PLACE OF PRAISE

Oman 2015 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: MUSCAT

Muscat—the capital of the oldest independent state in the Arab world—hosts one of the finest contemporary mosques in the region that is an absolute must-see when visiting Oman.

In 1992, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said announced that his country should have a Grand Mosque. A competition for its design took place a year later, and after a site was chosen, construction headed by Mohammed Saleh Makiya and Quad Design of London and Muscat began. Some 20,000 workers took part in the project that lasted six years and four months. The Grand Mosque, located in Ghubrah in the Bausher District, was inaugurated by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on May 4, 2001.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque presents a spectacular array of traditional Islamic art and encourages its visitors to interact with the spirit of Islam. This architectural treasure was built over an area of 416,000 sqm, with the entire pavement surface formed by different types of marble installed in impressive geometric patterns. Aside from marble, the second most important material used in this opulent project is Indian sandstone, with 30,000 tons of it covering a surface of 65,000 sqm.

The mosque is divided into four sections: the main prayer hall (musalla), the women's prayer hall, the library, and the lecture theater. The main prayer hall can accommodate 6,500 worshippers, while the women's musalla can hold 750. The outer paved ground can accommodate 8,000 people, with additional space available in the interior quadrangle and the passageways, giving a total capacity of 20,000 worshipers.

This mesmerizing structure highlights Oman's role as a scientific and intellectual source of knowledge across the Arab world and reveals Islamic art from all angles. The courtyard has verses of the Koran etched onto the walls, while the main hall is covered in dark grey and off-white marble garnished with Arabic art features. The dome consists of a series of engraved stained glass triangles within a framework of marble columns. An immense crystal chandelier above the prayer hall hangs down for a length of 14 meters. This masterwork was crafted in Germany using Swarovski crystal and gold-plated metal work. Accompanied by 34 smaller chandeliers, it hangs along the wood paneled ceiling. This eight-ton luster, which is said to be the second-largest chandelier in the world, contains 1,122 lamps.

A major feature of the main musalla is the magnificent hand-woven, single-piece Persian prayer carpet consisting of 1,700 million knots. The rug measures 4,200 sqm, weighs 21 tons and was made up of 28 colors in different shades, the majority created using natural dyes. It took 600 women weavers four years to complete this magnum opus.

The walls of the women's musalla are clad in pink stone embellished in polychrome marble mosaic panels. A lightweight retractable canopy, attached to the roof covers the sky when shade is required in the courtyard.

The mosque was built at His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's personal expense and is the largest and the only Omani mosque open to non-Muslim visitors. Non-Muslim guests are allowed to visit the mosque every day from 8.00 am to 11.00 pm, excluding Fridays.