UN's Venice exhibition unveils $50m plans to rebuild Mosul

UAE's funding plays big part in restoring multicultural landmarks

Audrey Azoulay, Unesco's director general, right, attends the exhibition 'Revive the Spirit of Mosul' in Venice, Italy. AP Photo
Audrey Azoulay, Unesco's director general, right, attends the exhibition 'Revive the Spirit of Mosul' in Venice, Italy. AP Photo

The UN’s cultural agency has opened an exhibit explaining its $50m plan to restore landmarks in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

The restoration project, which is being funded by the UAE, highlights the role of architecture in helping to heal wounds.

The exhibit, Revive the Spirit of Mosul, which was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, opened at the Venice Biennale on Saturday.

More than 80 per cent of Mosul's monuments were destroyed or plundered during the city’s 36-month occupation by ISIS.

Iraq is one of three countries participating for the first time at the centre, with an exhibit by Rashad Salim titled Ark Re-Imagined – an artistic examination of the impact of the Great Flood in ancient Mesopotamia.

The Unesco exhibit brings the winning project for restoring Al Nouri Mosque to the public.

The original mosque was built in the 12th century and was famed for its leaning minaret until it was demolished by ISIS in June 2017.

“Healing wounds means rebuilding the city and its historic fabric," Unesco director general Audrey Azoulay said.

"It also means reviving the spirit of Mosul, through heritage, culture and education.

“The spirit of Mosul is, first and foremost, reflected in the diversity of its communities, which had lived together peacefully for centuries.”

An international jury last month chose a project by Egyptian architects led by Salah El Din Samir Hareedy to rebuild Al Nouri Mosque, part of a Unesco project that also involves rebuilding Al Habda minaret and the churches of Al Tahera and Al Saa'a.

The new Al Nouri Mosque will be almost identical to the old one, while the rebuilt prayer hall will introduce more natural light and spaces for women will be enlarged.

The winning project also seeks to enhance the role of the mosque’s central courtyard as an urban focus for the old city.

Work to stabilise the sites began in 2020.

Local communities have indicated a preference to restore Al Habda minaret as it was before the ISIS occupation, Unesco officials said, while designs for the two churches have not yet been chosen.

Unesco’s project to revive Mosul was announced in 2018.

Updated: May 22, 2021 11:28 PM

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