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Known by locals as al-Hadba’, or the hunchback, because of its precarious slant, the minaret of the Great Nur al-Din Mosque is one of the primary landmarks of the old city of Mosul. Built by the Seljuk ruler Nur al-Din al-Zangi Atabeg, it was part of a religious complex including a mosque and a madrassa named for its patron. At the time of its completion in 1172, the minaret was 150 feet (45 meters) high, with seven ornamental bands of brickwork at different levels around its cylindrical shaft. Five times a day, a muezzin would ascend the spiral stairway and sing the call to prayer from the balcony. By the time the famous traveler Ibn Battutah visited the city in the 14th century, the minaret was already listing significantly and had been given its nickname, which has remained ever since. In 1942, as part of a renovation campaign by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities, the mosque and madrassa were dismantled and reassembled according to a new plan, but the minaret remains as one of the few original elements of the medieval Nur al-Din complex.
The minaret’s tilt has long been a source of concern. Despite efforts in the 1970s to stabilize the structures, cracks have proliferated along the minaret’s base. Meanwhile, some have built houses immediately adjacent to the minaret, and stand to lose their homes—if not their lives—were it ever to topple.
The entire country of Iraq has appeared on the past two Watch lists, emphasizing the ongoing threat to Iraqi cultural heritage sites in the aftermath of the war. It is hoped that listing this specific site, deemed a priority for conservation work by the Iraqi authorities, will draw focused technical assistance to this project and reiterate WMF support for the conservation of Iraq’s heritage.
In September 2012, UNESCO and the Governorate of Ninewa agreed to collaborate on a project to study and conserve the Al-Hadba’ Minaret. The study phase will include a structural analysis of the minaret and investigations of the materials and the geology of the site.
Last update: December 2012