Cairo, 4th May, 1999: President Hosni Mubarak today discussed with His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, an integrated plan for development of Cairo's largest park, and innovative cultural restoration and economic revitalisation projects being undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the capital's historic old city. Their meeting followed extensive site visits by the Aga Khan to the Azhar Park and the adjoining Darb al Ahmar district during which he had frank and productive exchanges with the Governor of Cairo, Dr. Abdel-Rehim Shehata, the Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni Abdel Aziz and the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Gaballah Ali Gaballah.
President and Mme. Suzanne Mubarak, who is patron of major cultural heritage initiatives in old Cairo, were hosting the Aga Khan and his wife, the Begum Inaara Aga Khan, to a luncheon attended by selected members of the Cabinet to discuss the potential for development of historic Cairo centered on Azhar Park and its immediate vicinity.
The 30 hectare Azhar Park will be Cairo's largest designed green space. Landscaping currently underway on the former rubble dump will create fountained gardens and tree-lined avenues with panoramic vistas onto the skyline of monuments of the old Islamic city. Situated between the eastern edge of the old Fatimid city and the Mameluke necropolis, the park will offer a spectacular panorama of historic landmarks of Cairo. Most recently, the Park project has incorporated the extensive excavation of the Ayyubid wall revealing hitherto undiscovered turrets and chambers.
Following a detailed survey of the Darb al Ahmar district, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture's Historic Cities Support Programme has identified a number of buildings and spaces whose physical restoration will be complemented by social development projects for the disadvantaged communities resident in the neighbourhood.
The Aga Khan's historic links with Egypt and Cairo, in particular, go back to the tenth century when the Aga Khan's ancestor, Fatimid Caliph al-Mui'zz laid the foundations of the city 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.
Other activities of the Historic Cities Support Programme around the world include the restoration and re-use of a 14th century residence in Granada, Spain, a 700-year old fort in Hunza, Northern Pakistan, 100 year old buildings and an open green space in the Stone Town of Zanzibar, as well as rehabilitation projects in Uzbekistan, Bosnia and Syria.
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), 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.
Whilst in Cairo, the Begum Aga Khan is visiting urban social projects for underprivileged children supported by UNESCO and will join Mme. Mubarak, President of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, on a visit to the Society's headquarters.
The Aga Khan and the Begum Aga Khan are accompanied on this visit by the Aga Khan's younger son, Prince Hussain who has specific responsibility for programmatic activities of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture at the Aga Khan's Secretariat in Paris. They depart Cairo on 6th May, 1999.
Photos available through AP.