Why has this Mutrah Souq merchant been offered a fortune for an Omani coffee pot?

Akhtar Al Belooshi says one item in his shop is so steeped in history that he could never sell it

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The owner of one of the oldest shops in Oman's Mutrah Souq has a possession so steeped in the nation's history that he refuses to sell it.

“It is a priceless item for me," said Akhtar Al Belooshi, standing in front of piles of antiques in the window of Ali Baba Gifts.

He is talking about an Arabic dallah ― or coffee pot ― that was once used to serve coffee to former Omani Sultan Said bin Taimur and has declined generous offers from people who want it for their own collection.

"I have the dallah that used to serve coffee for the father of the late Sultan Qaboos. I refused to sell it for thousands of Omani riyals. It is a piece from history,” Mr Al Belooshi told The National.

For him, this is more than just a coffee pot. It represents the country's rich history, and on Oman's national day, Mr Al Belooshi feels an even stronger connection to the antique that used to serve the late sultan of Muscat and Oman.

Antiques, archaeological treasures, Roman glass, coins and items, some about 5,000 years old, on display at Akhtar Al Belooshi's shop in Muttrah Souq. Photo: Ali Al Shouk / The National

It has been two years since the Sultan Qaboos died. Said bin Taimur ruled as the 13th sultan of Muscat and Oman from February 10, 1932, until July 3, 1970.

On Friday, Oman continues to honour its heritage by celebrating its 52nd national day. Sultan Haitham is expected to attend a military parade in Dhofar governorate.

Drones, lasers and kite shows will entertain the crowds, and buildings and homes of citizens in the governorate have already been adorned with flags and lights to celebrate the occasion.

Part of national history

Mr Al Belooshi’s shop is more of a museum and has been around for more than a century. In the hidden gem that he inherited from his grandfather, he sells jewellery and handicrafts, and other valuables collected by his ancestors.

Akhtar Al Belooshi, owner of a 105-year-old shop at Oman's Muttrah Souq displaying his Dh360,000 dagger. Credit: Ali Al Shouk

Among the antiques is a teapot with a picture of the late Sultan Said bin Taimur, with the old red Omani flag, which was in use between 1856 and 1970.

"This shop is in the souq for 105 years. My grandfather opened the shop in the early days. I love to collect antiques and archaeological monuments. I have Roman glass and coins as well as items dating from about 5,000 years [ago].”

The shop has drawn several world leaders to its doorstep including John Kerry, former US secretary of state, former Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad Al Thani and the UK's Prince Harry.

“This is a picture of me with John Kerry and other pictures of many world leaders, officials, artists and singers from all around the world,” Mr Al Belooshi said, standing in front of a wall covered with photographs of his guests.

Wearing traditional Omani clothing he carries a dagger worth 38,000 Omani riyals ($98,000).

“This dagger was made for me in the 1980s. I carry it all the time and take pictures with it upon customers’ request," he said.

Despite all the many irreplaceable items in his shop, Mr Al Belooshi does not worry about leaving the souq at night.

"I leave all antiques and historical items in the shop. It is very safe here in Oman,” he said.

Local hot spot for visitors

Surrounded by grey rocky mountains and on the coast of the Sea of Oman, Mutrah Souq has emerged as a must-visit destination for tourists in Muscat.

Mutrah Souq is one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world and was built in the 1820s by the Sultan Said bin Sultan.

Indian traders were the first retailers in the market, known locally as Al Dhalam, meaning darkness in Arabic, because sunlight barely penetrates the souq during the day.

In the age of trade arriving by ship, Mutrah Souq was strategically located on the way to India and China. Originally built from mud and palm leaves, the souq has been renovated to bring it into the modern age, and shoppers continue to come to walk the narrow alleys of the souq to buy jewellery, Omani silver, traditional antiques, outfits and luban, some of the finest frankincense in the world, which became a trademark of the country.

For Mr Al Belooshi, celebrating national day means celebrating his own family's history as much as the country's.

“My ancestors inhabited Oman for hundreds of years. They taught me to work and to understand our traditions and values," he said.

"This is a blessed homeland that gave me everything I need and makes me feel proud when say I’m Omani."

Updated: November 17, 2022, 4:47 PM
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