Experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the Middle East.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the Persian Gulf, and the only mosque in Oman open to all beliefs. Built from 300,000 tons of white Indian sandstone and sitting at a spectacular 103 acres, it’s a jaw-dropper, and certainly one of the most spectacular mosques in the world. It accommodates up to 20,000 worshippers, the second-largest Persian carpet in the world, and the second-largest indoor chandelier in the world (in the spirit of competition, other mosques in the Gulf have since claimed those number one spots).
Soak in the artful blend of Egyptian, Omani and Persian architecture as you walk through the gardens, the Ladies’ Prayer Hall, and the spectacular main prayer hall (musalla). Other sections to visit include the lecture theater, which often hosts lectures conducted in English, and the mosque’s iconic library, boasting over 20,000 books. The mosque features gorgeous one-of-a-kind mosaics, and its five minarets—symbolizing the five pillars of Islam—and central dome light up the Muscat skyline at night.
In 1992, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, who has ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a 1970 coup, decided to build a grand mosque. A design competition was held, and the winning plan took nearly seven years to complete. The musalla’s hand-loomed Persian carpet, measuring about 230 feet by 200 feet, took 600 people four years to weave. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque opened in May 2001, marking the monarch’s 30-year reign. Today, the mosque sits as a testament to the incredible capacities of modern Islamic architecture. If you’re seeking a little awe, this is a must-see.
The Grand Mosque is located on the Western end of Muscat in the suburb of Gubrah (pronounced hob-rah), about 12 miles from the port and smack-dab in the center of Muscat. Mwasalat buses stop outside the mosque, but in the interest of speed—particularly if you’re coming from the port area—a taxi is your best bet if you’re forgoing a tour group. Taxis are relatively easy to flag down, or you can download O Taxi, a kind of Oman-specific Uber.
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If you’re interested in a guided tour, Seabourn offers a “Magical Muscat” tour that begins at the mosque and stops at the Muttrah soukh (market), the Bait al Zubair Museum, and Al Alam Palace. You can also rent a private car or minivan for a half or full day, starting at $499. Orient Tours also offers a $36.99 four-hour city tour.
Trust us: the chandelier alone is worth the trip to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. The gigantic light fixture, whose size—though it appears proportional to the enormous room it looms over—has been compared to that of a small house, even includes a staircase (yep) for maintenance of its 1,000-plus halogen bulbs and 600,000 gold-trimmed crystals. It’s 45 feet tall and 26 feet wide; when it was built, it was the largest indoor chandelier on Earth. Bigger isn’t always better, but in this case... well, it kinda is.
Once you’re at the mosque, in order to go inside (and get out of the heat!), it’s best to arrive between 8 and 11 a.m.—the indoor area is closed off after for worship after that, and open to Muslims only all day on Friday. The earlier you arrive in the morning the better, since this place gets jam-packed with tourists. As this is an active place of worship, make sure to dress conservatively, particularly women, who need to cover their hair, shoulders, and arms. Avoid tight clothing. If necessary, an abaya (full-length dress) and head scarf can be rented from the gift shop for OR2.5 (about $6.50). Children under 10 are not allowed inside the prayer halls. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. from Saturday to Wednesday, and then 4 a.m. to 9 a.m.; on Thursdays, it’s only open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Cell phone use is not permitted.
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