UNITED NATIONS, Apr 15 (APP): Eight Egyptian architects have been awarded the job of restoring the historic Al-Nouri Mosque complex in Mosul, Iraq, which was destroyed by ISIL/Da’esh extremists in 2017, the UN cultural chief announced on Thursday.

Selected by an international jury from among 123 entries in a global competition, the winning design – called “Courtyards Dialogue” – is a major component of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) ambitious project to rehabilitate the ancient city.

After years of control by ISIL extremists and the destruction of the iconic metropolis when they were driven out in 2017, UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay called it “a landmark moment” in restoring the war-torn city’s “fabric and history” and helping “reconciliation and social cohesion”.

The mosque, whose leaning minaret was one of Mosul’s most famous landmarks, is where ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a “caliphate” in 2014.

“Heritage sites and historical monuments are powerful catalysts for people’s sense of belonging, of community, and identity. They are key to reviving the spirit of Mosul and of Iraq as a whole”, Ms. Azoulay underscored.

The Egyptian team that won the competition consists of four partners: Salah El Din Samir Hareedy, Khaled Farid El-Deeb, Sherif Farag Ebrahim and Tarek Ali Mohamed. There were also four designer architects involved: Noha Mansour Ryan, Hager Abdel Ghani Gad, Mahmoud Saad Gamal and Yousra Muhamed El-Baha.

They scooped the award for their imaginative reconstruction of Al-Nouri’s prayer hall and complex – and for the way it blends into its surrounding through open public spaces.
While the hall will look as it did before the mosque was destroyed, it will reopen with better natural lighting and more space for women and visitors.

There will be enclosed gardens too, inspired by the historic houses and gardens that were located around the prayer hall prior to its 1944 remodeling, according to UNESCO.

UNESCO launched the design competition last November in close coordination with the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and the Iraqi Sunni Endowment.

In addition to being awarded the contract for the complex, the winners will receive a $ 50,000 prize, UNESCO said.

And in recognition of their work, the runners-up will also receive prizes: $ 30,000 to a team from India, $20,000 to an entry from Spain, $15,000 to a team in the United States and $10,000 to a team of architects from the United Arab Emirates, France, Turkey and Lebanon.