The discovery of an ancient prayer hall beneath the Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq has halted restoration plans by UNESCO for revision.
During excavation under the ongoing restoration, archaeologists and workers discovered four rooms under the gaps of the mosque floor. Archaeologists believe that the rooms were used for ritual washing before going for the prayer. As per Khaireddine Nasser (Director, Department of Antiquities and Heritage): “These rooms that go back to the 12th-century Atabeg era were completely buried and were not mentioned in the historical sources and books.” Several artefacts like coins and pottery were also discovered in the rooms.
The restoration of the iconic Al-Nuri Mosque is part of the “Review the Spirit of Mosul” initiative by UNESCO, after the mosque and the city was destroyed by ISIS terrorist attacks. In April last year, a jury selected a group of Egyptian architects for restoring and re-designing the mosque. Their plan – titled “Courtyard Dialogue” will include open public spaces as well as climate-friendly choices like shade to protect from the sun glare. The inspiration for the design came from Ottoman-era architecture for homes. The renovated mosque was also to include an art museum, educational facility and a community centre.
However, after the discovery of the prayer rooms, UNESCO halted the restoration works and called for re-designs. The team of architects have already begun working on new designs to accommodate the newly-discovered area. Regarding the restoration, Audrey Azoulay (Director-General, UNESCO) said: “The reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Mosque complex, a historical site that is part of Mosul’s fabric and history, will be a landmark in the process of advancing the war-torn city’s reconciliation and social cohesion.”