In 1992, Sultan Qaboos decided that Oman was in need of a grand mosque, and a competition was announced to select a design. The chosen plan was so enormous and grandiose, it took several years to build, and was finally inaugurated on May 4, 2001, to celebrate 30 years of the sultan’s reign.
Built of Indian sandstone, the splendid structure is the second-largest mosque in the world, able to accommodate 20,000 worshippers at one time. The central dome rises 160 feet high, and the 4,200-square-foot floor is covered by a single piece of carpet handwoven by hundreds of artisans and colored with traditional vegetable dyes.
But the pièce de résistance of this marvel of Islamic architecture is the gigantic chandelier hung high over the men’s prayer hall. At the time it was built, it was the largest indoor chandelier on Earth, and it is roughly the size of a small house.
The sheer scale of this chandelier must be seen to be believed. The enormous bejeweled light measures 45 feet tall and 26 feet wide, and weighs around 9 tons. It’s decorated with 600,000 pieces of crystal trimmed with gold, and even has a small staircase inside it for workers to perform the maintenance needed to keep its 100-plus lamps shining bright.
At the time the mosque was built, the chandelier and handwoven carpet were the largest in the world, but mosques in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have since installed bigger versions of each in order to beat the record. Regardless, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a wonder that should not be missed during a visit to the Omani capital of Muscat.
There is also a small information center inside the grounds of the mosque staffed by very friendly volunteers where you can ask any questions you may have about Islam over some coffee and dates.
Know Before You Go
This is one of the only mosques in Oman that allows non-Muslim visitors. However, be aware of the rules when entering and exploring the area. Children under 10 are not permitted into in the prayer halls and there is no eating or sleeping in the prayer hall or use of cell phones. Women must cover their hair.