Among the most distinctive sights in Oman are the mosques lending it a well-defined character of an Islamic ambience.
The first mosque in Oman was built by Mazin bin Ghadoubah, the first Omani to embrace Islam, giving the shahadah to the Prophet Muhammad himself in Madinah. Mazin, who was inspired by the prophet’s masjid in Madinah, built a mosque in his hometown Samayil which took the name Masjid Al Mudhmar, the first mosque in Oman. From the first mosque till now, the rulers of Oman have always demonstrated magnanimity towards constructing mosque after mosque to serve the devout inhabitants of the country.
While on one hand Oman’s rich Islamic heritage is manifest in its old mosques, on the other hand the modern elegant mosques reflect the rulers’ vision of keeping the country abreast with the time.
In 1992, Sultan Qaboos of Oman issued an instruction to build a new mosque, the Grand Mosque. The Diwan of Royal Court then held an international competition in 1993 to find the best design for the Grand Mosque. A designed by architects Mohammed Saleh Makiya and Quad Design, won the competition. Then the construction commenced in 1995, headed by the master architect Mohamed Saleh Makiya and Quad Design of London and Muscat. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, located in Ghubra in Bausher district, was built at His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s personal expense. The long years that went into the construction of the Mosque complex are testimony to the effort and dedication that has gone into making it a true piece of marvel in marble, sand, stone and wood. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a fine specimen of Islamic architecture. It was completed six years later and inaugurated by His Majesty the Sultan in May 2001.
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. This sacred platform is defined by the four corner Minarets each standing 45 metre high. The five minarets, including the main minaret, are symbolic of the five pillars of Islam. It can accommodate up to 20,000 people.
The whole interior of the Grand Mosque is panelled with off-white and dark grey marble panelling 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 in Thulus kaht 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 panelled ceiling outer bays surrounding the dome. The main eight ton chandelier has 1,122 lamps.
The ladies prayer hall has a capacity to accommodate 750 worshippers. The walls are clad in pink stone specifically polished and embellished in the polychrome marble inlay panels. The inner satin 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, is designed to be attached to the roof to cover the sky when the shade is required in the courtyard.
A library and an Islamic Information Centre are housed in the mosque complex. The library has geometric carvings while the floral designs is used in the meeting hall. The library is well-equipped with a collection of 20,000 books and facilities like computers, Internet and photocopy machines.
There is a lecture hall with a capacity for about 300 people, which regularly holds lectures on different Islamic topics.
The Grand Mosque inspired the founding of a contemporary institute dedicated to advanced Islamic studies with appropriate educational facilities and accommodation. The Institute is situated to the south of the Mosque complex site
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque symbolizes the spectacular array of traditional Islamic art and architectural styles that are set in a contemporary mode. The confluence of Ottoman, Mamluk, Islamic Indian Mughal, Iranian Safavid, traditional Omani and other styles of architecture, various parts of the structure confer on it a uniqueness that is hard to surpass by any modern piece of architecture. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque symbolizes traditional Islamic architectural styles in contemporary mode and is considered as one of the finest mosques in the world.
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a tribute to the rich Islamic heritage which Oman deservedly preserves for its posterity.