The skyline of Mosul’s Old City before (top) and after (bottom) the destruction of al-Hadba minaret. Photo: Mohamed el-Shahed/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – UAE’s minister of culture was in Baghdad on Monday to sign an agreement funding the rebuilding Mosul’s famed al-Hadba minaret.
Noura al-Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, signed an agreement with Iraq’s Minister of Culture Firiyad Rawanduzi for a $50.4 million project in coordination with the UN’s heritage agency to reconstruct the landmark that was destroyed by ISIS in the last weeks of the war in Mosul.
“This is a historic partnership, the largest and unprecedented cooperation to rebuild cultural heritage in Iraq ever,” UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay stated, welcoming the agreement.
“The United Arab Emirates is championing the cause of heritage as the living soul of society, a unique opportunity to foster hope and social cohesion and a springboard for skills and jobs for young people. We are grateful for their generosity which stands to benefit the people of Mosul and their fellow Iraqis,” she continued.
Al-Hadba minaret, nicknamed the hunchback by Iraqis because of its precarious tilt, was a beloved landmark in Mosul where it stood beside al-Nuri mosque, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of his so-called caliphate on June 29, 2014.
The 45-metre high minaret was completed in 1172. By the 14th century, when the traveler Ibn Battutah visited Mosul, the minaret was already leaning, according to the World Monuments Fund.
On June 2, 2014, just four days before ISIS began its onslaught on the city, UNESCO announced efforts to safeguard the minaret that tilts 253cm. A “technical team installed the safety materials required to take samples and undertake the geological bedding and structural analysis,” UNESCO stated at the time.
ISIS blew up both the minaret and the mosque in June 2017 as Iraqi forces closed in on the militants in Mosul’s Old City.
The Mosul Eye, a blog run by Mosul historian Omar Mohammed, described the destruction of the minaret as “a destruction of our human identity” and urged the world to help rebuild it “as a gesture of your genuine intention towards the city of Mosul and to substantiate your stand against terrorism that destroyed the human heritage.”
The first stage of the project is to document and clear the site and draw up plans. This is expected to take a year. Over the following four years, the minaret, mosque, and adjacent buildings will be restored or faithfully reconstructed. The project also envisions the building of a memorial and a museum at the site.
The al-Hadba project is part of UNESCO’s initiative to rebuild the Old City under the slogan ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul.’
“When war is waged against culture and education, response must be culture and education. This is the only long-term solution against extremism,” UNESCO stated in a press release in February.