Iraq’s Al Nuri Mosque 'rises again' to celebrate Prophet Mohammed’s birthday

UN and UAE-led efforts have been under way since 2018 to rebuild city's religious heritage

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Iraq’s Al Nuri Mosque held its first ceremony in four years on Sunday amid efforts by the UN and UAE to rebuild the site blown up by ISIS.

The 12th-century mosque and its famous leaning minaret were destroyed by the group in 2017 as government forces closed in on the last fighters from the terrorist group that once controlled the city and much of north-west Iraq.

But on Sunday, celebrations for the Prophet Mohammed's birthday began, with lights illuminating the area.

“Mosul is rising again! A part of the celebration of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday at Al Nuri Mosque, after many years of absence,” the UN cultural agency Unesco said on Twitter.

“Unesco and UAE will rebuild this iconic mosque!” it said.

The UN's cultural agency launched the “revive the spirit of Mosul'' project in 2018 which has focused on restoring the country's religious heritage.

Plans included rebuilding Al Nuri Mosque, the 800-year-old Al Tahera Church and Al Saa'a Monastery.

The Emirates donated $50.4 million to fund the project, which will also create employment and training opportunities for local residents.

It is the first country to restore Christian churches in Iraq that were destroyed by ISIS.

Pictures and videos on social media showed hundreds gathering at a compound in front of the mosque, the courtyard decorated with multicoloured lights that illuminated the building's gaping windows, the scaffolding that surrounds the site, and the minaret, only the base of which survived.

“I know it is not fully recovered yet, but you decide, take a look, you can see the difference, right?” Iraqi historian, Omar Mohammed said, using the alias “Mosul Eye” on Twitter.

“[ISIS] brings death, we bring life. Al Nuri Mosque,” he said.

In 2014, ISIS captured Mosul, and the group's leader at the time, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, used the mosque to announce he had established a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

While the extremists occupied large areas of the country, the city's residents are considered to have borne the brunt of the group's tyrannical rule.

By the end of 2017, Mosul lay devastated after government forces successfully regained control of the city.

Much of the city is still filled with rubble today.

Updated: October 19, 2021, 12:28 PM