After having seen the mosque from the outside several times before, it was time to actually stop by for a real visit. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque opens up for visitors only a few hours in the morning, and we paid a visit on the way to the central mountains. After walking through the extensive, well-kept gardens towards the central building with the towering minarets and the big dome, we walked alongside the outer wall to find an entrance; we discovered the main entrance only later. Once inside, we walked up and down the airy corridor with lanterns and typical, well-crafted, and colourful geometric patterns so common in Islamic art because the depiction of live beings is not permitted. From here, we went to the Ladies Prayer Hall, left our shoes outside, and stepped in - my companion not before she acquired a decent dress to cover her bare arms: the old female guard turned out to be friendly, and strict. The Ladies Prayer Hall seemed quite small compared to the size of the mosque, but had some impressively beautiful stained glass windows, and nicely carved out doors.
Outside the Ladies Prayer Hall of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, we stumbled upon small fountains and water streaming down narrow channels in the impeccable white floor. Walking past the building again, we saw several open-air spaces where the devout can also pray whenever the main hall is full. No matter where we looked: a very clean, well-maintained, modestly decorated mosque of impressive dimensions. Before entering the main prayer hall, we saw the main minaret rising in the sky behind a tall arch. The mosque has five pillars, representing the five pillars of Islam. The complex is fairly new: it has been commissioned in the late 1990s after Sultan Qaboos ordered a Grand Mosque to be built in 1992. The main material used is Indian sandstone, but you can also find marble in the Grand Mosque.
After taking off our shoes again, we entered the main prayer hall - the one used by men. Even while we knew beforehand that it would be impressive, we fell silent once we stepped inside the enormous musalla or prayer hall. A few thick pillars were upholding the roof, while the dome above the central part of the prayer hall added to the idea of even more space. The interior is so dazzling, we did not even know where to look first. The wooden ceiling on the outside of the prayer hall? The black-and-white arches on the outer corridors? The incredible chandelier right under the dome, with more than 1,100 lights and full of Swarovski crystals begging for attention? The finely decorated mihrab, or the colourful and delicate stained glass windows? Or the enormous over 4,000 square metre carpet - once the largest carpet of the world, made in Tabriz, Iran. We just took all these overwhelming elements of the main prayer hall one at a time. One solitary Omani dressed in white came to pray on the 21 tonnes carpet, and I tried to imagine how this hall would look with 6,500 praying Muslims.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
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