Mosul (Arabic: الموصل al-Mawṣil, Maṣlawī Arabic: al-Mōṣul, Assyrian: ܢܝܢܘܐ Ninaweh, Kurdish: Mosul/Ninawa, Turkish: Musul) is a city in Iraq's Al Jazira region, and is the country's second largest city by population. Its religious makeup is one of the most diverse in the country.
At the moment it is not recommended to visit Mosul, or any other part of Iraq, as a tourist due to the ongoing conflict. Bridges across the Tigris have been damaged by airstrikes and refugees are leaving the city in great number. Also watch out for landmines after the conflict. Overland travel is possible, Mosul is along Highway 1 & 2 but can be quite dangerous with sporadic attacks on vehicles travelling along the roads. It will also take a long time due to numerous traffic checks.
Mosul is rich in old historical places and ancient buildings: mosques, castles, churches, monasteries, and schools, many of which have architectural features and decorative work of significance. The town center is dominated by a maze of streets and attractive 19th century houses. There are old houses here of beauty. The markets are particularly interesting not simply for themselves alone but for the mixture of types who jostle there such as Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turcoman, Armenians, Yazidi, Mandeans, Roma and Shabaks.
- The Mosul Museum contains many interesting finds from the ancient sites of the old Assyrian capital cities Nineveh and Nimrud. The Mosul Museum is a fair, olden building, around a courtyard and with an impressive facade of Mosul marble containing displays of Mosul life depicted in tableau form.
Mosques and Shrines
- Umayyad Mosque is the first ever in the city, built in 640 AD by Utba bin Farqad Al-Salami after he conquered Mosul in the reign of Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab. The only original part still extant is the remarkably elaborate brickwork 52m high minaret that leans like the Tower of Pisa, called Al-Hadba (The Humped).
- The Great (Nuriddin) Mosque built by Nuriddin Zangi in 1172 AD next door to the Umayyad Mosque. Ibn Battuta the great Moroccan traveller found a marble fountain there and a mihrab (the niche that indicates the direction of Mecca) with a Kufic inscription.
- Mosque of the Prophet Yunus or Younis (Jonah) is on one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins, rises the Mosque of Prophet Younis "Biblical Jonah". Jonah the son of Amittai, from the 8th century BC, is believed to be buried here, where King Esarhaddon had once built a palace. It is one of the most important mosques in Mosul and one of the few historic mosques that are found on the east side of the city.
- Mujahidi Mosque dates back to 12th century AD, and is distinguished for its shen dome and elaborately wrought mihrab.
- Mosque of the Prophet Jerjis (Georges)- This mosque is believed to be the burial place of Prophet Jerjis. Built of marble with shen reliefs and renovated last in 1393 AD. It was mentioned by the explorer Ibn Jubair in the 12th century AD, and is believed also to embrace the tomb of Al-Hur bin Yousif.
- Mashad Yahya Abul Kassem On the right bank of the Tigris, known for its conical dome, decorative brickwork and calligraphy engraved in Mosul blue marble, built in the 13th century.
Churches and Monasteries
Mosul has the highest proportion of Assyrian Christians of all the Iraqi cities, and contains several interesting old churches, some of which originally date back to the early centuries of Christianity. Its ancient Assyrian churches are often hidden and their entrances in thick walls are not easy to find. Some of them have suffered from overmuch restoration.
- Shamoun Al-Safa (St. Peter, Mar Petros) is the oldest church in Mosul, it dates from the 13th century and named after Shamoun Al-Safa or St. Peter . Early, it had the name of the two Apostles, Peter and Paul, and had early been inhabited by the nuns of the Sacred Hearts.
- Church of St. Thomas (Mar Touma) one of the oldest historical churches, named after St. Thomas the Apostle who preached the Gospel in the East, including India.
- Mar Petion Church Mar Petion, educated by his cousin in a monastery, was martyred in 446 AD. It is the first Chaldean Catholic church in Mosul, after the union of many Assyrians with Rome in the 17th century. It dates back to the 10th century, and lies 3 m below street level. This church suffered destruction, and it has been reconstructed many times.
