Posted in Art & Culture, Islam, OMAN, Tourism, Travel

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman.

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.

The spectacular Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque at Ghubra, Muscat, Oman.

mamadou

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Posted in Art & Culture, Life, OMAN, Travel

Architecture of Muscat, Oman.

There are many reasons and attractions to visit the enchanting Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.  The nature, culture, arts & crafts and people are among the factors attracts the visitors.  Muscat architecture is also an attraction; various historic forts and buildings are attractive to visit and explore.

Most of the buildings in Muscat has big carved doors, arched windows and ornamental railings either made from wood or metal decorates the building’s balcony.

Coral Hotel
Coral Hotel, located close to the beach at Qurm. This is a small 3 star hotel. It’s convenient as near to Muscat International Airport, beach, Government Ministries & Foreign Embassies and excursions in Muscat.

The Chedi
Situated on the stunning Boushar Beachfront in Oman, where crystal Gulf waters mirror images of glorious mountain ranges, The Chedi Muscat is an oasis of mysticism and luxury. Simple elegance, stylish furnishings and subtle bursts of vibrant hues, characteristic of traditional Omani architecture, distinguish an ageless charm, which the hotel exudes. Each of the 156 exquisite rooms and suites offer exclusive access to turquoise pools bordered by cosy cabanas, a water garden, and a private stretch of sandy shore.

Barr al Jissah Resort – Shangri La Oman

Consists 3 hotels spectacularly set on the Gulf of Oman with honey coloured mountain as a backdrop and a sandy beach and blue sea that each hotel overlooks.

Al Waha Hotel is 5-star rated is set away from the other 2 hotels – an ideal family hotel.  Al Bandar Hotel is 5-star rated too, is a more formal hotel ideal for couples and those who do not need child friendly facilities in their hotel.

Al Husn Hotel is 6-star, provides superlative facilities and services. The Al Husn hotels bedrooms are a spacious 56sq metres and the suits range up to 500sq metres in size. The hotel can offer butler service and its facilities are exclusive to guests.

Al Bustan Palace 

Al Bustan Palace Hotel is most outstanding hotel, located on a stretch of prime beach, in the cosy embrace of a mountain backdrop and beautiful views of the Gulf of Oman.

Al Bustan Palace Hotel is palatial grandeur having the royalty and head of states as the guests. The imposing Islamic ambience, unique design, culturally rich atmosphere and cascading crystal chandelier has created an authentic experience for guests.

The finest materials have been selected, sourced from premium local and international suppliers, such as mother of pearl, gold leaf, Thai silk, glass, coloured stones, marble, crystal and hand carved wood. The combination of exotic location, superb facilities and unsurpassed grandeur makes the Al Bustan Palace Muscat hotel a perfect venue for a pleasant as well as relaxing stay.

Set in 200 acres of lush green gardens, Al Bustan Palace offers 250 luxurious rooms and suites, each with its own private balcony overlooking the spectacular views over the Gulf of Oman.

Grand Hyatt

The Grand Hyatt Muscat is located on the exclusive beach of Shati-al-Qurum, overlooking sea of the Gulf of Oman, in the heart of the diplomatic and government district of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. Built using stone blocks in a combination of Omani and Yemeni styles, with exterior and interior decorated with unique Arabian jewellery accents, Grand Hyatt Muscat is a reflection of the refined taste and wealth of Arabia. Tall torches flanking the exterior of the building are lit at sunset, their radiant flames a symbol of eternity.

mamadou

Posted in Art & Culture, OMAN, Travel

Khanjar, the Omani dagger.

The Arab world has always been famous for its weapons.  Swords and daggers, are no longer in use as weapons, but in the Arab world they are still popular as ceremonial ornaments—especially the khanjar, the famous curved Arab dagger.

The khanjar, with its layers of silver and gold and its gem-studded scabbard, is often the most striking part of a man’s attire at formal dinners, weddings or important civic or military events. Khanjar, Arabic for dagger, can vary in size, style, and design according to Oman’s different regions – not to mention the price.

Khanjar is piece of art that capture the soul of Oman, symbol of manhood, courage and tradition.  The curve of the Omani dagger distinguishes it from daggers elsewhere. The sheath has a right angle bend. It’s ornate work is among the finest in Arabia.

It can take up to a month to make a quality khanjar and craftsmen adhere to the regional designs handed down from generation to generation.  An Omani dagger consists of three parts the hilt, the sheath and the blade.

