GREAT SULTAN QABOOS MOSQUE
Petit Futé's opinion on GREAT SULTAN QABOOS MOSQUE
Located in the Al Ghubrah district, at the northern entrance to the city, the Great Mosque of Sultan Qaboos, the most majestic in the entire sultanate, is visible from the highway that connects Seeb airport to the first districts of Muscat. If it is visually supported by another more recent and beautiful mosque - the Mohammed Al Ameen Mosque - the Great Mosque of Sultan Qaboos is the first impressive building to be seen when entering the capital. It is one of the major works commissioned during the reign of Sultan Qaboos, along with the Royal Opera House in the Qurm district and the National Museum of Oman in Old Muscat.
Covering an area of 416,000 m², spacious enough to accommodate 20,000 worshippers, this superb place of worship inaugurated in 2001 reflects the spiritual strength of the nation. Its construction, which lasted more than six years, was entrusted to two architectural firms, one Omani (Architects International) and the other London-based (Quad Design), which favour the alliance of modernity and tradition. The complex is entirely covered with cream-coloured "arabescato" sandstone in the prayer areas and lilac-coloured "taj" in the riwaqs (transition space between the interior and exterior with arcades). The stones were imported from India and cut in Muscat. The main entrance to the mosque is to the south and opens first into a beautiful flower garden. It leads to three other entrances, all of which open onto large open spaces. The whole building consists of a large platform at the heart of which is the main prayer hall and a smaller one for women. The boundaries of this sacred space are marked at each corner by a minaret, which rises to a height of about 45 metres and is added to the main minaret, the fifth, 91.5 metres high, echoing the five pillars of Islam. On either side of the main buildings, and as if to frame them, stand the riwaqs: arcaded corridors 240 metres long, decorated with mosaics and several domes, and housing the auxiliary rooms - including spaces for ablutions and a library with a wealth of books in Arabic and English that can be consulted on site.
The men's prayer room is the highlight of the visit, a masterly place, both by its excessiveness and by the beauty of the decorative materials and interior ornamentation: columns, stained glass windows, arcades, precious woodwork, finely carved ceilings, superb floral motifs... 6,600 practitioners at a time can gather in the heart of the hall, under an immense dome rising fifty metres high. The walls are entirely covered with white marble panels, dressed with carved tiles, and decorated with geometric and floral motifs, as well as calligraphic inscriptions. In the background, facing the heavy carved doors of the entrance, the mihrab facing Mecca is inlaid with carved earthenware tiles with gold-coloured interlacing.
The Persian carpet is one of the jewels of the room. Covering an area of 4,263 square metres and in one piece, it measures 70 metres x 60 metres, weighs no less than 21 tonnes, consists of 1,700 million knots and comes in 28 shades, most of which are obtained from vegetable dyes. Entirely hand-woven by 600 professionals, supervised by 15 experts from the Iranian province of Khurasan, it took four years to make. The carpet was brought to the large prayer hall in 58 pieces, which were assembled on site by specialists. Visitors are not allowed to walk freely on this vast and beautiful unique piece, which is, to date, the largest handmade Persian carpet in the world.
Thechandeliers are the other key pieces of the men's prayer hall. No less than 35 of them, made of Swarowski crystals and gold-plated pieces, illuminate the great hall. The most imposing of these stands under the dome. It is a masterpiece eight metres in diameter and fourteen metres high. Weighing eight tons, it is illuminated by 1,122 light bulbs.
The stained glass windows are also remarkable and were made by a French company, France Vitrail International. In order to confer more prestige to the building, the traditional technique was favoured. The latter uses only antique glass of unequal thickness, which is set with lead and then tinted with metal oxides.
In spite of its beautifully crafted wooden doors and ceilings,the women's prayer room is much more sober than the large hall and does not have a mihrab. Tradition dictates that the women pray at home instead. As a result, the women's prayer room in the mosque is much smaller and can only accommodate 750 worshippers. It is equipped with audio-visual equipment, which allows women to pray under the guidance of the Imam, whose preaching is broadcast live from the men's prayer hall.
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Opening time and information on GREAT SULTAN QABOOS MOSQUE
8:30-11:00 a.m., closed on Fridays. Free entry from 10 years old. Cover yourself and place your shoes in the locker provided.