Wait a minute, there, Pisa, you’re not the only contortionist building on the block! A beloved old minaret in a Mosul mosque that leans 8 feet off its perpendicular axis may soon topple; an unusual casualty of ongoing unrest in one of Iraq’s most dangerous cities.
Built in 1172, the 150-foot tall Hadba Tower is part of the Great Nuris Mosque. According to Iraq’s UNESCO office, the minaret has been bowing since the 14th century.
Attempts to shore up the structure were made in the 1970s, but cracks have continued to appear along its base. Like its Italian cousin, Hadba’s tilt is partly due to poor ground conditions; the minaret sits on swampy land.
In 2012, Ninawa Province authorities signed a memorandum of understanding with UNESCO that would allow for a study on how best to preserve and protect the leaning minaret. But international experts in restoration and geology are prevented from visiting the site due to uncertain security in Mosul.
The city, an epicenter of Sunni extremism, is a flashpoint for sectarian and ethnic clashes.
“Security conditions in Ninawa today – and probably in the near future too – simply don’t encourage any investment in this area,” a local engineer told Middle East Online.
The minaret (called “the hunchback” by locals) could be saved by removing its ancient interior and replacing it with stronger materials. Alternatively, the whole minaret could be disassembled, its base reinforced, then reconstructed in its original position.
The people of Mosul love their leaning tower. Al Hadba is featured on the ten dinar bank note, and on stamps and coins and frequently appears in the names of local businesses and sports teams. Local legend has it that the minaret bowed when the Prophet Mohammed (MPBOH) passed by and has remained prostrate ever since.
When the world misbehaves, of course we turn to the human impacts. But it’s a heart-breaker when our violence also fails to protect cultural heritage, history, and natural environment.