- The Great Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul is one of the most important and oldest Islamic monuments in the Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq, as the mosque was built during the era of the Atabik state nearly 900 years ago.

The mosque is located on the western (right) side of Mosul (the center of the Iraqi province of Nineveh), in the middle of the old city of Mosul, which has an area of ​​4 square kilometers and is the site from which the city expanded and became what it is now.

Because of the mosque’s symbolism and importance, the Islamic State took it in July 2014 to declare the “caliphate state” during the sermon of the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after the organization invaded on the tenth of June of that year large areas of Iraq.

With the fight against ISIS in the old Mosul, where the mosque is located, in June 2017, and as the Iraqi security forces approached the Al-Nuri Mosque, the mosque was blown up, which reduced it to rubble, and its minaret known as Al-Hadbaa was destroyed.

What remains of the Al-Nuri Mosque after its bombing, as it is being reconstructed (Al-Jazeera Net)

History of the mosque

Professor of Islamic History at the University of Mosul, Ahmed Qassem al-Juma’a, says that the Al-Nuri Mosque, with its hunchback minaret, is an icon of Islamic civilization in Mosul, as it was built by Sultan Nur al-Din Mahmoud al-Atabki during the era of the Atabik state, which ruled both Mosul and Aleppo (northern Syria) and parts of the Levant.

And Friday continues in his talk to Al-Jazeera Net that the construction of the mosque took the years 566-568 AH corresponding to 1170-1172 AD, and that the reason for its great symbolism is related to being one of the oldest mosques in Mosul, which is still present in landmarks so far, indicating that the oldest mosque in Mosul is the mosque that was built In the 16th year of the Hijrah in the old city of Mosul as well, but nothing of its original features remains.

Discover the original chapel

After liberating Mosul from ISIS, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) embarked on the reconstruction of the mosque in a project it called "Reviving the Spirit of Mosul", where reconstruction began at the end of 2019.

The reconstruction of the mosque witnessed many complications, perhaps the most important of which is the work of antiquities maintenance teams to collect the pieces of stones from which the mosque was built to be used again in its reconstruction, according to the assistant inspector of Nineveh Antiquities Khair al-Din Ahmed.

And Ahmed continues - in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net - that after the rubble was removed from the building of the Al-Nuri Mosque and all the construction works and the pieces of archaeological stones were documented, counted and kept in regular warehouses, the Inspectorate had references from some writers and historians indicating that the mosque witnessed maintenance work on the floor of the chapel The mosque in the past, which prompted the excavation teams to start excavating under the mosque’s grounds in search of the original prayer hall.

Ahmed comments on this by saying, "After 4 months of careful excavation, the excavation teams were able to reach an important archaeological discovery of the old prayer hall that dates back to the Atabik period, as it is located at a depth of two meters below the floor of the current prayer hall that dates back to the forties of the last century, a period that witnessed the last maintenance operations of the mosque." Nouri".

Regarding the discovery, Ahmed explained that the area of ​​the original chapel that was discovered is much wider than the current one, and extends to the roads surrounding the mosque. However, according to the schedule agreed upon with UNESCO, the excavation stopped at this point with the start of maintenance work for the finds.

Al-Hadba minaret in the Al-Nuri Mosque before it was blown up (Al-Jazeera)

Discover ablution rooms

The discoveries did not stop there, as Ahmed revealed that during excavations in the ground 6 meters deep, he discovered 4 rooms connected to each other horizontally and perpendicular to each other at the same time, and constructed of plaster and stones, and roofed by the aqada style (Mosli style). old in construction).

He added that the dimensions of these rooms are approximately 3.5 square meters each, 3 meters high, and are located about 6 meters below the surface of the current ground and below the discovered prayer hall, indicating that they contain water basins built with Al-Halan and coated with asphalt to save ablution water, as well as the discovery of paths. To drain this water and transfer it to other places.

Al-Hayali: During the excavations, traces of three underground layers were discovered and metal and gold coins were found (Al-Jazeera Net)

The importance of the discoveries

The recent discoveries in Al-Nuri Mosque are of great importance, and according to what Ahmed Qassem Al-Juma’a confirms, there are many indications that this floor of the discovered chapel dates back to the era in which the mosque was built, inferring that the discovered floor is located on the same level as the floor of the entrance to the original mosque, which was discovered on Friday 3 decades ago. In the northern wall of the mosque.

The importance of the discoveries lies, according to Al-Jumu’ah, that the four ablution rooms indicate the genius of the Islamic engineering used, especially as they tend clearly towards the Tigris River in order to drain the water used for ablution.

The director of the Sunni Endowment in Nineveh Governorate, Nashwan Al-Hayali, goes in this direction, who added that in addition to discovering the original prayer hall and the rooms, the excavation teams discovered in kind traces of three underground layers, in which they found metal and gold coins, some of which date back to the era of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustansir Billah, who was a contemporary of the Atabegs.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Al-Hayali said that this discovery will be a visible cultural landmark by making the original chapel and the discovered rooms a museum in which the rest of the finds will be placed from coins and water closets that were used in ablution at the time.

UNESCO declined to make any statement to Al-Jazeera Net, but the organization's official page on "Facebook" confirmed that these discoveries carry a message of hope to Mosul, Iraq and the world, as they shed light on the ancient history of this country, and open the doors of new opportunities for acquaintance. On the history of Iraq and discover its rich heritage.

tourist kiss

With the recent discoveries, many observers believe that the importance of the Al-Nuri Mosque will increase. Returning to the Nineveh Antiquities Inspectorate, Khair Al-Din Ahmed says that his department will use the discoveries for the purpose of tourism by roofing the discovered chapel with tempered glass in order to allow tourists to see the old chapel, indicating that part of the The old chapel that was discovered is located inside the present chapel, and the other outside the chapel.

As for the discovered rooms, they cannot be viewed through the glass because they are located under the chapel, and therefore Ahmed confirms that the Inspectorate of Antiquities and UNESCO will create a separate entrance in order for visitors to enter the rooms, and see the archaeological finds, pointing out that this discovery is of great benefit, as it will be a tourist destination, as well as About being a religious and heritage symbol for the Mosulis and for all Muslims.

What remains of the hunchback minaret in the Al-Nuri Mosque, which is undergoing reconstruction (Al-Jazeera Net)

humpback lighthouse

Regarding the reconstruction of the mosque and the duration of it, he asserts that the reconstruction is expected to end at the end of 2023 with the use of stones collected from the ruins of the mosque.

Regarding the Al-Hadba lighthouse, Ahmed revealed that the excavations under the foundations of the lighthouse reached a depth of 8 meters, and therefore these excavations will help in creating ocean tunnels to fill them with reinforced concrete, which supports the reconstruction of the Al-Hadba lighthouse, especially since the foundations of the lighthouse contain high levels of moisture.

And he indicated that the excavation under the foundations of the lighthouse revealed that the base of the lighthouse has a pyramidal shape and is not a prismatic, as was previously believed, and that the reconstruction of the lighthouse will begin soon and will be restored according to the same shape it was before it was blown up and with a slope less than it was in the past, he said.