First Published: 2014-02-18

Iraq’s landmark leaning minaret in danger of collapse
Dangerous security situation in Mosul is preventing international experts from coming and helping save Al Hadba minaret.
Middle East Online

By Abdullah Salem – MOSUL, Iraq

Hadba tower has had a significant lean since at least the 14th century

The Al Hadba minaret, located at the western entrance to one of Iraq’s most dangerous cities, is a beloved symbol for many locals.

The minaret, whose name means “the hunchback”, is part of Mosul’s Great Nurid Mosque, which was built around 1172. And the reason the 45-meter-high tower is called the hunchback is because it has been leaning “253 cm off the perpendicular axe for years”, Iraq’s UNESCO office reports. In fact, the landmark is fairly similar to the leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

However unlike Pisa’s leaning tower, Mosul’s is in danger of collapse. The tower has had a significant lean since at least the 14th century. Despite measures made to shore it up in the 1970s, cracks have continued to appear in the base. The fact that the minaret sits on swampy land with high ground water content is not helping either.

What has endangered the famous tower most though are the security conditions in the city. International expertise in restoration and geology is required to keep the medieval minaret upright.

In September 2012, Ninawa’s provincial authorities had signed a memorandum of understanding with UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, that would allow for a study on how the leaning minaret could best be preserved.

Ninawa’s governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi, says that such a plan for cooperation was one of the first of its kind in the area. And since then there have been many suggestions made as to how the minaret could be saved.

These have included removing the ancient interior and replacing it with stronger, modern materials so that only the edifice was original as well as removing the whole minaret, piece by piece, shoring up the base, and then reconstructing it on the original site.

In every case though, international experts will be required to help. And given the violence that still plagues Mosul – it is known as a base for Sunni extremists and a flashpoint for sectarian and ethnic clashes – those international experts can hardly be expected to travel here.

“Security conditions in Ninawa today – and probably in the near future too – simply don’t encourage any investment in this area,” says a local engineer.

Still, it is certain that the people of Mosul want to preserve their leaning tower. Many businesses in the city use Al Hadba in their name, as do sports teams. The city itself is known throughout Iraq for its askew minaret and the minaret’s picture appears on Iraqi postage stamps, coins and bank notes.

And to this day, many locals – no matter what their religion or ethnicity – tell stories about Al Hadba. Some say that the minaret is crooked because the Prophet Mohammed passed by and the tower bowed to him. Others say it was the Virgin Mary who passed by. It is clear though, that no matter what their religious or political affiliation; the people of Mosul want to save their minaret.

NIQASH

 

Tougher penalties as UAE updates counter-terrorism law

Three senior Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades commanders killed in Gaza

Obama demands world action against jihadist ‘cancer’

France delivered arms to Syrian rebels 'a few months ago'

British jihadists on forefront on IS propaganda

Abbas holds talks with Meshaal in Doha

Iraq Kurds face real challenges in fight against IS jihadists

Death toll in Syria war tops 180,000

US reveals failed operation to rescue American hostages in Syria

Somali journalists face trial for ‘violence incitement’

Iran asks West: What is our reward for help against IS jihadists?

Turkey ruling party meets to agree Davutoglu as PM

Kuwait nabs suspected Al-Nusra Front financier

Hamas armed wing declares end to truce talks in Cairo

Tribal clashes kill dozens of people in troubled Darfur

Dubai real estate giant to repay debt four years ahead

Egypt hopes power cuts could ease next week

Jihadist beheading of US journalist sparks worldwide revulsion

Iran provides ‘advice’ to Kurds fighting IS jihadists in Iraq

Power cuts and petrol shortages: Life grows increasingly difficult in Libya

Suspected attack by Kurdish rebels kills one Turkish soldier

UN launches huge aid operation in northern Iraq

Israel pounds Gaza as mourners cry ‘revenge’

Outgoing first lady breaks silence on ‘falsehoods’ against Turkey President

Ex CIA boss: journalist's killing 'first IS terrorist attack against US

Scores of armed Yemen rebels boost positions in capital

Sinai jihadists punish supporters of Egypt army with decapitation

Germany ready to support Iraq Kurds in battle against ‘barbaric’ IS

Iran’s 'reformist' science minister sacked

Turkey assures Ocalan Kurdish peace process will press ahead

Hollande: international situation ‘most serious’ since 2001

Israeli minister: ‘Deif deserves to die’

German minister accuses Qatar of financing IS

US hits back at criticism of Ferguson racial unrest

Jihadists to US: stop air strikes or we will behead second reporter

Temporary Gaza ceasefire goes up in smoke

Islamic State in Syria: Not few brainwashed people but whole army

Egypt to US: Show us how you deal with unrest in Ferguson

Turkey seeks to revive peace talks with Iraq Kurdish rebels

Tit-for-tat attacks break Gaza ceasefire

Huthi rebels cook up ‘armed coup’ in Yemen capital

Flood of weapons in South Sudan: Who’s not to blame?

After morale boosting victory, Iraq forces intensify attacks on IS

Multi-national Arab Bank on trial for supporting terror

Violence-hit Libya gradually boosting oil output