Ice cream at the shrine of Nebi Younis

Picture

By Paul Eedle

Like this story? Donít like it? Tell Paul

The mosque of Prophet Jonah rises above terraces in Mosul as ordinary Iraqis come to hang out during the Eid al Adha holiday.

Where shall we take the kids this holiday? Let's go to the mosque of the Prophet Jonah. It's not far, and there's a playground opposite where we can go afterwards.

Several hundred families had already had this idea by the time I got to the shrine at 9.30 on Friday morning. It's a newly-renovated complex of cream stone built on top of a great mound which may contain some of the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital which was the centre of the civilised world between 700 and 500 B.C.

The mound is too holy for archaeologists to dig up, but the little community of mudbrick houses which had grown up around the shrine has been cleared away in the last few years and the mound terraced in cream stone. You climb a long flight of steps up the terraces, enter the mosque, climb two more sets of stairs and finally emerge on a platform where you can see the whole of Mosul, or at least you can if you squeeze through the crowd of women in black chadors and peer over the heads of the mob of children climbing on the stone parapet.

Inside, there's a broad corridor with ornate stucco decorations, chandeliers, carpets and a warm smell of feet. The crowd packs in tighter and tighter, struggling to reach a low door in the far corner of the corridor where a fat man in a grey gallabiya is using a short stick to regulate the scrum of pilgrims.

You squeeze down a narrow flight of stairs to the marble-lined tomb chamber, where there's just enough room to walk round the carved wooden structure that houses the tomb of the prophet - Nebi Younis in Arabic. Through arched windows with silver-plated grilles, you can just see a large sarcofagus wrapped in embroidered cloth with a turban placed at the head end.

The crowd, mostly women and children, a few men, shuffle round the tomb, stroking the carved wood or touching the grilles on the windows, lowering their eyelids and muttering prayers. I watched an elderly woman in a black chador with tattoos on her chin guide a little boys hand to the wood to show him how to touch it.

Then it's back to the struggling crowd in the upper corridor. People come to the shrine for help with any manner of illnesses and problems. I saw a young woman in a black chador being held up under each arm by her mother and father, too weak to walk. She had just emerged from the tomb room and was smiling radiantly.

A couple of hundred dinar notes to the beggars squatting in the corridor, 250 dinars (20 cents) to the man on the door, retrieve your shoes from the wooden racks outside, and it's time for ice cream and souvenirs. Boys with battered polystyrene cold boxes are selling fruit juice ice lollies on the upper platform, and in the courtyard  below, you can buy marble plaques with Koranic verses on to hang on your house. I bought four Koranic stickers for 800 dinars (60 cents).

The playground across the road is thick with children getting their new Eid clothes dirty. Dozens of battered iron swings, swing boats, roundabouts and mini-Ferris wheels have been put up for the Eid and they're all covered in children.

What did you do this holiday? We went to Nebi Younis.

Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
 Hermits
 Ice Cream
 Rich City
 More food
 Fun in Mosul

Improve your Pakistan IQ. Take the Pakistan Newsquest and plug the knowledge gap!

Improve your India IQ. Take the India Newsquest and plug the knowledge gap!