Report and Pictures by Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle
Moodubelle, 20 May 2010: During my recent visit to Muscat, I had an opportunity to view one of the most elegant and exquisite monuments of the Sultanate of Oman, the Grand Mosque of Muscat also known as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which is located by the main road between Muscat and Seeb. The construction of the Grand Mosque had started early in 1995 and was completed six years later and inaugurated by Sultan Qaboos in May 2001.
The Grand Mosque was the gift of Sultan Qaboos bin Said to the people of Oman in commemoration of the thirtieth year of his reign. Sultan Qaboos became the ruler of Oman in 1970 replacing his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur who had ruled since 1932. After taking power in his own hands, Sultan Qaboos set Oman on the path of modernisation and opened the country to the world that resulted in the modernisation of the Omani society and economy, while preserving the best of Omani traditions. Today Oman is a modern, developing and progressive Middle Eastern nation with high levels of education and health care. The dominant form of Islam in Oman is Ibadi, one of the oldest sects that originated in the eighth century. Omani Ibadism is tolerant of other forms of Islam and other faiths. Followers of other sects and religions are free to practise their faith in Oman. One of the important features of the Omani society is that Omani women are educated and quite progressive and are represented in all walks of life, including at the highest levels of government.
The entire Grand Mosque complex covering 40,000 square meters is constructed on a raised podium. It was built from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone. The main prayer hall is square with a central dome rising to a height of fifty meters above the floor. The dome and the main minaret (91.5 meters) and four flanking minarets (45.5 meters) are the mosque’s chief visual features. These five minarets symbolize the five pillars of Islam.
A visit to this Grand Mosque, described as the crowning glory of Oman, begins in the surrounding gardens beautifully landscaped in traditional Islamic style. From the gardens, visitors enter the shining white marble courtyard through a series of symmetrical white stone archways which provide a photographer’s dream. As one enters from the courtyard an imposing wooden doorway carved with verses from the Koran provides access to the main prayer hall which can accommodate over 6,500 worshippers, while the women’s prayer hall can accommodate 750 worshipers. The outer paved ground can hold 8,000 worshipers and there is additional space available in the interior courtyard and the passageways, making a total capacity of up to 20,000 worshipers.
It has a huge library which can hold up to 20,000 books The prayer hall is beautifully decorated with Islamic arches supported by black marble pillars. The ceilings consist of intricate wood panels in traditional Omani fort style. Murals in floral and geometric patterns decorate the walls throughout the prayer hall while stained glass windows let in colourful filtered light brightening the patterns of the murals. A stunning gold painted mihrab (niche facing Mecca) forms the focus of the prayer hall.
However, the most impressive features of the prayer hall are on the floor and ceiling. A major feature of the main prayer hall is the hand-made Persian carpet consisting of 1,700 million knots, weighing 21 tonnes and made in a single piece measuring 70 x 60 meters and covering the 4,343 square meter area of the prayer hall, all in a single piece. Twenty eight colours in varying shades have been used to decorate the carpet. Majority of the colours were obtained from traditional vegetable dyes. It is believed to be the second largest single piece carpet in the world (The largest carpet, measuring 956 square meters was produced in Kuwait. The weaving and finishing of this carpet was done between the years 1973 to 1988). The hand-woven carpet of the flooring of the Grand Mosque was produced by Iran Carpet Company. From design stage it took four years to complete this carpet. It is said that around 600 female weavers from province of Khurasan in Iran were involved in weaving this gigantic carpet.
In the centre of the prayer hall, four pillars support a massive 50 meter high, wooden-paneled central dome. A magnificent crystal chandelier made of Swarovski crystal hangs from the dome. The main chandelier is fourteen meters high and its diameter is eight meters. The chandelier weighs eight tonnes and is comprised of 1,122 lamps and 600,000 crystals. The metal sections of the chandelier are plated in 24 carat gold. The design of the chandelier is based on the large central minaret encircled by twenty four smaller ones. There are thirty four smaller chandeliers all around the Grand Mosque that reflect the design of the central chandelier.
Those who wish to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque should bear certain points in mind. The Grand Mosque is open to non-Muslims from 8 am to 11 am, excluding Fridays. Both male and female visitors should dress modestly. Men and women should ensure their arms and legs are covered, and women should cover their heads. Shoes should be removed before entering the prayer hall.
Bellevision Media Network