Last Monday I went with Yuri and Margarita to the Grand Mosque. I’ve been four times before… and each time I come away with a sense of wonder and awe. Yesterday was no exception.
The first order of business was correctly outfitting ourselves for the visit. For ladies, this means covering ankles, wrists and hair. I was thrilled to bits when this time, I did NOT have to rearrange and rewrap my shayla.. it stayed in place for the whole tour. If I get a photo from Yuri, I can show you, although I’m not sure what it looked like, I just know it stayed on.
When we arrived at the Ladies pray hall, we lucked into a tour going on in English, and hovered to listen. We discovered that the ladies hall can accommodate 750. Not that many, but women mostly pray at home. It’s just the men that are required to pray in the mosque whenever possible. The ladies always pray behind the men, even when they are in a separate building… I guess that’s because men are so distractible. They listen to the imam through a speaker system.
We quickly followed the tour to the main prayer hall, and were in for a treat as the tour guide invited us to join the group. Sitting on the blue runner which protects the carpet from non-Muslims, he proceeded to tell us some incredible facts about the mosque. Firstly, it is because they always do a ritual purification before entering the prayer hall that we stay on the protective runner – otherwise, we would have to wash like they do.
Now, about the mosque. This hall can hold 8000 worshippers. The carpet is now the second largest continuously woven carpet in the world – surpassed by the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It took 600 women in Iran 4 years to make it. It was brought to Muscat in 58 (I think) pieces and joined together right there on the floor it now covers. It is 60 by 70 meters, weighs 21 tonnes, and used 28 natural colours. Each 6.5 cm contains 40 knots. It is Incredible!
The 35 chandeliers came from Germany, including the main one which is one of the largest in the world. It is 14 meters high and 8 meters wide, and weighs 8 tons. Made of Swarovski crystal and gold-plated metal, it contains 1122 bulbs. They use a special crane to change the bulbs. Inside the chandelier, there is a walkway, and two men change the bulbs from the inside. Can you imagine having a job like that?
The dome rises 50 meters above the floor, and is comprised of stained glass panels held in a marble framework. The four pillars within the prayer hall house the air conditioning vents.The stained glass windows are from France, the teak for the ceiling is from Burma, and the marble is Italian. The mosaic tiles decorating the walls are from Iran – there are more than 7 million pieces of tile.
And the carving on the doors is so perfect, it almost looks like plastic instead of wood.The mosque complex is made of Indian sandstone, and covers 40,000 square meters. The five minarets represent the five pillars of Islam. The two long hallways on the north and south sides of the complex house a series of niches displaying many different styles of Islamic art.
The whole place is an incredible work of art. The symetry of the highly decorated arches and halls blows my mind. There are so many different patterns in the tile in the courtyard and in the carvings that adorn the walls……. so many quilt patterns just waiting to be developed!
Needless to say, I will go back.