I found an opening, took a deep breath, and darted across the track, squeezing myself through the crowd on the steps to the platform. I managed to get out of the way just as a man in a pale blue dishdasha came bearing down on me, shouting and yanking his goat behind him.
More men followed, all nearly running in an endless circle around and around the central platform, showing off the best features of their goats to the people lining both sides of the circle. The smaller goats that couldn’t keep up with the frenetic pace didn’t have to run, but instead were cradled in the men’s arms.
The goats pulled against their leashes, resisting, stubbornly refusing to get moving as their owners tugged on the ropes, urging them on and yelling at them when they still refused to move. Perhaps here at the Nizwa goat souq (market), the goats knew that their destiny was to be tonight’s roast dinner.
More owners and animals joined in, and more potential buyers joined the circle surrounding them, until I was jam packed in between men who were shouting and reaching out to inspect the goat of their choice.
Hooves, ears, coats and teeth were examined, deals were negotiated and plenty of goats were sold. Several of those that were ‘finished’ and waiting to go home to whatever their fate might be were positioned atop the central platform, tied up to the railings, or sat down next to their owners.
The scene degenerated into what seemed like chaos, as buyers inspected and rejected goats, sellers went against the flow to reach prospective buyers, and everyone was shouting out prices and offers.
After about 90 minutes of this, the activity tapered off. Most goats had been sold and only the few remaining were still stumbling their way around the track behind their owners. Much of the crowd disappeared, headed off for coffee and dates with friends before going back to their farms in the desert.
But Nizwa goat souq isn’t just goats, and at this point the cattle began. There were just small calves at first, but as the goats disappeared the track widened, making way for frantic cows and thundering bulls dragging their owners behind them. I had to step back several times, even though my spot was already well off the side of the track.
Like the goats, though, not all cows were cooperative. Have you ever tried to move a cow that doesn’t want to go anywhere? It’s not so easy, and slightly hilarious to watch men try to coerce their huge bulls into moving.
A local man befriended me, telling me prices in English; this cow is worth 180 rial, that one only 130 because it’s a different breed, but that huge bull might be worth 300 rial. The value depends on the breed, size, health of the animal, and negotiation skills of the buyers and sellers.
By 10am the goat market was all over, and I headed into the fruit and vegetable souq, where I was happy to sit down and rest for a while, having coffee and dates with the kind men who hang out there.
The Nizwa goat souq is quite a spectacle, and if you have a chance to be in Nizwa on a Friday morning I highly recommend that you go take a look.
The goat souq starts early. One man told me they all show up at 4:30am, but the real action doesn’t get started until 7 or so (thankfully!) If you get there earlier, you can have a chance to check out all the animals before the chaos starts. Goats and sheep of every size, breed, and colour fight the ropes that tie them to the railings, while cattle stand and chew, staring at all the activity.
Also, the earlier you go, the fewer other tourists will be at the souq! I found that while there were just a few of us around at 7am, quite a lot more showed up around 8 or 9am.
So get a good night’s sleep and head out to Nizwa goat souq in the morning!
Have you ever seen a livestock market like the Nizwa goat souq? Where? What was it like? Tell me about it in the comments!
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