Game Changers The Hope Issue

Sara Al Asfoor: The entrepreneur behind Muscat’s Saturday Market

What started as a project with her children at home, turned to one of Muscat's most popular weekend spots.

.للقراءة باللغة العربية انقروا هنا

By Sharifa Al Badi

‘Souq es Sabt’ is the country’s one of a kind artisan farmer market, and a world class, tourist hot spot. Image: Courtesy.

Sara Al Asfoor gave up her corporate career at an international company to spend more time with her family, only to become an entrepreneur who launched Oman’s most successful ‘Saturday Market’ concept, also known as ‘Souq es Sabt’. The market has thousands of visitors every season, and the participants range from local bakers to chefs to musicians and artists.

Sara started her career at the Oracle Corporation in Dubai as an ERP consultant to become the first and youngest female sales account manager. She then joined DELL corporation seven years later and established the DELL team in Oman.

Towards the end of her corporate career, Sara decided to introduce her love of cooking to her three children. This past time led her children towards a journey of entrepreneurial success, starting in their living room as a small table for the children to sell their own homemade organic basil pesto and lemonade. This turned into Muscat’s ‘Souq es Sabt’, the country’s one of a kind artisan farmer market, and a world class, tourist hot spot that gives artists and budding entrepreneurs a platform. The Souq was established in October 2013 and usually takes place at the Almouj waterfront development in Muscat. It now celebrates its 7th season.

The Souq was established in October 2013 and usually takes place at the Almouj waterfront development. Click on the images above to enlarge them. Images: Courtesy.

Sara’s project thrives on community involvement, whether one participates as a vendor and is able to showcase their offering to the world, or as a visitor that merely wants to show support. In fact, many local entrepreneurs have the chance to test the market and audience with their venture or idea, and get to learn a thing or two about business management through the market. Souq es Sabt has experienced a wave of local artisans becoming vendors; some people sell organic, local farm produce, others homemade body scrubs and soaps. Some youth also display scrumptious baked goods and refreshing lemonade. When it comes to the market, the sky is limit.

As Sara puts it, “Every member of the society plays a part in the economic cycle. In order to make the socio-economic wheel turn and keep turning, we must all play a part in it together”. That is why Souq es Sabt thus far has been one of the country’s most successful ventures.

Sara states that regardless of the support one and/or SMEs may receive from the private and public sectors, it should be taken with immense gratitude but not complete dependence. “In order to be a viable business, and a successful one at that, one should understand the essence of running a business through prospering and challenging times.” Such is true considering the unforeseeable impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.  Souq es Sabt has had to close down due to the novel coronavirus crisis, but they continue to market the vendors on their platform and assist them by linking them up with delivery apps.

In the long run, Sara hopes that the pandemic will not affect their business model greatly as an outdoor seasonal market. She states, “Life may not go back to the same pace it was, but outdoor shopping is a historical occurrence that goes back way further than modern malls and retail.”  Both, small and medium enterprises thrive from such an event, so Sara hopes that the community will still come together to support and enjoy the outdoor market later on.

Looking towards the future, Sara hopes to see the Sultanate filled with explorers, tourists and adventure seekers. And she hopes to see Omanis proudly present their heritage and culture to the world through arts, crafts, cuisine and adventure experiences. She encourages all of us to keep on exploring and being curious, every step of the way. “Explore every opportunity you have to gain a new experience. This is the real way to learn and thrive. You may not always succeed, that’s when it counts. That’s when you become better at what you do.”

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Sharifa Al Badi is a published writer and author from the magical lands of Oman. She has written for Esquire ME, Khaleejesque and The Culture Trip. She is also the author of “Themis Aella & The Magical Forest” and “50 Things To Know As An Adult.” 

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.