UN's reconstruction of Mosul's monuments 'on schedule'

City this week marked five years since liberation from ISIS, when the brutal battle turned the city into ruins

Al Nouri Mosque is among the buildings in Mosul that is being rebuilt. Reuters
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The reconstruction of Mosul’s best monuments will be completed on time by the end of 2023, a senior UN official told The National on Friday.

But the city’s famous leaning minaret might take a little longer than planned.

Mosul marked five years this week since its liberation from ISIS, when the brutal battle turned the city into ruins.

Until this day, much of Mosul's old city still lies in rubble due to lack of government action and widespread corruption that has halted efforts to breathe new life into the town.

The UN’s cultural agency launched the “reviving the spirit of Mosul” campaign in 2018, focusing on rebuilding religious heritage such as Al Nuri Mosque, Al Taheria church and Al Saa’a monastery.

The project is funded by the UAE, which gave $50 million to the UN agency.

“We are quite confident that we can finish the prayer hall and the two churches by the end of 2023,” Maria Rita Acetoso, senior project manager at the Unesco's Office for Iraq, told The National.

“I think we have also discussed preliminarily with the UAE that we might need a few months more for the minaret."

Destroyed by the terrorist group, the leaning “hunchback” minaret of the 800 year-old Al Nuri Mosque will be rebuilt with bricks in its original 12th century pattern.

“It is really something unique, because firstly it is the monument of Mosul, it’s important historically, archaeologically, artistically, for the people, it is something that needs to be treated really in a different way,” Ms Acetoso said.

The local community said they wanted the minaret to be rebuilt in its original form, meaning that the building must be leaning.

"Technically it makes this case complicated and unique," she said.

"It is in the memory that Al Hahba minaret is inclined."

Foreign tourists visit Great Al Nouri Mosque in the old city of Mosul, Iraq. Reuters

For Al Hadba, only its base remains intact, protected by a sheet of tarpaulin. Having removed about 5,600 tonnes of rubble, the reconstruction of the minaret began in mid-March, retaining its tilt, while work on the mosque is due to begin in August.

The UN agency has also completed the design for the eastern sector of Al Nouri complex, which includes the prayer hall, courtyard, external fences and a small administrative and cultural centre.

"We are currently completing the evaluation of the offers for contractors. We are hoping to start the works for the prayer hall in about a month," Ms Acetoso said.

Initially the UN agency teamed up with the UAE to rebuild Al Nouri Mosque and Al Hadba minaret, though the project was expanded to include the damaged churches.

The Syriac Catholic Church of Mar Tuma (Saint Thomas) in Iraq's northern city of Mosul. AFP

The agency has also teamed up with the EU to rebuild 122 historic houses.

Work had begun at the end of 2018 on the sites, but the necessary clearing of rubble and removal of “booby traps, hazardous materials and unexploded ordnance” that were left over by the ISIS extremists meant progress was slow.

Local contractors are handling the construction, which has created 3,100 jobs.

About half of those are for young people who have been trained in heritage and building restoration, the Unesco said.

"Iraq has a long history and is a very important country and its history is worth preserving, it is known worldwide," Ms Acetoso said.

Updated: July 08, 2022, 6:19 PM
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