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

 

Deadly Sinai attacks force Sisi to cut short overseas trip

New Saudi king announces sweeping cabinet shake-up

UN chief to African leaders: do not 'cling to power'

Jordan still kept in the dark over pilot fate

British mosques open doors to reach out to citizens

Syria’s Qaeda fights Western-backed rebels

Abbas to visit Stockholm after Palestine recognised

Israel to go ahead with 430 new West Bank settler homes

Libya rivals to join peace talks if held on home soil

Israel reduces energy supplies to Palestinians

Syria opposition embassy in Qatar renews passports

Hezbollah sends message to Israel ‘conflict is over’

Women protest against Egypt police after fatal shooting

Libyan airline suspends flights

Iraq government vows to investigate Diyala massacre

MSF withdraws help from two Sudan states

Jordan wants to see proof pilot alive before exchange

US says thousands of Somali children facing starvation

Kuwait online activists arrested 'over Saudi criticism'

Iran, Europe officials to meet Thursday in Istanbul

IS issues new deadline to kill Jordanian pilot if demand not met

Netanyahu warns Hezbollah will pay 'full price'

African Union sees no military solution to Libya crisis

Yemen powerful militia prevents fresh protest in Sanaa

Iran appoints new UN ambassador after US visa refusal

Pentagon confirms US involvement in talks with Yemen Huthis

Hezbollah missiles threaten to spark new war in volatile region

In new website, France warns would-be jihadists: You will die alone

Israel retaliates against Hezbollah attack

Can Iraqis trust their government to rebuild their country?

Sheikh Ali Salman rejects charges as trial opens in Bahrain

Protesters try to storm UN headquarters in Gaza

UN peacekeeper killed in southern Lebanon amid border clash

Kobane in ruins after symbolic blow to jihadists

Jordan bows to IS demand

Hezbollah claims attack on Israeli military convoy

Somali PM proposes new cabinet list

Syria opposition groups, Assad representatives meet in Moscow

Yemen’s Huthis free top presidential aide

French FM urges international cooperation against extremism

Clock ticking towards 24-hour IS deadline to kill hostages

Obama, Saudi king discuss IS fight, Iran

Nine killed in luxury Tripoli hotel attack

Three killed in Tripoli luxury hotel attack

UN harshly criticises Turkey for deterioration of human rights