Grand Mosque photo blog – Part 2 – The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman

Continuing with my series on the Grand Mosques, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque at Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, is the fantastic architectural piece, quintessentially Arabic laced with Egyptian and Persian architectural elements.

Named after the nation’s ruler, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the mosque is a must-see for all travelers in Muscat. Built in the suburb of Al-Ghubra, this large mosque occupying 40,000 square meters cannot be missed as you travel on the adjacent main roads. With a spectacular dome and minarets, it is pretty impressive from outside, and even more stunning from the inside. Built to accommodate 20,000 worshippers in its two large halls and courtyard, the mosque is one of the largest in the middle-east.

As was the case with other grand mosques, this mosque also required appropriate dressing to visit it. A Headscarf is mandatory for women as are fully covered hands and legs.

Gorgeous landscaped gardens encircle this mosque. As you enter the main hall through its tasteful arches and spacious corridor, once inside, everywhere you look, is opulence, craftsmanship and grandeur.

The mosque is built of chiefly Indian Sandstone. Inside of the main prayer hall, the walls are made of marble adorned by geometrical motifs, flower and leaf designs.  The main prayer hall is a massive 74.4×74.4m with the central dome rising to 50m.

The carpet you stand on is purported to be the second largest in the world and apparently took a long four years to weave by 600 women! Woven in 28 shades of vegetable dyes, this massive carpet weighs 21 tonnes, has 1.7Million knots and covers 70 x 60 m of the praying area of the grand hall all in one humongous piece.  The chandelier is another highlight and is 14 meters tall and adds to the grandeur. All around you can see marble designs, beautifully inscribed Quranic verses and stained glass art adorning the inside walls, ceilings and floor of the mosque. The corridors are embellished with arches and house the mosque’s various facilities such as a large library

Here are some photos of this truly grand monument.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque


The Main hall

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque  up close

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque dome and chandelier


Adorning Panels

IMG_20141228_110118 IMG_20141228_110639 IMG_20141228_111528 IMG_20141228_111604

Read about the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque here. My next post on this series will be out soon!

For a virtual tour check out and see the beauty for yourself! But before you go, do let me know how you are liking this series on the Grand mosques in the comments below.

Categories: Asia, Oman | Tags: | 5 Comments

Architecture at Muscat, Oman

Buildings and architecture are a part of every visit to a city. The charm of a city is in a way defined by the beautiful buildings it has. If New York is remembered by its towering buildings, Chicago is all the more beautiful in its stately but tall buildings.  Victorian architecture is well recognized in many countries where the British ruled. Europe is renowned for its distinctive Greek/Roman and several other forms of architecture which make its towns and cities such a visual treat indeed.

The Middle-eastern countries have their own flavor of Muslim architecture which sets it apart from the rest of the world. Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman showed me examples of some lovely architecture in its fine mosques, homes, forts and office buildings.

I am no expert on this topic, but the simplicity in fine lines, arches and curves defined elegance for me in all its buildings. Fortunately, His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, apparently was not in favor of the high rises that abound the neighboring prosperous UAE.  With a few high-rises only in the city, one never feels cramped as compared to being in modern day glass and cement cities. The shorter buildings here are not just square brick structures, but a medley of arches, and graceful straight lines at the right places. What also helps is the fact that surroundings are sparkling clean adding to the aura of the buildings.

The Grand Mosque in Muscat that was built after a competition for its design is one of the most popular destinations for worshippers and tourists alike.  However, my favorite mosque in Muscat, was the one I saw frequently by the main road. A gleaming off-white color, the Zawawi mosque in Al-Khuwair with its gardens around was a treat to see in the day and delightfully illuminated by night.  Some pictures are below.

Zawawi Mosque, Muscat

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

A quick walk in the neighborhood left me spellbound as I saw the homes around me, each more beautiful than the other.

Local residence, Muscat


Local Residence, Muscat

Local Residence, Muscat

Another notable point was the uniformity in coloring of the buildings. As compared to the peeling reds , greens, blues and yellows found rampantly in the buildings in most Indian cities, most of the colors used were pale –with shades of white or sand being the most common. Perhaps it is the hot climate of the city which is the deciding factor. I wish such uniformity were present in Indian cities too.  There was no graffiti in the city and walls were spotless clean. A few rules (that were obeyed) such as not drying clothes where they would be visible to outsiders was a balm to eyes used to seeing garments of all forms in India!

If you get a chance to visit Muscat, and love seeing buildings, do try and visit some of the famous landmarks such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the old area of Corniche, old forts – the Sohar fort is my favorite and one of Muscat’s neighborhoods (preferably near the sea, that is where I went!). I am sure you will delight in the various forms of buildings you see.

