When Bryan, (the friend of Trish’s Salmon Arm friend) who lives in Muscat, came to get her last night for their planned trip to the Grand Mosque, Trish mentioned that John & I had not yet been to the Mosque either. Bryan offered to take us all this morning and last night took Trish on a tour of Muscat to see the city lights.
At quarter to 9 this morning Bryan was at the door. He is a Welshman who has lived in Oman off and on since 1995 and permanently since 2012. He too works for an oil company. It has offices is Aberdeen, Scotland and Edmonton, Alberta and Bryan has been to Canada several times. He is great fun and full of laughs and stories.
He has been to the Mosque many times and knows many of the staff by name. We toured the Ladies Area and as we were leaving a fellow frowned at Trish and asked which gate she had entered through. A few minutes later a soldier came up to us and asked Trish to leave. She had purposely chosen a long skirt and long-sleeve top to wear and had her head covered with a pashmina. But her skirt had splits in the sides and was considered indecent. Joseph and Carrie’s villa is only a five minute drive from the Mosque so John and I continued to wander around and Bryan took Trish back to change. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque was commissioned by the Sultan and is maintained by him. Construction began in 1995 and took six years. It can accomodate up to 8,000 worshippers in the main mussalla and 750 women in the ladies mussalla. If the outdoors and passageways are also used there can be 20,000 worhippers on the site.
The gardens are extensive and beautiful. There were many cleaners and gardeners and maintainence workers on the premises. Any place inside that non-muslim people would be walking was covered with a blue cloth.
The carpet in the men’s mussalla is the second-largest single piece rug in the world. It took 600 women 4 years to complete and it contains 1,700,000,000 knots. (Yes that is the correct number of zeros – 1.7 billion knots.) It covers an area of 4,343 square meters and is 70 X 60 meters in size – all in one piece.
The central chandelier was made by Faustig of Germany using 1,122 Swarovski Austrian Crystals. It is 14 meters tall. Each Friday the Koran is placed into this niche during prayer service. The Women’s Mussalla also had chandeliers but they were smaller. The carving on the doors was amazing. The carpet in the Women’s Mussalla was sectioned to show individual kneeling spots. The women would kneel at the back and when they bowed their head it rested in the top of the curve and facing Mecca.Outside there were covered passageways down both sides of the complex that had tiled niches on each side. The sections of niches displayed examples of Muslim art styles through the ages. Each section had about 12 niches – six on each side of the passageway and all were different examples of the particular art style represented.
This is the men’s ablution area where they perform ‘wudhu,’ a ceremonial washing of their feet, hands, and face before going to pray. The women have a separate ablution area as well. Bryan is demonstrating the technique. Of course, a Muslim man would take his shoes off first!
We spent just over two hours wandering at the Mosque. Bryan had to be at work around 12:30 so he still had an hour and a half to show us around. He drove through the mountain that separates the city of Muscat, turned around on the other side and then stopped at a small pullout about half way back down. He and Trish had come here last night to see the city lights. We thought it was pretty impressive in the daylight as well.
To make a road you just carve off a mountain. The Sultan does not like tunnels. He considers them too dangerous and likely to be closed due to accident pile-ups. The way we have seen the Omani drive I think that is a pretty accurate assumption. It is desolate country – the landscape looks like a moonscape.
We had a great morning with Bryan. He was a lot of fun and he and Trish teased each other all the time. It was very humourous and very kind of him to show us around. Joseph and Carrie have not been to the mosque yet either and John and I are more than willing to go again if they want to see it while we are here. It is a beautiful building on beautiful grounds and a very peaceful place.