Mosul (Arabic: الموصل al-Mawṣil, Maṣlawī Arabic: al-Mōṣul, Assyrian: ܢܝܢܘܐ Ninaweh, Kurdish: Mosul/Ninawa, Turkish: Musul) is a city in Iraq's Northwestern region, and is the country's second largest city by population. Its religious makeup is one of the most diverse in the country.
|West Mosul |
Located west of the Tigris
|East Mosul |
Located east of the Tigris
Bridges across the Tigris have been damaged by airstrikes and refugees left the city in great numbers. 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.
There are daily buses from Baghdad.
As of 2021 there's no rail service to Mosul, rehabilitation is however ongoing and the government has promised to bring back passenger trains from Baghdad.
- 1 Mosul railway station.
As of 2021, the airport is closed and not expected to reopen within the next few years. The nearest international airport is in Erbil, 75 km east of Mosul.
Travelling by car is the safest option for getting around in the city. Several bridges over the river Tigris has now been repaired, making the east-west journey much easier.
There's no public transport system within the, apart from mini buses and shared taxis. Extensive knowledge of Arabic is needed to use these.
Mosul was rich in old historical places and ancient buildings: mosques, castles, churches, monasteries, synagogues, and schools, many of which have architectural features and decorative work of significance. The town center was dominated by a maze of streets and attractive 19th-century houses. There were old houses here of beauty. Markets were particularly interesting for the mixture of people who jostle there such as Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turcoman, Armenians, Yazidi, Mandeans, Roma and Shabaks.
Mosques and shrines
Mosul is a treasure trove for those interested in historic Islamic religious architecture with dozens of mosques dating back hundreds of years. However many are in a state of disrepair or damaged by the war. Also some mosques might be off limit to visit for non-Muslims.
- 1 Great Mosque of al-Nuri (جامع النوري). Tradition holds that Nur ad-Din Zangi, a Turkoman atabeg of the Great Seljuk Empire and sultan of its Syrian province, built the mosque in 1172–1173, shortly before his death. the remarkably elaborate brickwork 52-m high minaret that leans like the Tower of Pisa, called Al-Hadba ("the hunchback"). It was destroyed during the last days of the Battle of Mosul in 2017. As of 2020, reconstruction efforts are ongoing.
- 2 Mujahidi Mosque. Dates back to 12th century AD, and is distinguished for its shen dome and elaborately wrought mihrab. Large parts of it was destroyed by ISIS in 2015.
- 3 Mosul Grand Mosque (جامع الموصل الكبير). A modern mosque still under construction on the right side of Tigris.
- 4 Mausoleum of Yahya Abu al-Qasim. 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. Largely destroyed by ISIS in 2014.
- 5 Mosque of the Prophet Yunus. A site with a shared Jewish, Christian and Islamic heritage, this is the supposed burial place of Prophet Jonah. Located on an prominent mound just south of the Nineveh, the site formerly housed both the palace of King Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE) and an Assyrian church. However, a mosque was constructed on the site in the 12th century. The mosque was largely destroyed by ISIS in 2014, but parts of it remains.
- 6 Al-Raabiya Mosque. Built in 1766 with an impressive decorated dome. The site was damaged during the war but it being rebuild in 2021.
Churches and monasteries
Mosul had the largest 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. Many churches were partly or completely destroyed by ISIS during their rule and as of 2020 many are in ruins. Also, dotted around Mosul are ancient monasteries, some in ruins while others are still active.
- 7 Shamoun Al-Safa (St. Peter, Mar Petros). 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.
- 8 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.
- 9 Our Lady of the Hour Church. Built in the 1870s with an impressive clock tower, this large Latin church was partially destroyed by ISIS in 2015. As of 2020, large parts of the church lies in ruins but the tower still stands.
- 10 Al-Tahera Church. A Syriac Catholic church completed in 1862, it was severely damaged in 2017. Reconstruction efforts are underway.
- 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). 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. 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). 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.
- 11 Mar Mattai Monastery. 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.
- 12 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.
- 13 Monastery of Saint Elijah (Dair Mar Elia). Ruins of the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, it dates from the 6th century. Severely damaged by ISIS in 2014.
- 14 Mosul Museum. Used to contain many interesting finds from the ancient sites of the old Assyrian capital cities Nineveh and Nimrud. Some of the collection was spared destruction and the museum reopened in late 2020.
- 15 Bash Tapia Castle. Mosul's old walls have disappeared, these imposing ruins rose high over the Tigris until they were largely destroyed by ISIS in 2016.
- 16 Qara Serai (Black Palace). Remnants of the 13th century palace of Sultan Badruddin Lu'lu'.
- 17 Barood Khana. Built in 1843 as the headquarters of the Ottoman military.
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 ha, 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. Large parts of the site, including its walls, was sacked by ISIS in 2016.
- 18 Kuyunjik Mound. Ruin mound that 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. 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.
- 19 Mashki Gate (ماشکی دروازه). Also known as Gate of the Water Carriers, this gate was perhaps used to take livestock to water from the River Tigris which now flows about 1.5 km to the west. It has been reconstructed in fortified mudbrick to the height of the top of the vaulted passageway.
- 20 Nergal Gate. 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.
- 21 Adad Gate. Named after the god Adad.
- 22 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 1960s has deteriorated significantly.
- 23 Halzi Gate.
- 1 Spring Theater (مسرح الربيع). Partly restored in 2021, this theater and music venue is home to several performances.
- 2 Baytna (مؤسسة بيتنا). Housed in a historic house, this cultural centre houses exhibitions and live concerts.
A number of restaurants, mainly on the eastern side of the city, have reopened.
Alcohol is not widely available but in the aftermath of the liberation from Daesh a handful of bars have reopened.
As of early 2020, major hotels chains have yet to reopen in Mosul, but there is a limited number of smaller hotels. The landmark Nineveh International Hotel was completely ruined in 2017.
- 1 Al Habda Tourist Hotel (فندق الحدباء السياحي في الموصل), ☏ . Resort-style hotel along the river Tigris.
- 2 Al Sultan Palace Hotel (فندق قصر السلطان), ☏ . One of few hotels that is open near the city centre.
Former 3,000-year-old Assyrian Empire city first excavated in the 1840s as an archaeological site on the eastern bank of the Tigris, 30 km (20 miles) south of Mosul. Overrun by ISIL (Daesh) in 2014, historic sites destroyed in 2015. The Iraqi Army reclaimed Nimrud in 2016. The site contained the palace of Ashurnasirpal, the king of Assyria. Many of the artefacts are in the British Museum, London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York City or Iraq’s national museum in Baghdad.