One hundred historic homes in Mosul, restored by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), were handed over to their owners on Tuesday to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Iraqi city's liberation from ISIS.
The development is part of Unesco's Revive the Spirit of Mosul campaign, which was launched in 2018 to rebuild some of the historic landmarks destroyed by the terrorist group.
In 2020, Unesco pledged to restore 124 houses within Mosul's old city that had suffered severe damage in the liberation operation.
Funding from the EU and Iraq's Ministry of Culture, as well as local authorities, helped to propel the project.
"Three years later, 80 per cent of the rehabilitation works in this project are successfully completed and the displaced families are back in their beloved homes," a Unesco statement said.
The houses were handed over to their owners at a symbolic official ceremony.
Unesco and its partners used traditional techniques and materials to reconstruct the homes in line with the highest heritage standards, the statement said.
"Returning to live in this house is like a dream. Every corner of this house holds precious memories, and I deeply miss the wonderful connections with our neighbours," Najat Abdel Aziz, an 82-year-old house owner said.
Ms Aziz had lived in the house with her nine brothers and sister her entire life before being forced to leave because it was damaged in the war.
“The restoration of these houses serves as a catalyst to inspire people to return to the area and fosters a sense of hope among the residents,” she said.
More than 650 residents have been able to reclaim their homes, offering them a chance to rebuild their lives in a place steeped in history.
"The return of the inhabitants has also made possible the reopening of local shops. Life is finding its place again in the heart of Mosul," the Unesco statement said.
The UN agency has been restoring houses along a path stretching from Al Nuri Mosque to the Prophet Zarzis area in Mosul, while also updating water and electricity infrastructure.
The initiative has also created 4,710 jobs for workers and craftspeople.
More than 1,500 local jobseekers were involved in the restoration process, in partnership with Iraq's Ministry of Labour.
Work on the remaining 24 houses is still on track and is expected to be complete by end of the summer.
Revive the Spirit of Mosul has been largely funded by the UAE, as it donated $50 million to restore the Al Nuri complex, as well as two nearby churches, Al Saa’a and Al Tahera.