UAE-backed project ends first phase of Mosul’s Al Nuri Mosque restoration
ABU DHABI--On June 2017, in the midst of the battle against ISIS, inhabitants of Mosul faced one of their most difficult chapters – the bombing of the city’s most important monuments, the Great Mosque of Al Nuri and its historic leaning minaret.
Three years later, the damaged mosque is set to be restored thanks to a $50.4 million project financed by the United Arab Emirates and implemented in collaboration with UNESCO.
In late May, Emirati Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development Noura al-Kaabi and former Iraqi Culture Minister Feryad Rawanduzi signed a protocol for cultural cooperation between the two ministries to start the project of rebuilding the mosque.
Kaabi said the mosque’s restoration is extremely important for the culture and spirit of Mosul, Iraq and the region, noting that the Emirati support is part of the “UAE’s efforts to protect global heritage and landmarks.”
During a discussion entitled “Mosul Heritage: A New Era Built by Youth” organised by the Emirati Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, in partnership with the UNESCO, she said that the first phase of the reconstruction project is nearing completion with the help of Mosul citizens.
“One day, the Great Mosque of Al Nuri shall rise again in Mosul’s skies, and churches will be rebuilt, and cultural and musical events will be celebrated, along with many other events that celebrate human culture, before the enemies of enlightenment began their destruction. The efforts of the UAE and UNESCO will make Mosul’s citizens smile again,” she stressed.
Rakan Al-Allaf, director of the National Project to Rebuild the Al Nuri Mosque at UNESCO, said: “The first phase of the project to rebuild the mosque was completed, due to the help of Mosul’s citizens, with almost 300 people taking part from February 2019 to March 2020 in removing mines and munitions, collecting heritage and historical artefacts, and classifying and documenting them.”
According to UAE news agency WAM, the session, moderated by Mina Al Oraibi, editor-in-chief of The National, marked the three-year anniversary of the destruction of the Great Mosque of Al Nuri and its Al-Hadba’ Minaret in Mosul by ISIS.
ISIS demolished the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, which dated back to the 12th century, on June 21, 2007, during the final weeks of the US-backed Iraqi campaign that ousted jihadists from Mosul, their de facto capital in Iraq.
It was from this mediaeval mosque in mid-2014 that former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled “caliphate” spanning parts of Syria and Iraq.
According to Al-Allaf, UNESCO’s work has continued despite the COVID-19 crisis. He added that officials are waiting for the delivery of equipment to begin testing soil and rebuilding specific areas of the site and that the project’s second phase will begin in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“The reconstruction of al-Nuri Mosque and its minaret sends a message of hope to the entire world in its battle against extremist ideas,” Kaabi said.
In addition to helping rebuild al-Nuri Mosque, the UAE is involved in reconstruction projects on the Church of Our Lady of the Hour (a Catholic church in the centre of Mosul), and Al Tahira church, located in the heart of the old city of Mosul.