One thing is quite certain about Oman – the country has no shortage of beautifully constructed and decorated Mosques. Being a Muslim-majority country in the Arabian Peninsula, mosques can be seen almost everywhere. But of course, not all of them are ‘exceptional’ as a lot of them just serve the purpose of 5 daily prayers. However, the bigger and brighter (at night) the mosque, the more beautiful it is both inside and outside. Mosques in Oman can be both government-owned and privately built. They can also be distinguished between three sects – Ibadi (Oman’s majority sect), Sunni (largest minority sect), and Shia. Mosques which are named after His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said (the Sultan of Oman) are all government-built and are usually Ibadi Mosques.
Of course, the same can be said for Oman’s capital city – Muscat. I’ve lived 8 years of my life in this city but of course, I had no travel blog nor was I much of a traveler that time. Now there are several magnificent mosques in Muscat which, if you visit the inside, you will be lost for words! When I visited my parents this September (2016), I decided to visit four of the most beautiful mosques in the city and take pictures so I can talk about them on Thousand Miles to Touchdown.
So here I am, presenting you the four must-visit mosques when you travel to Muscat. And yes, I’ve ‘ranked’ these four from my most favorite to 4th favorite 😉
1. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat
Okay, this isn’t really a surprise. At least for those familiar with Muscat or Oman. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque or shortly called by locals just ‘Grand Mosque’ is definitely #1 in Oman. Oman’s national mosque is not only the largest one in the country, but perhaps also the most beautiful one. Featuring a blend of Islamic, Omani, and Arabian architecture, it took 6 years to build this extravagant mosque.
Opened in 2001, the mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshipers at a time. The dome has a height of 50 meters from ground. The mosque features 5 minarets, resembling the 5 pillars of Islam. The tallest one is 90 meters while 4 other minarets at four corners of the mosque stand at almost half the height at 45.5 meters. There are four parts of the mosque – the main prayer hall, the female prayer hall, a library with over 20,000 books, and a lecture hall.
The main prayer hall measures 74.4 x 74.4 meters exactly into a square and can hold over 6,500 faithfuls at once. Beautifully colored mosaic patterns and tiles characterize the stunning interior. Although there is no official count on the number of stones used, it sure is a mind-blowing number! Like in almost every mosque around the world, Arabic calligraphy containing verses from the Quran is also featured here.
But this is where it gets all interesting.
Did you know, that this mosque used to hold two world records? That’s right, the world-record of having the world’s largest chandelier and carpet belonged to this very mosque. Unfortunately, Omani’s neighbors the Emiratis and Qataris stole the title by making even bigger carpets and chandeliers in their countries. Nevertheless, it’s still worth mentioning something about the chandelier and carpet of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
At the center of the main prayer hall right under the dome is the huge chandelier. At 14 meters tall and weighing 8,500 kgs, it has 600,000 bright and shiny Swarovski crystals as well as 24 carat gold plating! It took more than 4 years to complete this magnificent chandelier. Is your head spinning already? 😉
Hope you still have your consciousness and are ready for the second piece of trivia.
The carpet of the main prayer hall is a single piece. Meaning it’s a whole carpet without attachments. Containing 1.7 billion knots and weighing 21,000 kg, this amazing piece of work was hand-woven and produced in Iran! This carpet also took around four years to complete and used to be the world’s largest. The title however, now belongs to the world’s largest carpet in Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Feel like visiting someday but worried you might not be let in? Fortunately the Grand Mosque is one of the very few mosques open for visits to non-Muslims. Except fridays, the mosque is open to visitors daily from 8:00 to 11:00 AM. Entrance is of course free and location is very convenient, right next to the Sultan Qaboos Highway. But like with any other mosque visits, there are rules to follow. Everyone must dress conservatively – covering legs and arms with long sleeves and for women, also the hair. Children under 10 aren’t granted entry (though Oman as a country is very children-friendly) and you can’t eat or drink inside.
The Grand Mosque is definitely a must-visit for everyone traveling to Oman or Muscat. Pictures usually speak a thousand words but they really do not do this mosque justice.
