The beguiling crafts of Fanja

For people who have a love for traditional market places known as ‘souqs’ where one is able to buy traditional things which were once part of the culture and civilisation are such as pottery, frankincense and the like, Fanja Souq is a haven of a vast collection of antiques, and other objects that satiate one’s hunger for history.
Situated in Wilayat of Bidbid, some less than 30 kilometres off Muscat, Fanja is a historical town known for its hot springs, watchtowers and forts and its aesthetic beauty for a yearning visitor. Above all, this traditional city of Fanja boasts of an eventful past and the episodes of the past are seen on each item kept in these shops inside the Souq.
The pots, reminiscence of a bygone era, come in various shapes and designs depending upon the period they were in use and the purpose for which they were used.
“It is an amazing world inside the Souq and we are so glued to the antique pieces”, said a Westerner who was taking a closer look of each and every item in the display.
By and large, Souq of Fanja is a mirror to Oman’s eventful past for it blends the culture, tradition, and civilisation of the country over the past centuries. These shops, bifurcated in clear, horizontal and vertical lines inside the Souq have something or the other to wake up the curious child in you.
At the Souq Al Fanja, Pottery is the main attraction and they come in different designs and patterns catering to different occasions. Visitors from across the world, during their visit to the Sultanate of Oman, make it a point to pay a visit to this Souq and buy them to decorate their houses. These traditional clay pots are used to store drinking water while there are ceramic garden pots for plants and many others.
On the other hand, the artworks using wrought iron are another range of craft that the visitors are keen to buy. Delicately crafted wrought iron pieces giving substantial attention to its details are something that will catch your attention.
“These pieces of art using wrought iron are something that the visitors want and we make them in different shapes and designs with a larger picture of international tourists in mind,” Abdulla al Shuhhi, a septuagenarian who owns two shops inside the Souq said.
Unlike many others, Abdullah has two of his seven sons working with him in his craft.
“Most of the children of these artisans and craftsmen are in the cities pursuing higher studies in different subjects, but I have made it a point to engage two of my children to take forward my job,” shared Abdullah.
A variety of other home products such as brooms to traditional handheld fans made of date palm leaves/ fronds which are the signposts of people living in different wilayats and governorates of the Sultanate too are attracting the attention of the potential buyers who take home a piece or two for their Oman memories when they return.
The beauty of ‘Mandooz’ (traditional Omani wooden chest with metallic decoration on all sides) in its varieties is yet another attraction that the visitor will be unable to resist.
The traditional rose water from the Jebel Akhdher, which is further down Fanja, is considered to be highly important for its various medicinal purposes. It is also an inevitable ingredient for traditional Omani Kahwa and culinary delights especially Omani halwa.
“I love these mandooz boxes for their aesthetic factor reminding me of the Arabian stories that we read at schools,” Jagan Tej, a visitor who was exploring the souq with his family said.
Side by side, one can also find some of the dried fish varieties that people from different parts love to have with their meals. Qasha’a- salted and sundried small-sized sardines and Awal- small shark are two of the most popular dried fish varieties here.
Sihnah is a popular dish made with Qasha’a. Once the small sardines are dried, they can be directly eaten or one can mix them with salads. Some people though like to cook them with vegetables and eat it with white rice.
“We love to have these dried fish because we are fond of them and we make it a point to buy them for our meals, whenever I visit the souq,” an expatriate family said.