Near the airport of Muscat is located the national mosque of the country, a stunning monument of sandstone and marble that ranks among the greatest attractions of Oman. This is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (not to be confused with the other Sultan Qaboos Mosque in another part of the country, which does not have the adjective “grand” in its name). This majestic piece of architecture spreads over an area of about 416,000 square metres, with sky-scraping minarets ranging from 90 metres to 45 metres in height. The main dome of the mosque, situated right in the centre of the edifice, boasts 50 metres of elevation off the ground. Not at all Lilliputian by any standards, this is a structure that is very hard to miss, and which tourists must be certain to visit when in the country.
The mosque is not one of the older mosques of Oman, though, and that much is patent in its new, “still-shiny” appearance. The architectural competition held to determine its design was only in 1993, and it was built over a six-year period from 1995 to 2001.
Even if it does lack the age of some of the other mosques in the country, though, it certainly more than makes up for that in terms of magnificence. From size to looks, it is unrivalled in the whole of Oman.
Most people coming to the mosque do so to see the prayer hall. The main prayer hall of the mosque (the part called the musalla) has several of the building’s most noteworthy features, including striking examples of dark and light marble construction and floral motifs. Even more conspicuous is the chandelier hanging over the central floor: made by the German company Faustig, this is a Swarovski crystal chandelier that sports an impressive diameter of 8 metres and height of 14 metres. Over a thousand lamps are in the chandelier, and over half a million crystals. One look at it is often sufficient to leave you with small spots of white swimming before your eyes afterwards, due to the sheer sparkle of this ornament.
Another much-talked-about feature of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the carpet in the musalla. This is not your average carpet. This is in fact one of the biggest of its kind in the world, an enormous Persian carpet that required well over two years to make. It is so large that it weighs 21 tonnes. This magnificent rug spreads over an area of 4,200 square metres and is done in the traditional style, with handsome floral and geometric motifs worked into it by the countless skilled hands that worked to create this marvel of carpet-making.
It is possible for those who are not Muslim to go to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, so tourists are strongly encouraged to visit. If you do, remember to go in the morning, well before noon: this is typically when non-Muslims are permitted inside. Fridays are an exception, of course, so do not bother trying to enter the mosque then.