As Mosul begins to shake off the dust of war, there is already talk of plans to rebuild the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri, which the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) reduced to rubble as Iraqi forces closed in last month.
ISIS blew up the mosque and its distinctive leaning minaret, al-Hadba (hunchback), on June 21st before withdrawing from it. One week later, Iraqi forces announced the recapture of the famed Mosul landmarks.
Al-Hadba minaret, which dates back to the 12th century, has graced the city's skyline for centuries, and is featured on Iraq's 10,000-dinar banknote.
The mosque achieved less illustrious attention in 2014, however, when in his only public appearance, ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of his so-called "caliphate" from its pulpit, after overrunning the city.
Now that ISIS has been driven from Mosul, city residents are eager to restore the mosque and re-establish it as a positive symbol of the city.
Ninawa province "is keen on rebuilding the leaning minaret and has the local expertise it needs to get the job done", Ninawa Directorate of Antiquities head Faleh al-Shimmari told Diyaruna.
Experts on hand include engineers, archaeologists and academics from the University of Mosul and the University of Baghdad, he said, adding that other high-level experts also have offered to help with the reconstruction efforts.
"The Directorate of Antiquities has the original floor plans of the mosque and minaret as well as other blueprints it has obtained from UNESCO," he said.
"Experts agree that the mosque and minaret can be rebuilt in their original structure and design, using the same material and adornments, particularly the distinctive adornments of the minaret," al-Shimmari said.
The speed of reconstruction will depend on what remains of the structure, he said, noting that the minaret's base and its four sides are still intact "despite the violent terrorist bombing".
A legacy of destruction
Al-Nuri mosque and its minaret were not the only historical or archaeological sites that were targeted by ISIS, said Ninawa provincial council services committee member Hosam Eddin al-Abbar.
Over the course of its three-year occupation, the group damaged or destroyed hundreds of other mosques, shrines, churches and museums in Ninawa, including the Mosul Museum, the ancient city of Nimrud and Nabi Yunus shrine.
"This deliberate and spiteful destruction of all these sites ... could only have been perpetrated by ignorant and backward individuals who are devoid of any cultural and human values," he told Diyaruna.
The provincial government is planning to rebuild all these sites, which are an important part of Ninawa's cultural heritage, al-Abbar said.
But now that Mosul has been liberated "there is a set of priorities that the local government is considering", he added.
"The first priorities consist of removing waste and debris from the streets of Mosul and recovering the bodies that have been trapped under the rubble," he said, as well as reopening main roads and rebuilding key infrastructure.
Rebuilding al-Hadba minaret also is a priority, he said, with talk of collaboration between UNESCO and the Iraqi government, using a team of experts to build a new structure that is identical to the original.
Training specialists abroad
Eight Iraqi archaeologists travelled to the UK in February as part of a British Museum mission to learn how to salvage artefacts and rebuild ancient sites that have been damaged by ISIS.
They were equipped with the digital and excavation skills necessary during a three-month course of theoretical training at the British Museum and another three months of practical training at sites in Tello and Darband-i Rania in Iraq.
During the training, they were shown how to identify landmines as they were working on excavations, and acquired digital skills such as geophysical mapping, remote sensing and how to use mapping and measuring equipment.
Ninawa provincial council deputy head Noureddine Qablan told Diyaruna the province will need to secure funding before reconstruction efforts can begin.
The Iraqi government has allocated 52 billion Iraqi dinars ($41.5 million) to Ninawa in its annual budget, he said, adding that the province will need a lot more to cover the cost of reconstruction, given the level of destruction.
To raise additional funds for reconstruction, the local government has been holding talks with UN agencies operating in Iraq and international relief agencies and partner states, Qablan added.