2. Mohammed Al Amin Mosque
Built very recently, the Mohammed Al Amin Mosque opened just a year or two ago. Named after the Islamic prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the mosque is locally also known as ‘Bahwan Mosque’. It is a privately financed Sunni Mosque but its size is as large as any other ‘Royal’ (government) Mosque.
The mosque’s architecture and ‘golden’ domes and minarets give it a very distinguished feature. But you need night to notice the ‘golden effects’. Literally dominating the skyline of Muscat, this beautiful work can be easily seen from any highway heading towards Muscat due to its hilltop location.
The mosque from the outside may not look as stunning as the Grand Mosque. But you have to appreciate the white stones used in the construction. More importantly, what really made me rank this mosque my 2nd favorite in Muscat is its interior!
Unfortunately I don’t know much interesting facts and figures on this mosque – except one. Apparently the carpet itself costs over $4 million! This September (2016) was the first and only time I have visited this mosque in Muscat and I was really impressed with the interior. Even though there aren’t many patterns, artworks, and decorations like Grand Mosque for example, the materials used for the interior makes it picture-worthy!
The visiting time for non-Muslims of this architectural masterpiece is between 7:00 – 11:00 AM. You can visit any day except Friday and of course, the general rules and dress codes apply like with any other mosque visits.
3. Mosque of Sultan Said bin Taimur
Looking at the picture above, your mind might suddenly wonder to somewhere in Turkey or the Balkans. But the fact is, examples of Ottoman architecture can be found nowadays in many countries outside Turkey and mainland Europe. Commonly called ‘Taimur Mosque’, this is perhaps the only mosque in Oman built in Turkish Ottoman architectural style. It was privately financed by Sultan Qaboos himself and named after his late father Said bin Taimur.
Featuring two 50-meter tall minarets and number of ‘copper’ domes, the mosque sort of briefly served as ‘Grand Mosque’ from its opening in 1999 until the bigger Grand Mosque was completed. And if you are familiar with the interior of Turkish mosques, you will notice that the interior of this mosque looks quite similar.
For Oman, it can be said the interior is quite unique, because no other mosques in Oman feature an Ottoman style interior. Unlike most Ottoman mosques though, this one features a grand central chandelier and other smaller chandeliers on the side columns of the main prayer hall. My favorite part of this interior is the Minbar (direction of prayer) – it is just beautifully designed and decorated!
Although the mosque may look small, it can actually hold more than 2,000 worshipers. Unfortunately, this mosque is not available for tourist visits. 🙁 I hope that changes sometime in the future though, because it is definitely worth a visit to this place of worship.
4. Sayyidah Mayzoon bint Ahmed Mosque
You might be wondering now, if there is a Mosque named after the Sultan’s father, what about his mother? Well, here is your answer. Mayzoon bint Ahmed was the Sultan’s mother. And yep, the exterior architecture of this mosque (built in 2006) is quite minimalistic. But wait until we have a look at the inside.
While the three mosques mentioned above are located quite close to each other, this one is located a bit far. You’d have to drive towards the western areas of Muscat and you’d find the mosque in Mawaleh. In fact, the mosque’s minarets make it easier to spot from most places in western Muscat/Seeb areas.
Unfortunately this is another mosque not open for visit to non-Muslims. But I think the location might have something to do with that because travelers usually don’t visit this part of Muscat. Nevertheless you can enjoy some photos I took of the mosque when I was there and I do hope the interior is more satisfying than the outside 😉
So there you are, these are the four worth-to-visit beautiful and magnificent mosques in Muscat. You may have noticed that most of these mosques are recently built and that is because Oman is a relatively new country which has been developing fast under the wise leadership of His Majesty the Sultan. Though Oman is very tolerant and neutral country, I do hope that they give the chance for non-Muslims to explore more of Muscat’s and Oman’s mosques and learn about the Omani culture and Islamic religion from a neutral point of view better.
As for my Muslim readers/visitors, you can feel free to visit the mosques anytime. Most mosques in Oman keep their doors open throughout the day and close them around 10:00 PM.