20200429_oman
In this file picture, an Omani man sits in front of a display of jambiyas (traditional daggers) in Muttrah Souq, the oldest market in Oman, in the capital Muscat. Image Credit: Reuters

Muscat: Despite the searing heat and the increasing humidity, merchants at Muscat’s Muttrah souq have reasons to smile, as business seem to be picking up.

Jamnadas Thakkar, who has a general shop inside the souq selling groceries and Indian spices, says business has picked up over the past couple of months. “2020 was bad as it hit all of us suddenly and we weren’t prepared for a lot of things, including the pandemic itself.

“The storage, and warehousing were something that we took for granted as the stock-in and stock-out were handled as per demand and supply. We knew the timing and need, but when the shops remained closed for longer period, we lost the stock, as it got ruined. This year we are better equipped, we have better back up insurance plans and our distribution methods have changed too.”

The younger generation of Thakar household have taken over the marketing channels, catering to smaller and larger super-markets apart from selling directly to the restaurants.

Abdullah Karim, who owns a shop selling Turkish lampshades and other fancy electrical fittings, too is happy that the footfall in souq is getting better now. While the pre-COVID days of business may take some time, merchants are hopeful that with the current level of preparedness to combat the virus, the buoyancy will prevail.

Even the coffee shops and snack parlours that did a roaring business on the water-front not so long ago are back in the reckoning, albeit with restrictions on capacity. “Most of our customers used to be tourists, with a fair number of residents and citizens, too. Now we have more of the latter, who come for take-aways. Our business is back to good times, and we hope it remains this way at least,” said Moosa, who runs a modest sandwich joint by the Muttrah souq side.