His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims was this morning received by Prime Minister Dr. Kamal el-Ganzouri at his office in Cairo. Also present at the meeting was the Governor of Cairo, Mr. M.M. Omar Abdel Akher. The Aga Khan, who was in Egypt for two days on his way back to Europe from an extensive visit to East Africa, was accompanied by his brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan and Prince Amyn briefed the Prime Minister and the Governor on further developments on the proposed Al Azhar Park, a US$15 million project being sponsored by the Historic cities support Programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). The project is being undertaken following the signing of a Protocol between the Governorate of Cairo and AKTC in December 1990.
Later, the Aga Khan and the Governor agreed the basis on which the proposed 30 hectare green space will be developed as a self-sustaining public park. In addition to development of the Park, the Aga Khan Development Network, through AKTC and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development will undertake ancillary endeavors including rehabilitation and conservation work along the historic Old Cairo wall with the involvement of local community development organisations, and the development of an urban plaza to ensure that sufficient revenue is generated for ongoing maintenance and future enhancement of the Park. Like all other projects undertaken by the Historic Cities Support Programme, Al Azhar Park is intended to be economically self- sustaining.
The Aga Khan described the work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and its particular concern for the built environment in societies where Muslims have a significant presence. Stressing the need for the Ummah to pay more attention to its cultural history, the Aga Khan went on to express the hope that Al Azhar Park would "add new a dimension of the quality of life to historic spaces" in the city, and indeed "enhance those spaces." "Cairo needs green spaces," said the Governor, conveying the appreciation of the people of the city for the efforts of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture towards the park project, which he said were fully in keeping with the policy of the Governorate and of the government of president Hosni Mubarak.
The historic links of the Aga Khan's family with Egypt and Cairo in particular, go back to the tenth century when the Aga Khan's ancestor, Fatimid Caliph al-Mu'izz, laid the foundations of the city of Cairo in the year 969. The two centuries of Fatimid rule between the ninth and the eleventh centuries saw the flowering of cultural and intellectual life, including the founding of the University of Al Azhar, one of the oldest universities in the world and the Academy of Science, Dar al-I1m.
More recently, Cairo hosted the ceremony of the fourth cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989 and was the venue for an Award Seminar in 1984.
Other projects of the Historic Cities Support Programme include the restoration of a 14th century residence in Granada, Spain and the restoration and conversion into a museum of the 700-year old wood and mud-brick Baltit Forta and a related cluster housing and urban development project in Hunza, Northern Pakistan. The most recently completed projects were inaugurated by the Presidents of Tanzania and Zanzibar in Zanzibar this past weekend. These encompass the restoration and conversion into a cultural centre of the turn-of-the century Old Dispensary, the renovation and conversion into the luxury Zanzibar Serena Inn of two buildings of the same period, the landscaping of an open green space and the establishment of a master conservation plan, all in Zanzibar's Stone Town designated by UNESCO as one of the world's 100 must important urban concentrations. The Historic Cities Support Programme is also working on an appropriate urban management system for the effective revitalisation and rehabilitation of the historic core of Samarkand in Uzbekistan as well as a pilot rehabilitation project in the Gur-i-Emir District where the funerary mosque of Timur is located.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is a non-profit institution, involved in recognition of architectural excellence (through the Aga Khan Award for Architecture) and architectural education (through the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with parallel programs at academic institutions in Jordan and Pakistan), as well as the Historic Cities Support Programme.
The Trust is part of the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world. The mandates of the institutions range from health, education and rural development to architecture and the promotion of private sector enterprise.
The Aga Khan and Prince Amyn departed Cairo for Europe this afternoon.
/CONTACT: The Information Office, Aiglemont, France,
or The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva, Switzerland, 41-22-909-72-00/
4806 03/19/97 15:54 EST HT
Copyright (c) 1997 PR Newswire
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