UAE investment can help war-hit Mosul regain its 'spirit'

The UAE is funding an Unesco project to revitalise the Iraqi city after it was devastated by conflict

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UAE-backed efforts to help Mosul rise from the ruins of war can restore the historic Iraqi city’s lost spirit, the World Government Summit in Dubai was told.

Large parts of the city – ­including its landmark Al Nuri Mosque – were destroyed by ISIS in June 2017. Residents are still battling to rebuild their lives nearly two years later.

The UAE announced last April that it would finance a $50 million (Dh183.7m) Unesco project to rebuild the mosque, famous for its eighth-century leaning ­minaret.

Ernesto Ottone-Ramirez, assistant director-general for culture at Unesco, said the regeneration process is an opportunity to inspire young people and connect them to their heritage.

“We are trying to get back what was once the spirit of Mosul,” Mr Ottone-Ramirez said.

“Unesco has more than 70 years of experience in how to shape culture and policies, but this is a little bit different to projects we have done in the past in Cambodia and in Egypt,” he said.

The Unesco programme is not restricted to Muslim sites – it includes two churches, a Yazidi temple and the central library of Mosul University.

The destroyed al-Hadba minaret at the Grand al-Nuri Mosque is seen in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 20, 2017. Picture taken July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani - RC11FD465F60

Originally built in the 12th century, the Al Nuri Mosque was nicknamed “the hunchback” because of its famous leaning minaret.

The mosque gained notoriety in 2014 for being the place where Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi declared ISIS’s ­caliphate.

ISIS later destroyed the mosque during heavy ­fighting with Iraqi security forces.

Heritage will be at the ­centre of the rebuilding programme funded by the UAE.

“Imagine waking up in a city and not being able to see the landmark that defines it. We do not want to see that in any city, and not just in a Muslim country” Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said.

Ms Al Kaabi emphasised the importance of celebrating Islamic arts and culture, and announced a programme to engage young people in heritage projects in the UAE.

An endowment to 10 people working on modern Islamic art, with a focus on visual and performing arts linked to Islamic culture, will take place over the next five years.