Al Masfi: Mosul's oldest mosque reopens nearly a decade after ISIS occupation

Opening ceremony marks cultural history of ancient site

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Mosul’s oldest mosque opened its doors to the public on Thursday nearly a decade after ISIS took over Iraq’s second-largest city.

Al Masfi, also known as the Ancient Mosque or the Umayyad Mosque, lies in the heart of the Old City of Mosul. It was built after the Islamic conquest of the city in 638AD.

The mosque has been restored many times over the years to preserve its ancient style and design. It was closed for restoration when ISIS seized control of Mosul in mid-2014 and the project was put on hold.

It was partially damaged during the military operation to drive out the militants in 2017 and remained surrounded by rubble for years.

“Thank God, we have reopened Al Masfi Mosque after rehabilitating it,” the spokesman of Sunni Waqf in Nineveh province, Sheik Ahmed Rakan Al Ebadi, told The National.

“It is a revival to the soul of the Old City of Mosul."

The restoration of the original structure, along with the building of a new imam house and ablution area, was undertaken by Aliph, an international alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas, in co-operation with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Nineveh and the Sunni Waqf.

"It means a lot: that’s our first completed project, along with Tutunji House [also in Mosul] that we are also inaugurating today," Valery Freland, executive director of Aliph, said on Thursday.

The organisation's name is an acronym that is also the first letter of the Arabic alphabet.

Aliph fully funded the project, which cost $1.1 million and took a year to complete.

Mr Freland said the restoration of Al Masfi was part of a larger initiative called the Mosul Mosaic, launched to contribute to the UN cultural agency Unesco's project to revive the spirit of Iraq's second city.

He told The National Al Masfi was "a very important place of worship for the local community. The result is outstanding and everyone is very proud."

The city of Mosul, celebrated as Iraq’s cultural, religious and historical beacon, suffered heavy devastation during the ISIS occupation and the battle to liberate it from the terrorists.

The wreckage of city's ancient landmarks and vital infrastructure is being restored by international groups working with local authorities.

The Old City was the last stronghold for ISIS in Iraq and was the scene of fierce clashes that caused widespread destruction of its buildings.

“Everyone who lives in this city, grows in its shadows and drinks from its river, has a history in this city,” Mr Al Ebadi said.

“As we have rebuilt the mosques, we will rebuild the humans. There is no good in a nation that is ignorant of its past.”

Iraq is home to more than 15,000 cultural and heritage sites dating back to the 5,500-year-old city of Sumer, including archaeological remains of the Babylonia, Assyrian and Abbasid cultures.

Al Masfi Mosque began hosting prayers in 2021, four years after ISIS was driven out of the Old City, with worshippers praying among piles of rubble and collapsed walls to mark Eid Al Fitr.

Updated: March 07, 2024, 4:08 PM