IRAQ: Ashurbanipal Library restarted by University of Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq — Twenty-two years after the laying of its cornerstone, Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Governorate and a city of historical significance, still waits for the completion of the Ashurbanipal Library. The project has been repeatedly interrupted by economic, political, and security crises.

Now, the University of Mosul has announced it will resume work on the project in 2023. When, or if, completed, the Ashurbanipal Library will be the largest library anywhere in the Middle East.

“The Ashurbanipal Library is one of the projects of the investment plan for the University of Mosul and will cover an area of some 50,000 square meters. The cumulative area is about 150,000 square meters,” Osama Ahmed Hamdoun, head of the Department of Construction and Projects at the University of Mosul, told Irfaa Sawtak.

“As for the design of the project, it will consist of three buildings reflecting the three distinct historical eras of Mosul, namely: Assyrian, Islamic, and contemporary. They will be linked by bridges, symbolizing the communication between generations and civilizations,” he added.

The project was about 60% complete until the city and large swathes of Iraq were taken over by the Islamic State (ISIS). The extremist groups intentionally damaged some areas of the project, others were damaged during the city’s liberation. After liberation, the completion rate due to the damage was now roughly 40%.

“We are optimistic that the project will see the light again and restart in 2023,” said Hamdoun. “The project carries great moral and material values, not only for the University of Mosul and Nineveh Governorate, but also for the country and wider region.”

Prior to 2014, the University of Mosul contacted the British Museum and the Louvre to obtain artifacts, both original and replicas, to add to the galleries of the library. The project has designated secure areas to keep rare and original manuscripts inside the library, explained Hamdoun.