A joint project between the UAE, the UN and Iraq aimed at reconstructing Mosul's most sacred sites was on display at Unesco headquarters in Paris, where it was lauded as a move that was “courageous for peace”.
Unesco Secretary General Audrey Azoulay praised the project, called Revive the Spirit of Mosul, during a UAE-organised event.
Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, led the session, calling the effort a cornerstone of regional cohesion and a global model for how to safeguard precious heritage.
“The last memory of Al Nuri Mosque should not be a horrific one,” she said. “We should bring back not just the skyline but its spirit.”
The $50 million project aims to reverse the destruction wrought by ISIS on Al Nuri Mosque and its leaning Al Habda minaret as well as Al Saa’a monastery and the 800-year-old Al Tahera church.
A community centre and history museum will also open on the site to encourage peaceful coexistence.
The event known as the Majlon — a portmanteau of the Arabic “majlis” and French “salon” — also heard contributions from Didier Lenoir, the European Union's ambassador to Unesco, Sheikh Salem Al Qassimi, the UAE's ambassador to Unesco, and Hend Al Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to France. The initiative was launched by the UAE embassy in Paris and the Mosul meeting was the sixth event in the series.
Thomas Kaplan, head of the partner Aliph Foundation, said the work in Mosul had led to the body branching out to other conflict zones, including Ukraine.
Members of the team in Iraq carrying out the restoration joined the meeting by Zoom. Some told of uncovering torture chambers at the church, which was the headquarters of ISIS in the city.
People come to the site to this day, recounting horrific memories of the group's rule, the team accounts said. More than 80 per cent of Mosul's monuments were destroyed or plundered during the city's 36-month occupation by ISIS.
The Unesco headquarters also opened an exhibition on Thursday featuring the contenders for its Al Burda collection prize for Islamic art.
Entries from nearly 30 countries displaying creativity in the medium were displayed in the atrium of the building.
A fragment of a tile from Al Nuri Mosque and a keystone from the Notre Dame Cathedral — large parts of which were destroyed in a fire in 2019 — were also on display.
As the permanent representative from Iraq concluded, the work in Mosul gives life to an Arabic saying: “There is still good in the world.”