Thursday, 16 April 2015

Out and about: Muscat Grand Mosque

Muscat Grand Mosque main hall

Every guest that comes to see us is taken for a visit to the Grand Mosque, it is one of Muscat's best "attractions". The mosque, which is Oman's largest, opened in 2001 after 6 years and 4 months of building. It can accommodate 20,000 worshippers at any one time (750 women in the women's hall, and the rest men) and although this number seems huge, for Friday prayer the place will easily fill with the late comers ending up outside.

Muscat Grand Mosque
Muscat Grand Mosque

 As Muslims, it is easy for us to wander around at any time since the Mosque is open all day, every day. Non-muslims/visitors, on the other hand, are limited to visiting in the morning until about 11.30 a.m. When visiting with my family the first time I hoped that there would be tours during this period, but it seems you have to organise this separately. During this time there are some information areas open where you can find out more about Islam, ask questions to the volunteers, or just escape the heat and get some water! They also have a good video explaining a little about the mosque.

The site is beautiful and, as the name suggests, grand. I'm going to say this about a lot of places in Oman, but the sandy/cream stone always looks beautiful in the sunlight and the landscaped gardens make it a very peaceful place, as it should be.

Close to the men's ablution area there is a long corridor which at one end starts with the earliest interior designs of mosques and goes through time showing the changes. It is an area you don't often hear about in the guidebooks, but it is definitely worth looking out for.

Muscat Grand Mosque design
Muscat Grand Mosque design
Muscat Grand Mosque design

On our visit we learnt some facts about the mosque, here are my favourites:
  • There are 34 chandeliers that hang from the ceiling in the men's hall, but the center, the main one is made up of Swarovski crystal and has gold-plated metalwork. It weighs 8 tonnes and has 1,122 lamps inside. It is one of the largest chandeliers in the world and was the largest in the Middle East for a short time. 
  •  Worthy of a separate point, the chandelier contains a staircase, yes a staircase, for when the bulbs need to be changed. 
  •  The carpet in the men's hall is a single piece covering the 4,343 sq meter area. It was stitched in parts by a lot of women (I forget the number) and took four years. The final stitching and laying of the carpet was done inside the hall. 
  •  The carpet weighs 21 tonnes.
Muscat Grand Mosque men's hall

How's that for fun facts? If you have visited the Grand Mosque let me know what your favourite part was.