Just as many people go to their local Farmer’s Market to get the freshest food straight from the source; Omani’s head to the Nizwa Goat Market to buy the best livestock directly from the herder. Markets are one of my favorite places to go in order to get a sense of the local culture and people. Walking into the Nizwa market I immediately felt as if I was witnessing life in Oman like a local. I didn’t have any goats to sell and I wasn’t planning on buying one, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get into the middle of the action.
Men shopping for fresh limes before heading to the goat market
We arrived at the market just past 6:00 am as men in crisp, white dishdashas (white robes) hurried their goats, cows and camels into the market area. Goats stood tied to trees bleating loudly, while cows ate grass none the wiser to the bartering that was about to take place. As all of the livestock was being transported from the parking lot, often against their will, we took a stroll around the other market areas. Pomegranites and limes were in season, Men were bargaining for dates and children were selling birds. It was fascinating to see all the goods for sale and shoppers stocking up on supplies.
After exploring the rest of the market we returned to the goat ring for the main attraction. Men had formed a circle where goats were being paraded around the small circle in front of prospective buyers. It was comical to watch the seriousness in which business was conducted amidst the chaos. Each goat was fondled by all the men in the circle and then bids were yelled out, money was thrust forward and goats exchanged hands. Not all sales were this quick, some goats were briskly escorted around the circle multiple times until a bid was received.
These two little boys were in charge of keeping all the goats in line until they went into the circle for auction.
As we watched and tried to discern what was taking place a young Omani man whom spoke English gave us a crash course in goat buying 101. He gave us the run down on the prices of goats, which could be anywhere from $100 USD and up. The most expensive are Omani goats, which are far superior to Ethiopian goats. You can tell the quality of the animal by their coat and the best quality goats were beautiful even to my untrained eye. However, to purchase the goat I had my eyes on would have set us back $1000 USD.
A seller communicates with a potential buyer about the cow on the end of his rope.
Just when we were getting the hang of goat buying and really enjoying the craziness of the goat circle, in came the cows. Instead of maneuvering small goats through the crowd, fully grown bulls were being pulled around the circle. The hilarity of the situation was lost on these men, whom only saw this as serious business. Once the business was done, everyone corralled their unsold animals and new acquisitions into their vehicles and sped off into the desert.
A happy buyer packs his new goats into the trunk.
We left empty handed, but richer from the experience. Nizwa’s Friday Goat Market is one of the most unique markets I’ve been in the world. If Oman is in your future travel plans I would highly recommend planning your visit to include a stop in Nizwa. Not only will you get an authentic taste of Omani culture, but a crash course in buying livestock. Next time we find ourselves at a cattle market we won’t go home empty handed.
WHEN YOU GO:
Plan ahead, the Nizwa goat market is only on Friday and it’s not held on certain holidays so make sure you coordinate your visit when it will be opem.
You need to rent a car, public transport in Oman is not easy to come by. If you plan to make the journey to Nizwa on your own you’ll need your own car and Omani insurance (if you rent the car from the UAE), which the rental company can take care of for you.
Get there early, the action takes place right away in the morning. You will want to get there by about 7:00 am.