OCTOBER 26, 1988


Mawlana Hazar Imam was honoured by Italy's President Francesco Cossiga, when he was presented with the country's highest honor, the Cavaliere del Lavoro, at a ceremony in Rome on Wednesday, October 26, 1988.

The order of the Cavaliere del Lavoro is presented by the Italian President to those who have made a major contribution to the country's economy. The first Muslim and one of a limited number of non-nationals to be so honored, Mawlana Hazar Imam also received in 1978 the Gran Croce della Repubblica Italiana, an honor normally reserved for heads of state, from the Prime Minister in the name of the Italian government, in recognition of his contribution to the economy, through the development of tourism on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Tourism is one of Italy's major economic sectors, featuring as one of the country's largest generators of foreign exchange.

Mawlana Hazar Imam's involvement in the tourism sector in Italy goes back over the past 25 years. Since 1962, Hazar Imam has been closely associated, as founder member and long-time President of the Consorzio Costa Smeralda, with the development of a unique integrated resort development, the Costa Smeralda, on the north east coast of Sardinia. Recognized internationally for its particular attention to the protection of the natural environment, the 8,000 acre Costa Smeralda development, which includes hotels, sports facilities, commercial activities, marinas, shipyards and property development, has provided employment for more than 2,000 people.

The Sardinian development also gave rise to the foundation of Alisarda, now Italy's most important private sector airline which, in turn, recently resulted in the creation of a further third-level domestic airline, Avianova. These Sardinian initiatives have contributed significantly to making tourism the island's principal and fastest growing industry and its leading foreign exchange earner. The island now receives annually the same number of tourists as its permanent population of nearly one and a half million people.

In 1985, Mawlana Hazar Imam, through Fimpar, acquired control of Ciga Hotels, Italy's largest and most prestigious hotel group. In the past three years, Ciga Hotels has expanded its operations outside Italy, which now include hotels in France, Spain and Austria, in addition to Japan and the United States.

In total, these activities provide employment for upwards of 4,000 people in Italy.

Increasingly, as these initiatives have grown in diversity and geographic coverage, assistance had been provided to the tourism activities of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development in East Africa and Pakistan by way of consultancy, technical support, personnel training and marketing.

Source: The American Ismaili (March 21, 1989)

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