The United Nations, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq are banding together for a massive multimillion-dollar restoration of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which was destroyed by the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, last year. The centuries-old mosque was also where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate after his forces took control of Mosul during an offensive in northern Iraq and Syria in 2014. ISIS militants blew the structure up when Iraqi troops closed in last summer.
"You can find [the mosque] on money notes, you can find it in scrapbooks," Rasha Al Aqeedi, who grew up in Mosul, told The New York Times around the time of its destruction. "It's everywhere. I don't know how to put it into words. It's just something people always identified with because it was always there."
The project is expected to take five years, as all that remains of the mosque and its famous leaning minaret is the foundation and a barely-supported dome, BBC reports. The collaboration between the Iraqi and UAE governments and the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is "the largest and unprecedented cooperation to rebuild cultural heritage in Iraq ever," the UNESCO director said.
"The five-year project is not just about rebuilding the mosque, the minaret, and the infrastructure, but also about giving hope to young Iraqis," explained UAE Culture Minister Noura al-Kaabi. The UAE has given some $50 million to the mosque's restoration. She added: "The millennia-old civilization must be preserved." See more images of liberated Mosul at The Week.