Mosul restoration shows the UAE is standing by Maslawis

Noura Al Kaabi tells London society that three historic sites will be rebuilt by 2023

Iraqi Museum, the winning design of the international competition for the reconstruction of the Al-Nuri Mosque and Al-Manara Al-Hadba in Mosul was announced. A step to start actual work despite the pandemic. courtesy: Hassan Nadhem twitter account
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Work is on track to begin restoration of the destroyed historic monuments of old Mosul by December in a milestone step for a city recovering from the ravages of ISIS control.

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister for Culture and Youth, told a meeting of the Emirates Society in London it was important to stick to a five-year timetable culminating in the sites brought back to the Maslawis by 2023, "so that the Maslawis know that we stand by them and we will be there for them".

The UAE is funding a Unesco project to rebuild three historic religious sites in central Mosul, destroyed by ISIS terrorists who held the city. These include restoration of the Al Nouri Mosque and its Al Hadba Minaret and the Al Tahera church.

The UAE partnership with Unesco has provided funding of $50 million (Dh183.6m) as part of a package of support for rebuilding the historic landmarks of the city. As a result it has become the first country to restore Christian churches in Iraq that were destroyed by the terrorists.

The minister pointed out the benefits to residents of the city from the restoration work, which reached an important milestone when an international competition for the design of the project was completed.

"This project has thus far employed over 600 Maslawis and is set to exceed a target of 1,000 employment and training opportunities by its conclusion in 2023," she said. "The skills gained from training and employment on the sites will give Maslawis valuable experience to continue preserving the heritage of their city and lead to other future employment opportunities."

The visit of Pope Francis to the city in March helped raise the profile of the project to a global level. "When His Holiness Pope Francis visited the Abrahamic church on his historic visit to Iraq a few months ago, it was a matter of great delight and pride for all of us engaged in the restoration project.

"Al Tahera church is significant to Mosul, Iraq, and the wider international community. We are so proud to be part of efforts to revive it.

"For decades the UAE has contributed to many World Heritage restoration projects, including the restoration of the Palace of Fontainebleau in Paris, the Museum of Islamic Art in Egypt and the revival of the ancient library of Alexandria.

“The personal visit back in 1951 by the nation's founding father Sheikh Zayed to the Vatican and several other religious centres in Europe is worth remembering in our present context. The UAE's respect for the acceptance of other others has deep historical roots."

Ernesto Ottone, assistant director general for culture at Unesco, said the winning bid of the international competition was an important step in the restoration of the diverse historical treasures of Iraq.

"Our shared vision is to strengthen the foundation of peace by reviving Iraq's outstanding heritage and its educational system," he said. "We are fine-tuning the winning design and construction is planned to start, as it was mentioned, in December of this year."

Jwan Khiola, the deputy Iraqi ambassador to the UK, told the Emirates Society that Isis wanted to destroy the heart of Mosul because the city was a symbol of coexistence of all Iraqi communities.

"We were used to living in peace, all together, because all Iraq had this wonderful civilisation, which was not only for Iraq but was for the whole world," she said.

"The injuries we suffered under ISIS will stay in our conscious for generations to come but what we are witnessing now from our friends in the UAE and Unesco is a message not only for Iraqis but for all that we were not abandoned by our brothers and sisters."