Shift: Three men of Oman

A young Omani boy sits between his father and grandfather taking a break before the family returns to Souk's circle of selling.

The boy sat in the middle, kicking his legs just enough for his white disdasha to sway. His grandfather sat to his right as he watched their cattle.

If the boy’s father weren’t scrolling through his cell phone the scene’s date wouldn’t be recognizable.

When the boy leaned over his father’s shoulder to peer at the screen I suddenly realized I am a witness to a shift in Oman.

I’ve felt it when hanging out with Omani friends over shisha as the World Cup played on a projector – I knew some would have to hide they’re socializing with western girls who don’t wear the hijab from their parents.

When I began this blog a year ago in a University of Montana classroom it was with the hopes of pushing through my mental roadblocks.

Though that was initially directed toward my illogical fear of technology, it shifted to every challenge that taunts me to exchange a life of seeking out other cultures for something that resembles satisfaction within the safety of routine.

Arabic has been my most recent challenge. Surprisingly, it’s been difficult to learn the ancient language in an over 90 percent white population in the mountains of Montana, where “diversity” consists of a revolving door of international students, barefoot Frisbee players and non-bra wearing women.

So I decided to move to Oman for the summer, almost without stopping to analyze what I would encounter.

It was the last Friday before Ramadan and the Nizwa Animal Souk pulsed with the rapid pace of buying and selling. Ironically, this was where my mind stopped racing.

For the first timeI forgot the fact I should be making plans when I entered the colorful chaos of the Animal Souk. I became just another moving piece within the crowd.

I was finally in the Middle East

A buyer watches the trail of goats parade throughout the Nizwa Animal Souk.

I watched the boy’s father put his phone away, pick up a goat and join the market’s circle while shouting out a price in Arabic. He set aside technology for a moment to step back into a position his father had taught him and a job he was teaching his son.

If done right, the goat would be sold for about 50 rial and killed by sunset.

The dirt spotted animals were a stark contrast to the rotating men who moved like a unit – the few blue and brown dishdashas blurred into the white majority. The patterns were only broken when a man stopped to bargain with a potential customer.

Men discuss a fair price on the final Friday before Ramadan.

While the borders of generational change are still visible within the routine of the Animal Market of Nizwa, my attention was caught by the family aspect. The Animal Souk resembled a school for tradition even while the rest of Oman seems to be developing a stark change from fathers to sons.

Maybe I’ll eventually be able to put into words the shift I feel like I’m living within or the beautiful people and culture I get to explore.

For now, as sleep is limited and words are hard, I will settle with snapshots of the life within one of the oldest markets in Oman.


For more photos and posts, check me out at

For updates on my trip or other fun facts, follow me at @UMHoughton

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