Well-known architects, C. Amery, S. Cantacuzino and Hugh Casson, three of the many guests who were invited to the first Awards Ceremony describe their impressions of a unique event.
It was October 23, 1980 - the historic city of Lahore, famed for its prolific Mughal monuments, was bathed in the light of the full moon. It was a ceremony to remember. The setting was the Shalimar Gardens, built by Shah Jehan in 1641. It was night by the time the 500 guests had assembled for this glittering Islamic celebration.
As we entered the main gate a magical sight greeted us: thousands of little oil lamps lining the edges of the water channels, the pavilions and walls defining the gardens washed in soft light, the sound of fountains playing and the full moon already high above the trees. A fanfare of trumpets announced the arrival of President Zia and the Aga Khan. Speeches followed. The President spoke in Urdu, breaking into English at the end with electrifying effect. Flanked by the Steering Committee on one side and the Master Jury on the other, and in full flood-lighting the Aga Khan then gave away the prizes. There followed supper on the middle terrace where the large central pool was surrounded by little tables lit by candlelight. Here we ate to the sound of musicians dressed in brightly coloured traditional costumes playing on the platform in the middle of the pool. Beyond on the lowest terrace other quieter and more mysterious vistas awaited exploration.
Such a unique occasion for what is intended to be the first in a regular three-yearly cycle raises the question where next? The Citadel of Aleppo, the Bagh-e-Fin at Kashan or the Alhambra?
Source: Canadian Ismaili, March 1981
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