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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.