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May 2006
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History & Heritage

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque The Crowning Glory of Oman
By Shaima Ahmed Abdul Rasool Al Zadjali and Sameen Ahmed Khan



A major feature of the main prayer hall is the hand-made Persian carpet consisting of 1,700 million knots and a magnificent main chandelier made of Swarovski crystals.


Oman was one of the earliest territories to enter the fold of Islam during the lifetime of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Hazrat Mazin bin Ghadoubah is recorded to be the first Muslim from Oman. He was given the shahadah by Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) himself in Madinah. Hazrat Mazin was inspired by the beauty of the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah. On his return to Oman, he built the first mosque of Oman, in his hometown of Sumayil (50 km from the capital, Muscat). This historic mosque is known by the names Masjid Al Mudhmar and Masjid Mazin bin Ghadoubah. This mosque, with wooden lintels and stained-glass windows, has been completely rebuilt by the government and is constructed from blocks of stone.


The early tradition of constructing the mosques has continued to enjoy the patronage given by the rulers of Oman to serve the devout inhabitants of the country. This reflects in the ancient and the modern mosques of Oman. The first mosques in Oman were simple buildings, often indistinguishable from the surrounding houses. In the early mosques, there were no minarets and little or no adornment; however some fine decoration still survives in ancient mosques at Manah and Nizwa. The ancient mosques were usually situated close to the falaj (water canal) enabling an easy access to water for wudu (ablution). With the provision of piped water, this is no longer a consideration in the construction of modern mosques. The many beautiful mosques built over the last 30 years, are a display of all the features of Islamic architecture through the ages. There are over 16,000 mosques across the landscape of Oman lending it a well defined character of an Islamic ambience. The Ministry published a directory of Oman’s mosques in 1996. The Grand Mosque in Muscat deserves a special mention.


The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque was inaugurated by His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos in May 2001. It took six years to complete the construction of the huge complex on a site by a main road between Muscat and Seeb. Coming under the Sultan Qaboos Centre for Islamic Culture (under the Diwan of Royal Court) the mosque now stands as a crowning glory on the architectural horizon of the country. The developed part of the site, including the fully consolidated areas and landscaping, covers 416,000 square metres. The Mosque complex (covering 40,000 square metres) is constructed on a raised podium in keeping with the tradition of Omani mosques that were built elevated from street level. It can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers and consists of a main prayer hall, ladies prayer hall, covered passageways, a meeting hall and library.


The whole interior of the Grand Mosque is paneled with off-white and dark grey marble paneling clothed in cut-tile work. Ceramic floral patterns adorn arch framed mural panels set in the marble, forming blind niches in a variety of classical Persian, pre-dominantly Safavid, designs. The ceilings are inspired by those of Omani forts. The mihrab in the main prayer hall is framed by a border of Quranic verses and a gilded ceramic surround. The dome comprises a series of ornate, engraved stained glass triangles within a framework of marble columns and a Swarovski crystal chandelier with gold-plated metalwork hangs down for a length of 14 meters. A major feature of the main prayer hall is the hand-made Persian carpet consisting of 1,700 million knots, weighing 21 tonnes and made in a single piece measuring 70 x 60 meters. From the design stage, it took 4 years to complete it and 600 women weavers from the province of Khurasan in Iran were employed. The magnificent main chandelier dropping from the central dome is made of Swarovski crystal and gold-­plated metal work, like all other 34 chandeliers which hang along the wood paneled ceiling outer bays surrounding the dome. The main eight ton chandelier has 1,122 lamps.


The women’s prayer hall can accommodate 750 worshippers. The walls are clad in pink stone specifically polished and embellished in polychrome marble inlay panels. The inner sahn gives a subtle feeling with a spartan cream interior that reflects a continuity of the exterior of the prayer enclave. A retractable canopy, a light­weight shading structure, was designed to be attached to the roof to cover the sky when shade is required in the courtyard.


The Grand Mosque inspired the founding of a contemporary institute, Islamic Information Centre, dedicated to advanced Islamic studies with appropriate educational facilities and accommodation. The Institute is situated to the south of the Mosque complex site. It contains over 20,000 books. The library has geometric carvings while floral designs are used in the meeting hall. Facilities like computers, internet, photo­copying, etc are available in the library. There is a lecture hall which can accommodate around 300 people.


(The writers can be reached at shaimamecit@yahoo.com and rohelakhan@yahoo.com. Middle East College of Information Technology (MECIT), Muscat, Sultanate of Oman)