- Ancient Tahira Church (The Immaculate) is considered one of the most ancient churches in Mosul. Al-Tahira Church dates back to the 7th century, and it lies 3 m below street. Reconstructed last in 1743.
- Mar Hudeni Church it was named after Mar Ahudemmeh (Hudeni) Maphrian of Tikrit who martyred in 575 AD. Mar Hudeni is an old church of the Tikritans in Mosul. It dates back to the 10th century, lies 7 metres below street and was first reconstructed in 1970. People can get mineral water from the well in its yard. The chain, fixed in the wall, is thought to cure epileptics.
- St. George's Monastery (Mar Gurguis) is one of the oldest churches in Mosul, named after St. George, was probably built late in the 17th century. Pilgrims from different parts of the North visit it yearly in the spring, when many people also go out to its whereabouts on holiday. It is about 6 metres below street. A modern church was built over the old one in 1931, abolishing much of its archeological significance. The only monuments left are a marble door-frame decorated with a carved Estrangelo (Syriac) inscription, and two niches, which date back to the 13th or 14th century.
- Mar Matte- this famous monastery is situated about 20 km east of Mosul on the top of a high mountain (Mount Maqloub). It was built by Mar Matte, a monk who fled with several other monks in 362 AD from the Monastery of Zuknin near the City of Amid (Diyarbakir) in the southern part of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the north of Iraq during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361–363 AD). It has a precious library containing Syrianic scriptures.
- Monastery of Mar Behnam also called Deir Al-Jubb (The Cistern Monastery) and built in the 12th or 13th century, it lies in the Nineveh Plain near Nimrud about 32 kilometres southwest of Mosul. The monastery, a great fort-like building, rises next to the tomb of Mar Behnam, a prince who was killed by the Sassanians, perhaps during the 4th century AD.
- St. Elijah's Monastery (Dair Mar Elia) is the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, it dates from the 6th century.
- Bash Tapia Castle while Mosul's old walls have disappeared, with the exception of these imposing ruins a'rising high over the Tigris.
- Qara Serai (The Black Palace) are the remnants of the 13th century palace of Sultan Badruddin Lu'lu'.
The Nineveh International Hotel (phone +964 771 0733330, rooms from 96,000 IQD per night) was a landmark hotel overlooking the Tigris river. Its current status is unknown; its ninevehhotel.com web domain has been abandoned to cybersquatters.
Former 3,000-year-old Assyrian Empire city first excavated in the 1840s as an archaeological site on the eastern bank of the Tigris, 30km (20 miles) south of Mosul. Overrun by ISIL (Daesh) in 2014, historic sites destroyed in 2015. The Iraqi Army reclaimed Nimrud in 2016.
Just across the river and ever closer to expanding Mosul were the great ruins of Nineveh, an ancient Assyrian city and the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Once the largest city in the world and covering an area of some 750 hectares, it was besieged, destroyed and left unpopulated after the 612 BC battle of Nineveh. There have been repeated archaeological projects and some half-finished attempts at reconstructions, but unfortunately the site suffers from rapid decay due to lack of protection from the elements, vandalism and looting.
- Kuyunjik - The ruin mound rises about 20 metres above the surrounding plain of the ancient city. Today, there is little evidence of these old excavations other than weathered pits and earth piles.
- Nebi Yunus is the second ruin mound at Nineveh
The ruins of Nineveh were surrounded by the remains of a massive stone and mudbrick wall dating from about 700 BC.
- Maki Gate or Gate of the Watering Places, was perhaps used to take livestock to water from the River Tigris which currently flows about 1.5 kilometres to the west. It has been reconstructed in fortified mudbrick to the height of the top of the vaulted passageway.
- Nergal Gate was named for the god Nergal, it may have been used for some ceremonial purpose, as it is the only known gate flanked by stone sculptures of winged bull-men (lamassu). It was reconstructed in the mid 20th century.
- Adad Gate named after the god Adad.
- Shamash Gate named after the god Shamash, It is the only gate with such a significant projection. The mound of its remains towers above the surrounding terrain. Its size and design suggest it was the most important gate in Neo-Assyrian times. The mudbrick reconstruction in 1960's has deteriorated significantly.
- Halzi Gate