to more modern neighbourhoods as a result of increasing development, the availability of facilities and growing wealth and business of the community.
Click on any image below for gallery view.