Likened to a radiant lighthouse beckoning locals and visitors into the heart of Muscat city, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a grand display of Islamic architecture, faith and culture. Apart from the ability to hold 20,000 worshippers, Oman's largest mosque also hosts one of the world's biggest Swarovski crystal chandeliers, as well as an impressive handmade Persian rug in the main prayer hall weighing in at 21 tonnes.
The six-year construction began in the mid-1990s at the decree of Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, who has reigned over Oman for more than four decades and spurred a turning point in the previously underdeveloped country. The opulent mosque includes a main prayer hall, a ladies prayer hall, covered passageways and sculpted archways, a meeting hall, lecture theatre and comprehensive library. The interior is adorned in cream and grey marble, detailed tile work, stained glass, engravings and gilded gold finishes with traditional Arabic and Middle Eastern decor evident throughout.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is an inclusive environment for non-Muslims as well as devout worshipers, with events and discussions at the lecture theatre often conducted in English. Entry to the mosque, situated in the middle of Muscat's Bausher neighbourhood, is free and you are also welcome to visit outside hours (08:00 to 11:00) if you don't mind bypassing the prayer halls. A trip during the day will shed light on the ornate interiors, while an evening visit illuminates the mosque in a glow of blue, yellow and green. The mosque is not only an aesthetic treat, but also stands strong as a testament to Oman's renaissance.
Visitors, especially ladies, should ensure they are appropriately attired for a trip to this holy site. In respect for conservative Islamic tradition, full length long-sleeved dress should be worn as well as a headscarf or you may risk being refused entry. Those who have visited the mosque will tell you it is well worth the effort of dressing for the occasion – a stroll around the deeply spiritual Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the perfect activity to add new depth to your Omani experience.