The khanjar comes in three basic styles or designs – the Sa’idiyah, Dakhliyah (Omaniyah) and Sharqiyah (Suriyah), but they have numerous variations derived from personal choice and contemporary trends. The Sa’idiyah khanjar has a narrow hilt and is the largest and most expensive, while the Dakhliyah khanjar has a very wide handle and a sheath of ivory or horn worked with silver.  Variations such as the one called Nizwa use a silver T-shaped hilt while the Sur khanjars are smaller in size and use gold instead. Some are finer than others.

The khanjar is a distinguishing feature of the Omani personality as well as an important symbol of male elegance. It is traditionally worn at the waist. Shal, a long strip of cloth acts as a holder for the khanjar.  Belts also used to support Khanjar, of locally made webbing, sometimes interwoven with silver thread or belts of leather covered by finely woven silver wire with handsome silver buckles, and a knife with an ornate handle of silver thread is often stuck into a simple leather pouch behind the sheath.

The more expensive sheaths are of woven gold thread or a combination of gold and silver. But there are also the simpler ones made of plain leather with some silver worked into it. The mark of a good sheath are its inlaid silver rings – the maximum is seven rings of which two are used to hold the belt and five through which strands of thread are woven as ornamentation. There is no special significance attached to the number of rings on a khanjar, It depends on personal preference, but it is a status symbol as the rings are expensive and usually a wealthy wearer sports seven rings. The blade of a khanjar is also an indication of its worth; old blades are never discarded but worked into a new one.

Once worn in self-defence, today, the khanjar is a fashion accessory and a prestige item much in demand.

mamadou

Posted in OMAN, Tourism, Travel

Muttrah, Oman.

Muttrah

Ruwi

Muttrah
Muttrah is a city of trade and enterprise, with its port and commercial quarter. Muttrah has a population of 154,316 living in eight residential districts: Muttrah City, Greater Muttrah, Al Wattia, Ruwi City, Wadi Addi, Annat, Qurum (east of the Nature Park) and the Port of Al Fahl.

It is said that the name Muttrah (a place to throw something down) comes from the presence of an anchorage for ships (i.e “throw down the anchor”).  Another interpretation of the name is as of a place to “unload or put down goods or merchandise.”

A residential area in Ruwi.  Due to dense population, new residential move towards the hilly part.

A street in Ruwi business area.

The Wilayat of Muttrah is considered amongst the most important of the six Wilayats in Muscat Governorate, of its ancient historical and cultural standing; for it was Oman’s ancient trading port and its souq was the principal source of the many and diverse goods relayed from the port to the other souqs of Oman. It is said that it was once also a fertile spot much cultivated with date palms and other trees, watered by aflaj and sweetwater wells from which the citizens, orchards and visiting ships were supplied.

Muttrah business area and its heritage architecture

Muttrah is the historical and cultural heart of Muscat, the capital of Oman. Here Oman’s history as a great seafaring and trading nation comes alive.  Muttrah is quite unique; a blend with traditional and modern. It has the old traditional markets famous for the narrow winding lanes, the buildings rich in Islamic architectural heritage and also modern office, banking and commercial complexes.

Muttrah is home to the Al Dhalam (Muttrah) Souq, one of the oldest souqs in Oman. Al Dahlam means darkness and the name reflects the effect of the souq’s palm frond covered roof and twisting, narrow alleyways. The souq offers jewellery, precious metals, antique coins, handicrafts, artefacts, carpets, incense, perfume, fabrics and Arabian lamps. You will encounter the enchanted atmosphere as Omani women shop for the colourful, delicately embroidered cloaks and shawls which contribute to the rich variety of dress styles in Oman.  Evening is the best time to visit Al Dhalam Souq.

Muttrah Souq

A shop outside Al Dhalam Souq in Muttrah

Oman has been an important maritime nation for thousands of years, its sailors venturing east to Iran, India, the Indies and China, bringing back porcelain, fabrics, spices, timbers, precious metals and gemstones to send to the rest of the Middle East and on to Europe. It was from Oman, legend has it, that the original Sinbad the Sailor set forth on his journeys.

 
Its wealth and strategic position made Oman an attractive prize for foreign powers and in 1507 many of its ports, including Muttrah, in Muscat, were occupied by the Portuguese. Expelling the Portuguese in 1650, Oman rivalled European nations as the dominant power in the Indian Ocean for the next 200 years. It controlled trade and territories along the African, Iranian and Indian coasts and, because of its commercial importance, attracted immigrants from those territories and elsewhere, many of whom settled in Muttrah.
 
