The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have announced that the reconstruction of Al-Hadba Minaret and Al-Saa’a and Al-Tahera Churches in the city of Mosul in Iraq is “ready to start in March” next, after three years of intensive preparatory work.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay will make a special trip to Mosul to start reconstruction work, the UN organization said in a statement.
Due to the occupation of Mosul by the so-called “Islamic State” organization until 2017, 80% of the old city of Mosul was destroyed. After the city was liberated in 2018, UNESCO launched an ambitious international initiative to “revive the spirit of Mosul”.
This reconstruction and reconciliation initiative aims to restore its former glory to this rich and diverse city, whose plural history is located at the crossroads of cultures and religions of the Middle East.
To achieve this, UNESCO wanted to rely on the inhabitants as agents of change and that they be associated with the process of rebuilding their city through three main axes: heritage, education and cultural life. .
The United Arab Emirates was the first partner to join this UNESCO initiative to restore and reconstruct historical sites in Mosul, including the Al-Nouri Mosque and the Al-Hadba Minaret. The project was later extended to Al-Saa’a and Al-Tahera churches. The European Union has also partnered with UNESCO to rebuild 122 historic houses.
This week, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, visited the old city of Mosul to see first-hand the progress made.
“I am very happy to see many young people contributing to the reconstruction of their city. Thanks to the very good results of the preparatory works that I saw during my visit, we can announce excellent news: the reconstruction of the Al-Hadba minaret and the Al-Saa’a and Al-Tahera churches led by UNESCO will begin in March. And, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, will make a special trip to Mosul to kick off this work,” said Ernesto Ottone Ramírez.
“We express our gratitude to the team who worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition. The archaeological discoveries made under the Al-Nouri Mosque constitute a valuable contribution to our understanding of this historical monument. Consultations are underway to finalize the design of the mosque, incorporating these valuable findings. We look forward to the start of the reconstruction works,” said Emirati Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development Noura Al Kaabi.
“The progress made on this project strengthens community resolve and helps sustain the local economy by inspiring confidence and inspiring Iraqis to rebuild their historic treasures,” she added.
In March, the Director-General of UNESCO will also inaugurate dozens of historic houses, the reconstruction of which is almost complete.
The rehabilitation of these emblematic monuments of the city of Mosul began in the fall of 2018 with the reconstruction preparation phase. After the clearance operation of the four sites heavily damaged by booby traps, hazardous materials and unexploded ordnance, the clearing process began. It was not just about removing debris: amidst the rubble were elements of heritage value that could be reused during the reconstruction phase.
The sorting of these valuable fragments, which had to be separated from the rest of the rubble, was carried out under the guidance of international experts and students of archeology from the University of Mosul. These structural elements were stored in a secure warehouse before being restored by qualified students from the Departments of Archaeology, Architecture and Engineering of the University of Mosul.
Documented research and studies on the structures were also carried out by experts on site in order to plan the reconstruction and restoration of the four monuments. At the same time, the four sites have all been secured, stabilized and prepared for the construction site.
Regarding the Al-Nouri Mosque, UNESCO launched, in November 2020, an international architectural competition for its reconstruction. The competition winners, an Egyptian team, are currently finalizing the detailed design of the mosque, which is expected to be completed in April 2022.
Beyond the rehabilitation of architectural monuments, the initiative provides practical training for young professionals, capacity building for craftsmen, job creation and technical and vocational education that will be implemented in partnership with the Center International Institute for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture also visited the sites of archaeological excavations carried out by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and its State Council for Antiquities and Heritage. Located under the Al-Nouri prayer hall, these excavations were made possible thanks to the preparation phase of the reconstruction coordinated by UNESCO.
This discovery includes four rooms, dating from the Atabeg period, probably used for ablutions. This hypothesis is based on the discovery of a series of basins and drainage channels attached to the side walls of the rooms. The dating of the rooms was possible thanks to the discovery of coins dating from this period. Other artifacts from different eras such as jars, pottery fragments and carved stone pieces were also found.
“This discovery brings a message of hope to the people of Mosul, Iraq and around the world. It highlights the deep history of this country; it opens up new opportunities to learn and experience Iraq’s rich heritage,” said Ernesto Ottone Ramírez.