The Grand Mosques – Muscat and Abu Dhabi

Outside of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

When people travel to Europe, they spend a lot of time in cathedrals, not because they are trying to renew their faith, but because they want to look at these monuments build to God. It is always a weird thing because you walk around this place where people go to worship while taking pictures and marveling at the art that can be found there. There is a similar tradition in the Middle East, except instead of cathedrals, you go visit the mosques.

A minaret in the Grand Mosque of Muscat

The people of the Middle East will not allow you to visit every mosque, but their is usually one in every country that you should go visit. In both Muscat, Oman and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, it is called the Grand Mosque, and they are a sight behold. They are both still used for worship, and the one in Oman has limited times in which you can visit. Still, it is a must do for anyone heading off to either of these countries.

A hallway in the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi

There are some stark differences between mosques and cathedrals. The larger cathedrals have a collection of artwork, and monuments from the people and dedicated to those who helped design and establish the cathedral in the city where it is found. There are various altars to pray at, and the architecture has a distinct pattern to it that all churches are supposed to follow. The artwork in mosques is still there, but its focus points to a love of nature and cultures instead of individuals and saints. Architecture is still a huge part of what you will see, but it is built to highlight the themes that are already a part of the design.

The outside grounds of the Grand Mosque in Muscat

There is a certain symmetry to the design. It creates patterns that you can lose yourself in by trying to unravel it, and then marvel at its beauty. It is a showcase of geometry that would excite any math teacher. These features are still in a cathedral, but it sometimes gets lost with everything else going on in them; whereas, with a mosque, it is there to enhance what the place has to offer.

The niche of the Grand Mosque in Muscat

This all comes together at the niche that is the central focus of any mosque’s chamber. It is where the imam will come to lead their followers in prayer. The niche will still follow the patterns of geometry that are on display elsewhere in the mosque, and highlight that with richly designed artwork. Sometimes this further enhances with the use of gold, and Arabic writing. Just like an altar in a cathedral, it will direct the eye to what should always be the center of attention in any place of worship.

The carpet in the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi

Both of the mosques in Abu Dhabi and Muscat boast of a hand woven carpet that stretches out perfectly over the main room’s floor. At first glance, it looks beautiful, but on further inspection, you will notice that there is something else going on with it. It is one piece of carpet which reaches perfectly to all of the edges, and goes around the columns nicely. To think about how this was handwoven and is just one piece that covers a vast amount of area makes you think about the care that went into creating its design. It boggles the mind to think about what was gone through to enhance the beauty of this place.

The central chandelier in the Grand Mosque of Muscat

There are also chandeliers in both mosques, and they are something to marvel at. They are massive. The one in the center of the picture is so big that I am told it has a staircase in the middle of it, so people can enter it and maintain it. They are also strategically place, so they not only offer light, but they illuminate parts of the room, such as the niche, to enhance the artwork that was designed there.

One of the chandeliers in the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Just like the cathedrals in Europe, it is easy to see why people flocks to these locations to tour these mosques. The reason that they are given the name Grand is easily shown while touring around them. The one in Muscat allows for more freedom when touring it, but both of them are definitely worth the trip.

Thank again, until next time.

The Mutrah Souq – Muscat, Oman

If you are looking for some souvenir for your trip to Muscat, Oman, and still want to have a cultural experience, there is no better place than the Mutrah Souq. It is a market that has the traditional Arab feel and even if you are not picking up anything, it is still a fun place to wander around.

It does has your normal influx of cheap touristy stuff including t-shirts and toys. It also has a bunch of wooden pieces that you can find anywhere in Muscat from carved camels to chess sets. I was even able to find a new Christmas ornament to hang on my tree when I got back home. But the market goes beyond that and you can find unique pieces there as well. Everything from Arab daggers to helmets, all the way to jewelry in all levels of worth.

It is easy to think that the market is nothing more than a place to go and buy that trinket from your visit to Muscat, but it is fun to wind your way through the maze that is found there. The sellers will try anything to get you to come into their little corner of the Souq such as putting a hat on your head or offering you some jasmine, but it is all harmless and just adds to the atmosphere. You could easily lose yourself in the mix, but do take the time to look up at the ceiling. The wood carvings can be found all over the Souq and it is just as interesting as what is going on down below.

There are times when looking at the ceiling can take up more of your time rather than the shopping that many people come to this place for. It isn’t too busy in the Souq though that it will take away from the other people there if you stand there looking up at the design.

It is not the only place in that part of town that is worth checking out either. There is the Corniche, a walk along the ocean that showcases the traditional boats, or the mountain castles that hang not that far in the distance. If you do come down here to see some of these sights, make sure you come at the right time because it does close down between the hours of one and four in the afternoon. Still there are plenty of times where you can find an hour or two to enjoy there. It is easily one of the premiere places to visit if you are in Muscat, and if you want, you can go there and enjoy it without it ever costing you anything.

The Start of a Break – Muscat, Oman

The beginning of Winter and Summer Break are always hard to make look exciting for a waiting audience. Most people expect exciting views from the far away places that we will be visiting, and we will eventually get to those places. I will share those pictures with you, but the first day of a break is usually spent catching my breath and easing out of the stress that comes with being a teacher. Though I do want to explore the place I find myself in, I would rather just take it easy for the first day, and work up to the point where I can get out and really enjoy the sights.

This is definitely what our first day in Muscat, Oman was all about. It wasn’t that rough of a day of travel to get out here considering that it is only on the other side of the Arabian peninsula, so I could not use that as an excuse for being lazy. There are a lot of interesting things to do and places around town that I want to explore, so that really couldn’t be used as an excuse either. I will just say it as I see it, I really did not want to do much today except walk on the beach, have something good to eat, and get my bearings.

So we did just that. We went down to the public beach on the southern edge of town, and spent most of the afternoon wandering up and down it. I was surprised at how empty it was for a public beach on such a beautiful day. The water was warm, and the cool ocean breeze kept the temperatures comfortable. It is not a wide beach, but it offers enough real estate that I never felt like I was crowding in on another person. It is also designed a little differently than other public beaches I have been to. There are not a lot of shops, and cafes along it begging for you business. It is designed as a place to sit back and enjoy, and if you need to find a place to grab a coffee or a bite to eat, it is not far away down one of the side roads.

By the time nightfall came, we made it to the top of the hill for dinner at one of the hotels. If you are visiting Oman from somewhere other than the Middle East, you will want to look for these places because they are the only restaurants in the city that sell alcohol. The restaurant in the Crowne Plaza, Duke’s, also offers some amazing views of the setting sun at night. The food there is pretty good as well, so I would recommend heading that way if you are hungry after a long day of walking along the beach.

Overall, it was the perfect way to start my Winter holiday. I know that there will be many days of running around trying to see all that there is to see, but for now, I am happy just to gather up my energy to prepare myself for the adventure that is ahead. Stay tuned for what Oman has to offer as I explore Muscat and the surrounding places of this country in the next couple of days.