 
 

The Al Mirani Fort in Muscat is the twin fort adjacent to the Al Jalali Fort and is another magnificent piece of architecture. There is an electric elevator in the fort, but going up by the spiral stairway can be a much better experience.

Declining as a power from the mid nineteenth century, Oman effectively closed itself off from the rest of the world until 1970, with the result that much of the history and character of Oman is well-preserved, especially in Muttrah.
 

 

The Monument at Al Riyam roundabout and the Watchtower at the background. The Watchtower of Muscat is located on the Bahri Road in Muttrah, near to the Kalbuh and the Riyam Park . These two parks in the city of Muscat are places of great tourist attraction The Watchtower in Muscat is a perfect place to see the fascinating city of Muscat. It is built in the shape of incense burner and stands as a silent white tower on top of a hill. There is a staircase which leads to the top of this tower.

Amongst the livelihoods still practised in this district are carpentry, gold and silver jewellery craft and fishing.  The industries include halwa, plaited palm frond ropes, textiles, blacksmithing, silverwork, perfumes and the production of ambergris.

The Sultan Qaboos Port, Corniche, public parks and museums also lend colour to this area and are a tourist attraction.

Tankers, barges, ferries and cruise ships mingle with traditional Arab dhows as Muttrah harbour situated at  a natural bay, deep water, natural anchorage. You can witness the bustling activities at fish market at the harbour from sunrise to 10 am each day.  See, hear and smell the catch of the day from the rich marine life of the Arabian Sea being traded.

Muttrah Corniche depicts the chronicle of Oman since 1970.  The Corniche stretches for about three kilometers along the harbour. You can find pristine gardens and fountains along this stretch. At the northern end of the Cornish there is a fish market and the dhow harbour, where the dhows anchor to unload the catches of the day.  Next to the fish market is the fruits and vegetable market.  Along the Corniche is the Souq, which is a must visit for the visitors.

Greater Muttrah Boasts the public parks of Wadi Al Kabir, Darsait and Riyam Gardens and the following national Museums:
 1. Greater Muttrah Museum
2. Al Sayyid Nadir Museum in Muscat
3. The Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum at Bait Al Falaj.
 
 

The Al Jalali Fort in Muscat has wooden doors curved in the ancient style. Inside there are rare pieces of art like rug weaving from Ibri, metal works and fine examples of pottery. The whole place is a wonderful piece of art and architecture that will keep you spell bound.
 
 Greater Muttrah district abounds in historical buildings such as:
1. Forts Mirani and Jalali in Muscat and Muttrah Fort.
2. Towers and watchtowers such as Burj saali, Al Murabba, Amudor, Miran, Makallah and Bustar.
3. Muscat City Wall with its three gates (Bab Al Mathaib, Bab Al Kabir and Bab Al Saghir).
4. Traditional residences such as Bait Jariza, Bait Al Sayyid Nadir bin Faisal, Bait Al Sayyid Shihab bin Faisal, Bait Al Sayyid Abbas bin Faisal, the Former British Embassy, Bait Fransa, Bait Al Zawawi.
 
Officially named Masjid al-Rasool al-A’tham (Mosque of the Great Prophet), is also known as the Al-Lawatiya Mosque. Its striking mosaic-covered dome and blue minaret dominating the skyline of Muttrah. This mosque is the central place of worship for members of the Lawati community who migrated from India over 300 years ago. The Lawati reside behind the mosque in a maze of narrow streets, also built the attractive 18th century white-washed balconied merchant houses fronting the corniche beside the mosque.
 
The Al Alam Royal Palace of Muscat is situated between the Al Jalali and Al Mirani Forts in Muscat . The Al Alam Royal Palace is one of the most beautiful buildings of the city and is the official estate of the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos.  The Al Alam Royal Palace in Muscat was built in the year 1972 after Sultan Qaboos took the throne in 1970. You possibly enter this palace through the Kebir Gate in the ancient city walls.
 
Modern landmarks in the area include:
1. Greater Muttrah Business District.
2. Al Mina Business District.
3. Muttrah Corniche.
4. Al Bustan Palace Hotel. 
 
Muzium Gate at Al Syaidiya Street, Muttrah
 
End of  the day duty and on my way back to my accomodation in Shati Al-Qurum.

mamadou

Posted in OMAN, Tourism, Travel

Muscat, Oman.

Oman

The Sultanate of Oman occupies the southeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula – 300,000 sq. km boasting some 1,700 km of coastline stretching along the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf.  It has a population of 2.9 million people and about 30% of them are foreigners.  It is the second largest country in Arabia, and has the most diverse landscape including fjord-like rugged mountains in the far north, magnificent tracts of desert and a lush south.

