• Mohana Prabhakar

Small is beautiful too

Updated: May 8, 2019

The messages went thus: ‘Hey are you awake?’ ‘Yes I am’. ‘Ok, yalla, get ready. Will pick you up by 9.15’. This was my introduction to Souq es Sabt by a friend, the Saturday market that I had heard a lot about when it was at The Wave, but never managed to drive to. I did get ready that morning thinking we were going to The Wave, but the venue was a lot closer to home at the InterContinental hotel.

I bought the freshest vegetables of my life there from the impossibly cheery Pradeep, and broke my ridiculously, weak arms carrying the box to the car. This while my friend, who is half my size, skipped away with her giant box. We had bad coffee, bought amazing dates, lethal pickles, tasty pesto sauce, beautiful Nisa Sidab bags and watched children of all sizes enjoying themselves in the play area.

The energy was right, the vibe infectious, and despite the over-enthusiastic sun beating down on us, I came back home committed to making this visit a weekly tradition. As Muscat’s first ‘Farmers Market’, Souq es Sabt seemed like a great concept. To me, this was exactly what Oman needed more of in order to promote SMEs and to give them a fighting chance in today’s economic climate.

Our Saturday morning ritual was interrupted by the break for Christmas and New Year, and we couldn’t wait to go back on January 7. The best thing was that the timings had changed to 3-7pm to avail of the ‘cool post-noon breeze in the InterCon gardens’. Even better was the fact that there was going to be a new specialty coffee stall as well, which would save us the stop at Starbucks on the way.

Souq es Sabt couldn’t keep their date with the farmers, with the many hopeful entrepreneurs and their loyal customers last Saturday.

As per their post on Instagram, the organisers had received ‘an unexpected notice that the season’s dates conflict with the exclusive Muscat Festival, whereby we were asked to reconsider our location (to operate under the Festival) or change the market dates’.

As people’s responses kept pouring in on social media platforms, I still thought something may have got lost in translation along the way. What could be the connection between Souq es Sabt and Muscat Festival? Why would this existing market impinge in any way on the grand scale of operations of Muscat Festival? The audience for the Farmers Market is also likely to be a much smaller subset of the Festival attendees and I don’t see how it could do anything but complement the latter.

From the point of view of small entrepreneurs, and we are talking really small here, the scale of Muscat Festival would be overwhelming at the very least. The small organic vegetables stalls, the quaint crafty outlets, the little food stalls - Souq es Sabt is the perfect size to get your feet wet in the world of business.

Being a part of the exponentially larger Festival may not necessarily work for the customers either. I go to the Saturday market because the farm-fresh vegetables are actually farm-fresh and incredibly tasty. But I don’t love my vegetables enough to brave the crowds and stand in a queue to buy tickets, only to come home with spinach and broccoli.

I suppose there are times when the rules say something, but common sense says the opposite. We will find out this Saturday which one won.

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