The Begum, Umm Habiba The Last Legend of Love in the 20th Century-2000-07-01
The eternal story of love between the Begum and Agha Khan III began and ended on the banks of the Nile.
On the first day of last July, the Begum, Umm Habiba, the wife of late Prince Mohammad Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismailite sect, passed away.
With her death, one of the most beautiful and delicate stories of love and passion in the 20th century came to an end, along with it one of the most noble story of endless giving, human compassion and kindness ever known by mankind in modern times. The Begum whose real name was Yvette Labrousse was born on February 15, 1906 in the Tunisian town of Sete to a seamstress and a tramway conductor. Yet, her eye-catching beauty and smart stature led her to a more gorgeous future. Her mother persuaded her to participate in Miss Lyons competition in 1929 and won the title. Then, the simple and delicate girl became Miss France in 1930. She was crowned with fame till she became in 1938 one of the girls who were invited to embellish the chic parties.
The Begum with her husband's grandson
Her ever lasting love story with the Agha Khan began and ended on the banks of the Nile. The Begum first caught the Agha Khan's eye at a party hosted by an Egyptian aristocratic lady. Yvette was invited to that party and she travelled with her parents to Cairo in 1935. Mohammad Agha Khan was one of the leading guests because he was considered the richest man in the world at that time and the leader of the Ismailite sect with followers over 25 million throughout the world. The first smile exchanged between the Prince and Miss France was the first spark and letter in the most beautiful and last legend of love and faithfulness in the 20th century.
Although he was 29 years older than her they got married on October 9, 1944 before the end of the 2nd World War in Switzerland.
The Begum Umm Habiba -her new title- converted to Islam. She travelled to Mecca and performed the Haj. Three years later Agha Khan conferred on the Begum the title of Mata Salamat or the mother of peace. It is a holy title, bestowed only upon three Begums in 13 centuries.
The story of love and passion went on till her husband fell ill of Rheumatism. His doctor recomended the city of Aswan in Upper Egypt as a health resort.
President Gamal Abdul-Nasser granted him a lot of land, west of the Nile in Aswan as a present to build a tomb at his request. He began to build the
tomb, but he died before it was completed. He was buried on February 30, 1959.
After his death, the task of building the tomb had been entrusted to Umm Habiba, a task she took very seriously. The mausoleum became one of the most important monuments in Aswan as it turned to be an architectural landmark and tourist attraction of historical value. On July 1st, 2000, Umm Habiba, the queen of beauty, love and hearts passed away. At her request, she was buried with her husband at sunset. The fresh red rose was laid at her tomb to be the best witness of the end of the most beautiful story of love in the twentieth century.