DECEMBER 10, 1990


Mawlana Hazar Imam on Monday 10th December, 1990 signed a Protocol of Agreement on behalf of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture with the Governor of Cairo H.E. Mahmoud Sherif for the creation of a public park in one of historic Cairo's last remaining open spaces.

Situated at El-Darrassa, the thirty hectare Park named Al-Azhar Park is adjacent to the ancient city walls and close to the Islamic monuments of Old Cairo. The purpose of the project is to contribute to the quality of the environment and the lives of the neighbourhood's inhabitants. The Park will include a special children's park, formal Islamic gardens and a range of recreational facilities.

Following the signing at the Governorate, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Her Excellency Mrs.Suzanne Mubarak and the Governor of Cairo attended the site for a foundation stone and tree planting ceremony.

During the ceremony, Hazar Imam spoke of the concept of Trust with regard to the environment, which is fundamental in the Islamic tradition and that the provision and improvement of the public space is intrinsic within that concept. Hazar Imam expressed the hope that, on its completion, the new Al-Azhar Park would enhance the quality of life for the people of Cairo and contribute to how its citizens look on their environment, their history and their culture with the same pride of past generations and projecting this pride to future generations.

Water reservoirs for the city are being built into the Al-Azhar Park site by the Greater Cairo Water Board. Scheduled to start in 1991, the Al-Azgar Park project will extend the park construction and landscaping to incorporate the entire site once the water project is completed.

The historic links of the Ismaili Imamat with Egypt go back to the tenth century when Hazrat Imam al-Mu'izz, the Fatimid Caliph, laid the foundations of the city of Cairo in 969 A.D. Islamic culture flowered in Cairo during the two centuries of Fatimid rule, from the ninth to the eleventh centuries. Imam al-Mu'izz also founded the University of Al-Azhar, one of the oldest universities in the world. Science, medicine, literature and philosophy flourished, in a cultural flowering that drew upon many contemporary faiths and intellectual traditions and which subsequently had a major impact on the Renaissance in Europe.

The Al-Azhar Park project has come to fruition within the Aga Khan Trust for Culture's Historic Cities Programme. Through direct interventions in the built environment, this programme acts to improve urban life and revitalize historic urban centres. Other current projects in the Historic Cities Programme include the restoration of Zafra House in the Arab quarter of Granada, Spain; the rehabilitation of the gardens around Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco; the conservation and revitalization of the Old Stone Town in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The Trust is also co-sponsoring an international design competition in connection with the revitalization of the historical core of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, USSR. In the context of the Historic Cities Programme, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture hopes that Al-Azhar Park will become a mode for other public spaces in unique sites of the Islamic world.

Source: African Ismaili (March 1991)

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