A visit to Muscat would not be complete without donning a headscarf and heading into the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. (If you’re a bloke you can leave the headscarf in the car but you will need long sleeves and long pants). This enormous and opulent building was started in 1995 and finished 6 years later.
Through the wrought iron gates you will walk through incredibly photogenic archways to be met by the dazzling white marble courtyard which when completely full can hold 20,000 worshippers.
The main prayer hall (for men only) can hold 6000 who stand in rows on a handmade 4200 sq m Persian carpet that weighs 21 tonnes. They know this because it was woven by 600 Iranian women over 4 years and brought here in 85 pieces to be stitched together. A gold painted mihrab (niche) that faces Mecca is the focus of the hall.
A Swarovski crystal chandalier hangs in here that 8 people can walk in (!) Only not me. I guess that’s in case the 1100 bulbs blow at once. It has 600,000 crystals and hangs 14 metres. This pic doesn’t do it justice, but it’s 8 metres in diametre.
The stained glass windows come from France and the interior walls are panelled in grey and white marble with ceramic flowers adorning them. The ceilings are inspired by Omani forts (there are 500 in the country) and Quran scriptures are written on the walls.
The women’s prayer room is smaller, it holds 750 at a time. The reason is most women pray at home while it is necessary for men to pray at the mosque. Not that it matters which mosque (and you will hear the 5x daily calls to prayer starting from sunrise) as there are many of all sizes dotted throughout Oman.
Friday is holy day in Oman. In fact Thursday and Friday is their weekend, so keep that in mind if you’re wanting to visit places other than souks. On Friday there is a sermon preached by the Imam in every mosque in the country and each on the same topic. These are decided in advance by a council of leaders, and of course, some Imams are better speakers than others. The speech from the Grand Mosque is broadcast live on TV. I didn’t hear it so can’t give you a rating.
There is quite a cleansing ritual before prayer, so the Ablution room is where you wash your hands, face and feet first.
Opening hours for non-Muslims are 8am-11am excluding Fridays.
Men and women should cover arms and legs, women should also cover their heads. Shoes are removed before entering the prayer hall. There is a cafe on site and a walk in the landscaped gardens before you leave is recommended.