Mosul’s Ancient Arcades: Endangered by Progress and a Bad Attitude
The city of Mosul is known for its unique architecture. But as with so many antiquities in Iraq, some of its most distinctive features – a series of domed arcades that run between houses – are being lost.
In Iraq the city of Mosul is well known for its unique architecture. “The city is described as ‘the pearl of the north’,” writes ArchNet, a website for architects with a focus on Muslim culture. “Mosul, once a walled city … is the only major city east of Euphrates built primarily of stone and brick. It includes extensive marble especially in columns, door and window frames.”
And among some of the most unique pieces in the city, which is over 2,000 years old, are the passage ways or arcades built between residential houses.
In the Ottoman era, authorities told anyone who wanted to build a house that they would have to ensure there was a public passageway on the land too, explains Azhar al-Ubaidi, a local historian. The passages that were built, often with doomed roofs and marble columns, had various uses – they protected residents from sun and rain and acted as hallways for extended families to travel to one another’s homes, if their homes were adjoining. Often the domed arcades would be named for the home owners or the family homes they passed through.
“Because houses were often very small, the house owners often asked if they could add on a public passageway because then they could use its roof to extend their living space,” al-Ubaidi said.
The passageways are clearly a unique part of Mosul’s heritage. However they are now endangered by modern development. Only seven still exist in Mosul’s old town.