The reconstruction works of Al-Hadba minaret and Al-Saa’a and Al-Tahera Churches by UNESCO and UAE will be ready to start in March
Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO and the UAE, announced during Mr. Ottone’s visit to Iraq that, after three years of intense preparatory works, the reconstruction works of Al-Hadba minaret and Al-Saa’a and Al-Tahera Churches by UNESCO in partnership with the UAE will be ready to start in March. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, will travel specially to Mosul to launch these works.
80% of the old city of Mosul has been destroyed due to the occupation of the city by the Islamic State until 2017. After the city was liberated, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, launched in 2018 an ambitious international initiative to “revive the spirit of Mosul”.
This reconstruction and reconciliation initiative aims to restore this rich and diverse city, with its pluralistic history at the crossroads of cultures and religions of the Middle East, back to its former glory, by empowering the population as agents of change involved in 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’s initiative for the restoration and reconstruction of the historic landmarks of Mosul – Al-Nouri Mosque and Al-Hadba minaret. The project was later expanded to include Al-Saa’a and Al-Tahera Churches. The European Union has also partnered with UNESCO to rebuild 122 historic houses.
This week, Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, visited the Old City of Mosul to witness firsthand the progress that took place.
UNESCO Director General will also inaugurate in March dozens of historic houses, the reconstruction of which is almost complete.
An ambitious work started in Autumn 2018
In coordination with the Government of Iraq, local partners and international experts, the rehabilitation of these iconic monuments started in Autumn 2018 by the preparation phase of reconstruction.
Following the demining operation of the four sites that were extensively damaged due to booby-traps, hazardous materials and unexploded ordinance, started the clearing process: this was more than just the removal of old stones. In fact, amidst the rubble were valuable pieces that could be reused during reconstruction phase.
The selection of the valuable building fragments which had to be separated from the rubble had been done under the guidance of international experts and archeology students from the University of Mosul. These structural elements were stored in a safe warehouse and restored by trained students of the departments of archaeology, architecture and engineering of the University of Mosul.
Structural investigations and documentations have also been conducted by experts on site to plan the reconstruction and restoration of the four monuments. In parallel the four sites have all been secured and stabilized and ready for the construction site. As for Al Nouri Mosque, UNESCO launched, in November 2020, an International Design Competition for the selection of the design of Al Nouri Mosque. The winners, an Egyptian team, are currently finalizing the detailed design expected to be completed by April this year.
Beyond the rehabilitation of architectural landmarks, the initiative includes on-the-job training for young professionals, strengthening the capacities of craftspeople, job-creation opportunities, and technical and vocational education which will be implemented in partnership with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).
An exceptional archaeological discovery
The Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO also visited the archaeological excavations conducted by the Ministry of Culture of Iraq and its State Board of Antiquities and heritage under Al Nouri Prayer Hall and made possible by the preparation phase of reconstruction of UNESCO.
The discovery incudes four rooms, dating back to the Atabeg period, probably used for ablution. This assumption is based on the uncovering of a series of water basins and drainage channels abutting the lateral walls of the rooms. The dating of the rooms was possible due to the discovery of coins dating back to this era. Other artefacts from different ages such as jars, fragments of pottery and carved stone pieces were also found.
H.E. Dr. Hassan Nadhem, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq chaired the sixth Joint Steering Committee meeting of the “Reviving the Spirit of Mosul by Rebuilding its monumental landmarks” project funded by the United Arab Emirates at the Prime Minister’s Guest house in Baghdad and online.
The session included the participation of H.E. Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth of the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, Dr. Saad Kambash, President of the Sunni Endowments of Iraq, Fr. Khouri Martin Hirmz Daoud, General Director of the Christian Endowments, Mr. Salim Salih Mahdi, Director General/Official coordinator for UNESCO Assistance at the Endowments, Dr. Sabah Abdullatif Mushatat, Special Advisor to the PM of Iraq for reconstruction and investment, Mr Mohammad Saleh Al- Tuniji, Chargé d’affaires, UAE Embassy and Fr. Nicolas Tixier representing the Dominican Order.