Categories: Asia, Oman | Tags: , , , | 21 Comments

The Fourth Wonder – Wahiba Sands, Oman

It was a sunny afternoon when I discovered Beauty. I had considered three elements, the turbulent seas, the star studded unending skies and the imposing mountains as the most awe inspiring wonders I had ever known. That day I discovered the fourth. It was the hauntingly starved desert. I had seen the desert on television, the biggest it got for me was 32’’. When I saw the Wahiba Sands desert at Oman, I discovered another facet of nature previously unknown to me.

We were picked up at Muscat by our tour guide in a 4 wheel drive. I had no idea what was in store when we left the road and entered the sandy desert.

The Wahiba Sands desert was as vaster than I could see, more beautiful than I had imagined it to be. There was so much sand everywhere. Humongous stretches of ceaseless sand were interspersed with shrubs that looked ravaged by the blazing sun. I saw Sand that had built itself into mammoth dunes which looked more like mountains to me, Sand that was so fine that it felt like water in my hands, Sand that formed beautiful waves styled by the wind, Sand which changed colors from red to white to brown as we changed course in the desert and Slippery Sands on which Camels walked on with ease. I was enthralled completely by the beauty of the whole vista.

Entering Wahiba Sands

Waves of sand

The Wahiba Sands is a popular desert destination at Oman with several camping facilities and tours that organize camps deep into the desert. Many of these are even luxury camps with almost all with running water and some with even a swimming pool! To maintain the ethnicity though, a well thought out cultural program with dances, local cooking etc. is often organized too. We had booked ourselves with one such camp and thoroughly enjoyed the royal treatment.

As we entered, the camp, our senses feasting on the beauty in the bareness, we were treated to refreshing ‘zatar’ tea. We later went ‘dune bashing’ or ‘wadi bashing’ on 50–200 m high sand dunes which was quite thrilling.

The desert that is scorching by day is chilly by night. As the lights grew dim, we washed for dinner and settled in the open area for the cultural program. After dinner, we started star gazing and there were oh, so many stars! The city smoke and fog allows us to see hardly any stars. Deep in the desert, the dark velvety sky was bejeweled with these a massive number of these bright starry embellishments. We star-gazed for several hours trying to figure out the few basic constellations we knew. Far away from civilization, we could see nothing but pitch darkness outside the vicinity of the camp.

We awoke in the spacious tent-room in the desert to a very dewy and chilly morning. A quick breakfast later we were on our way home. It was fascinating to see so many camels out there in the middle of nowhere. We made a halt at one of the local Bedouin people’s homes at the fringe of the desert. Although the Bedouin people or the residents of the desert now have access to the latest amenities, many still lead their lives near the desert, owning herds of camels, or through tourism.

A dewy campsite in the morning

Cute little camel at Wahiba Sands

Serene camels

The way back to Muscat was another visual treat on the Sur-Muscat highway which is a coastal road for a long patch. With bare mountains on one side and the sea on the other, it was hard not to stop at every scenic spot we saw! All in all, a fantastic trip which revealed to us a new element of nature we were hitherto unaware of.

The coastal Muscat-Sur highway

Muscat-Sur higway coast

Categories: Asia, Oman | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

Lovely Landscapes of Salalah

The holy month of Ramadan is on here in Muscat at the Sultanate of Oman.  The days are somber and the evenings alive.  The city is sweltering in the August heat and it is cloudy now and then.  I had only heard of this cool city (literally cool I mean) of Salalah where the Sultan resides and which is supposed to be as green as Kerela in India.  With some preconceived notions in my head and how really (not) green can it be in this desert country, I assented to go on a reprieve to visit the tourist town of Salalah.

Where is Salalah? – Salalah is Oman’s second largest city in the Southern province of Dhofar in the Sultanate of Oman and attracts tourists from all over the Middle-east and the world.

How to get to Salalah? – Convenient flights from Muscat and Dubai are preferred options. There are also frequent buses which are quite cheap between Muscat and Salalah for overnight journeys.

What is this city about? – Well known for its green cover and cool weather, it is a welcome change from the oppressive heat around. This is the land of frankincense and history for the traveler.

What is the right time to visit Salalah? – Happily, the best time to visit Salalah is the ‘Kharif’ or the monsoon season in June to September. Few tourists visit in the holy month of Ramazan.

Although I had read about it being a hillstation like place and had some ideas, what I was totally unprepared for was the variety of landscapes that presented themselves in a span of a few hundred kilometers. Beaches, green mountains and valleys, and complete deserts all adjacent to each other were baffling to say the least apart from picturesque. Some snapshots on the landscapes before the full blown blog on this trip –

Desert Sand at Salalah

Coastal fishing village at Salalah

Peaceful green hills and chewing cows

Rocky seas

Observe the contrasting Green hills and desert plains beyond from one location!

Categories: Asia, Oman | Tags: , | 22 Comments

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