One of the most prized pieces of architecture found in the Sultanate of Oman is not a fort that protected the people in ancient times, one of the many palaces of a past or present sultan, or a village that has stood for centuries; it is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
Located just outside of the capital city, the Grand Mosque sits elegantly on an open plain between the Sea of Oman coast and the foot of the beautiful mountains of Muscat. Its five towering minarets, prominent dome, and stunning gardens cannot be missed while you drive along the main highway of the north.
Although intended for Islamic worship, the Grand Mosque is open to the public from 8-11am every day, except Friday. A trip to this exquisite building should be at the top of your list of things to see while visiting Oman. The following information will help you make the most out of your visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
Since the Grand Mosque is a religious site, it is important for all visitors to follow the dress code: covered shoulders and pants for men, and long sleeves, pants or a skirt, and a head covering for women (a simple scarf draped over most of your hair is appropriate). There is no entry fee, so money is not necessary, unless you would like to purchase something from the gift shop. Photos are allowed everywhere on the grounds, so don’t forget your camera; you’ll want to you take pictures!
When you enter the grounds, take in the beauty and symmetry of the dome and minarets, as well as the immaculately groomed landscaping. Walk directly toward the dome, and you will come to the women’s prayer hall. Take your shoes off and enjoy the carved wood doors and ceiling, and the chandeliers.
When you are finished in the women’s prayer hall, walk toward the tallest minaret into the outer courtyard. On your way, notice the sunflower design found on many of the pillars around the mosque; they are special to Oman since it is the first Arab nation to see the sun each day (and it’s the Sultan’s favorite flower). The courtyard hallway that runs around the mosque is filled with intricate and colorful mosaics from many countries around the world including Morocco, Turkey, India, Tunisia, and of course Oman.
The pinnacle of the beauty of the Grand Mosque is found in the main prayer hall. Walk in and keep your head down for the first ten meters and then look up. The exquisite chandelier, intricate mosaics, carved stone, and general splendor will have you stunned. Take your time soaking in the craftsmanship and spectacular views around the prayer hall and perhaps talk with one of the guides; you are sure to learn many things from these Omani experts.
If you have time, the last stop on your visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque can be the Islamic Resource Center. While there, you can taste delicious dates, drink famous Omani coffee, and have all your questions about the beliefs and practices of Islam answered.
The Grand Mosque is a piece of Omani architectural art that you are sure to remember for years to come.