Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman
The western side of Muscat’s extended urban sprawl lies the suburb of Ghubrah. In this area is where you will pick the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Opened up in 2001, this is the only mosque in Oman opened to non-Muslims and second largest in the Gulf after Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The masjid is spacious enogh with room for an approximately 20,000 worshippers in the two prayer halls and adjacent courtyard. The mosque is inside a compound with walls and feature a minaret at each corner. A larger fifth minaret is halfway along the northern wall.
The over all design is a type of stripped-down contemporary Islamic, cladding in great quantities of white and red-brown marble. The minarets offer a gesture towards traditional Egyptian architecture, while other decorative variations (like the wooden ceilings and elaborate tile work) happened to be influenced by Omani and Persian traditions. Other architectural features, like the spectacular latticed golden dome over the central prayer hall, are completely original.
Entry to the mosque is from the eastern end, thru spacious gardens divided by water channels. The first building you will find is the Ladies’ Prayer Hall (even though men are allowed in at the visitors time), somewhat plain compared to the other parts of the building. More than this a set of exclusively tall and narrow arches, ornamented with Qur’anic script, link the ladies’ prayer hall to the luxurious main prayer hall (musalla). The main hall is supported by 4 massive pillars and decorated in whites, greys and sea-greens. The carpet covering the main prayer hall flooring is the world’s second largest and took 400 female weavers from the Iranian province of Khorasan for four years to create – the whole carpet that measures 60 x 70m, consists of 1.7 million knots and weighs 21 tonnes.
The big Swarovski crystal chandelier in the center of the hall is a astonishing piece with 14m tall and was many times claimed to be the largest in the world until the construction of an even bigger crystallized chandelier in Qatar in 2010.
Visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is restricted and can be only viewed from 8 am to 11 am. The Omani security guards will not allow you take photographs after the visiting time. The popularity and limited opening hours make the site full with tourists in the holidays by around 10am. The earlier you reach the place you can view it better. Visitors are required to dress adequately (no shorts or uncovered arms, while women are needed to cover up their heads) and to take off their shoes before entering either prayer hall. Children under 10 are not permitted to enter into the main prayer hall of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.