An ancient civilization, Oman’s history can be traced back to 12,000 BC. The country is strategically located on the crossroads of several trade routes that linked the ancient world. It became a center of power in the 17th century with Omani rule extending from Zanzibar in East Africa to parts of Persia and Pakistan.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

There are many beautiful designed mosques in and around Muscat.  Above are some of the mosques that you can see in Muscat.

Oman takes pride in its rich cultural and architectural heritage bestowed by hundreds of years of international trading and foreign occupation. Evidence of a glorious ancient past is spread all over the country which spread all over the country which boasts more than 500 forts, castles, and towers. Their diversity and numbers reflect the high standards achieved by Omanis in architecture.

Oman enjoys many unique features including an unspoiled culture and lifestyle traditional in almost every aspect. The people are friendly and offer incomparable hospitality. A rich variety of flora and fauna abound, together with panoramic beauty witnessed in its mountain ranges, deserts and sand dunes

Grand door is a common features in Oman; as seen at Al Harthy Mall Complex

A view of a popular public beach in Muscat.

Muscat

Muscat is the capital and largest city of Oman.  It is also the seat of government and largest city in the Governorate of Muscat.  The population of the Muscat metropolitan area is estimated at 1,090,797 people.  The metropolitan area spans approximately 1,500 square kilometre.

Oman is developing country.  Rich with natural resources.

As an oil producing country, a common view to see the oil rig. Relic or monument of onshore oil rig at Qurum, Muscat.

The Muscat Gate Museum; situated on Al Saidiya Street, Muttrah. In the museum one can find displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present days. The museum makes for a fascinating day trip to visitors, giving a deep understanding into the city’s sometime turbulent past. With informative displays about the city, one gets to see a special exhibit on Muscat’s water springs, the ancient wells, underground channels, the souqs, houses, mosques, harbors and forts. Visitors also get a wonderful aerial view of the city scenery of the Rocky Mountains and also the beautiful beach from the top of the museum. The Muscat Gate Museum opened its doors to the public in January 2001 on the site that was once the boundary of the city. It is housed in a fort-like building.

Governourate of Muscat is situated on the Gulf of Oman at the south part of Al Batinah coast. It is confined between Gulf of Oman and the mountains of AI Hajr Al Sharyi. The Governorate is the most populous area of the Sultanate. The average density exceeds 24 times the average population density in the Sultanate.  Muscat Governorate is considered the pulsating heart of Oman. It is linked to Port Sultan Qaboos by Muttrah Corniche where the visitor to Muscat can view the wonderful variety of nature: golden beaches, mountainous heights, and golden sand dunes (Bawshar Sands).

Perhaps what is striking about Muscat Governorate and its states is the breathtaking intermingling of ancient cultural heritage and modern style. You will see houses, gates, old markets, small shops, and winding roads redolent of authentic history, side by side with modern markets, shops, buildings, and streets stamped with modern architecture. This allows Oman to preserve its historic character, and at the same time enjoying its contemporary spirit. Muscat is renowned as one of the cleanest Arab capitals, and has gained the honour of winning the Cleanest Arab City Contest several consecutive times.

In Muscat and its wilayats we can observe this remarkable harmony between the ancient heritage and the modern contemporary features. You can see the old houses and markets, small shops and narrow roads, next to the modern markets, shops and wide streets. This preserves Oman’s historical and cultural identity on one hand and gives it at the same time the spirit of the age and modernization on the other hand.

Qurum Natural Park: The park is the largest in the whole of Muscat. The aim of building the park was to bring into use the natural and topographical features of the area to create an idyllic park for the visitors. The park is success story of its unique location and artistic design. The total area of the park is 17,15,449 square metre.

Muscat is the capital of the Sultanate of Oman and the headquarters and the administrative apparatus of the state. It is an old city that played an important role as a commercial station since the early ages of Islam. It is also one of the most important trade centers because of its strategic and special location. It is famous for Al Jalali and Al Mirani forts.

Muscat as a city has played a prominent historical role due to its strategic location.

The Governorate of Muscat consists of six wilayats: Muscat, Muttrah, Bowshar, A’Seeb, Al Amerat and Quriyat.

Al Seeb lies to the West of Wilayat Bowshar, occupying a narrow strip of  coastline along the rim of the Gulf of Oman for a distance of 50 kms. Its population is around 223,267 persons distributed among 24 villages and townships

Aerial view of As Seeb

mamadou