The UAE’s restoration of Mosul’s historic Al Nuri Great Mosque and Al Hadba minaret took an important step forward on Thursday when officials held the first high-level reconstruction meeting in Abu Dhabi.
Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister of Culture, attended the first meeting of a joint committee that will drive the project to rebuild the Iraqi city’s world-famous holy places, which were destroyed by ISIS.
Ms Al Kaabi said on Friday that she had been "honoured" to host the meeting, "which discussed the work plan and timeframe for bringing back the historical and cultural role of Al Nuri Mosque".
The minister and committee members were received by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, the state news agency Wam reported on Friday.
In April the UAE Government pledged to finance a $50.4 million (Dh185 million) project to rebuild the 800-year-old mosque, renowned for its leaning minaret. The mosque and minaret were blown up by ISIS in June last year.
Last week Ms Al Kaabi told The National that Abu Dhabi will head the committees alongside Iraq's Culture Ministry and the Iraqi Sunni Endowment to help support the reconstruction.
The UAE plans to create 1,000 jobs for young Iraqi graduates from Mosul and Baghdad during the five-year reconstruction project, ensuring they become a key fixture in the rebuilding of their city.
“The most important thing is that in 2023 we are going to enjoy a beautiful tour of the Grand Nouri mosque,” Ms Al Kaabi said at a conference in Paris.
The meeting in Abu Dhabi was attended by UAE and Iraqi government officials, diplomats and conservation experts, as well as representatives of Unesco, the Sunni Endowment Diwan of Iraq, the Organisation of Islamic Co-Operation and the Sharjah office of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property.
A statement issued by the UAE Culture Ministry said that the project would "contribute to building a vibrant and prosperous Mosul".
It said that Ms Al Kaabi had welcomed the members of the committee to Abu Dhabi, "stressing the UAE's support for Iraq in establishing security and stability, building strong and prosperous institutions, achieving peace and progress, and ensuring a prosperous future for generations to come".
Ms Al Kaabi said that the project coincides with the UAE’s celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, "embodying his legacy and his contribution to the sustainable development and prosperity of brotherly Arab countries".
The statement added: "The project is a model that highlights the role of the UAE in safeguarding world heritage and preserving cultural resources in conflict zones by adopting initiatives that ensure future generations preserve and enjoy their own historical and cultural sites.
"It will also promote cultural tourism, support sustainable development of the Moslawi community, ensure a more prosperous future for the people of Iraq and nurture values of tolerance, peace and hope.”
During the meeting, the committee discussed the initiation of the project, including ways in which the local community can be engaged, demining the site and the time required for it, and ways to proceed with the reconstruction and its major milestones.
There will be two phases: the first year of the project will involve assessing the foundations and clearing districts around the 12th century mosque of debris left from the nine-month offensive that drove ISIS out of the city, as well as demining. The second phase will see the development of the site, culminating in its completion by 2023.
The members of the Committee agreed to hold meetings every six months to make decisions related to the development of the project.
The five-year cultural project also includes funding and rebuilding infrastructure to enable the project, rebuilding the historical gardens and creating a memorial site for the community, as well as educational spaces.
Unesco, the United Nations cultural agency, last week called on the wider international community to support Iraq’s efforts to restore Mosul’s heritage after the brutal battle to liberate the northern city from ISIS.
Unesco will position itself as the co-ordinator of the reconstruction efforts in partnership with the Iraqi government to rebuild the landmarks destroyed by the militant group during its three-year occupation of the city.
These include the city’s central library at its university, two churches, the city’s market and a Yazidi temple.