WARNING: Mosul remains extremely dangerous and is not safe for travel. Check government advisories and warnings prior to travel. Do not travel without a local guide to any parts of the city. Since June 2014, ISIS militants have taken over the city, making the situation even worse.
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.
Despite its rich history and culture, Mosul is currently deemed off limits to the West due to ISIS's control of the city. Since the June 2014 fall of Mosul to ISIS, ISIS has consolidated control over all aspects of society, including imposing Sharia law and actively persecuting non-Sunni residents.
At the moment it is not recomended to visit Mosul as a tourist due to the ongoing conflict and ISIS control. Areas in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq are deemed safe, but Mosul is not included in that area.
No flights currently arrive at Mosul International Airport (IATA: OSM). Overland travel is most feasible from Syria, however all routes into and out of Mosul are controlled and monitored by ISIS. A night train from Gaziantep started running in early 2010 but is now cancelled until further notice. Travel from Baghdad to Mosul is not feasible due to ongoing fighting between ISIS and Shi'a militias.
Mosul was 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' contained many interesting finds from the ancient sites of the old Assyrian capital cities Nineveh and Nimrud. These are all destroyed now.
Mosques and Shrines
Umayyad Mosque was 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). Now destroyed.
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) was one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins. Now it is rubble.
'Mujahidi Mosquedates 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
Before June 2014, 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. However, since ISIS takeover in June 2014, most (if not all) of the churches are either destroyed or has changed its function. 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.
As of November 2014, most (if not all) of the churches are either destroyed or has changed its function, due to ISIS takeover.
Bash Tapia Castle - has been destroyed.
Qara Serai (The Black Palace) are the remnants of the 13th century palace of Sultan Badruddin Lu'lu'.