Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Noura Al Kaabi: the rebuilding of Mosul's Al Nuri Grand Mosque is dear to my heart

The Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development described the mosque as an essential part of the Mosul skyline

The Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Noura Al Kaabi, has spoken of her excitement at being involved in the rebuilding of Mosul in northern Iraq, describing the project as “dear to my heart”.

Ms Al Kaabi, who appeared on a panel titled ‘Art as Identity’ at the ESAG Design Hub in Dubai, said she felt “fortunate” that the reconstruction of the 800-year-old Al Nuri Grand Mosque and the Al Hadba minaret, both of which were destroyed by ISIS in 2017, was taking place during her tenure.

It was announced last year that the UAE would donate $50.4 million (Dh185m) to help fund the five-year project, a collaboration with Iraq’s Culture Ministry, the Sunni Endowment Diwan of Iraq and Unesco.

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. Chris Whiteoak / The National    
Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development. Chris Whiteoak / The National    

ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate from Al Nuri Grand Mosque in 2014. In 2017, his followers destroyed it, along with the famous 45-metre leaning minaret, as Iraqi security forces closed in.

“[This project] was a very clear direction from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed that we need to make a statement, that this is not right,” said Ms Al Kaabi. “This mosque is essential and unfortunately people now remember it as a symbol of a false caliphate. We shouldn’t [allow] people to cling to such an image.

“We need to talk to the spirit of the town of Mosul, the people of Mosul,” continued Ms Al Kaabi. “When we work in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, we always wake up to the skyline that we are familiar with. [Al Nuri Grand Mosque] is part of the skyline that the people of Mosul use to define themselves, as well as their surroundings – homes, souqs and the churches.”

Ms Al Kaabi also spoke of the “exciting questions” being discussed about how the reconstructed mosque and minaret, which appears on Iraq’s 10,000 dinar bank note, should be rebuilt. “Do we [the UAE] have a say [about whether] the minaret will be leaning?” she asked. “No, we don’t. We shouldn’t have a say.” Ms Al Kaabi stressed that the UAE’s responsibility was to the Iraqis, “the custodians of that place”.

“It is a physical building, it is building blocks, yet the most important element is to look at the mosaic of Mosul,” said Ms Al Kaabi. “How can we engage the youth of Mosul? The project is going to provide a thousand jobs […] It’s more than just five years, it’s a lifetime of an experience.”

Updated: July 11, 2019 09:42 AM