Exclusive Simerg Photo Essay: His Highness the Aga Khan and Premier Kathleen Wynne Inaugurate the Beautiful Aga Khan Park in Toronto

PATRON AND BUILDER

Please click on photo(s) for enlargement

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims  directly descended from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.). Photo: AKDN/Anya Campbell. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims directly descended from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), is the builder of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the newly opened Aga Khan Park that connects the two buildings. Photo: AKDN/Anya Campbell. Copyright.

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THE INAUGURATION CEREMONY

The recitation of the Canadian National Anthem at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

The recitation of the Canadian National Anthem at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Qur'an reciter Ahsan Afzaly, left, with his back-up colleague, Edrees Amiri, pictured at the Ismaili Centre prior to the opening ceremony. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

Qur’an reciter Ahsan Afzaly, left, with his back-up colleague, Edrees Amiri, pictured at the Ismaili Centre prior to the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

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The audience listen to the Ismaili Muslim Choir prior to the arrival of Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mawlana Hazar Imam for the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant

The audience listens to the Ismaili Muslim Choir performing at the far left corner prior to the arrival of Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mawlana Hazar Imam for the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the reciter of the Holy Qur'an, Ahsan Afzally, look on as a translation of the Qur'anic verses in English and French is underway. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the reciter of the Holy Qur’an, Ahsan Afzally, look on as a translation of the Qur’anic verses in English and French is underway during the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Premier Kathleen Wynne delivering her speech at the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. This panoramic view shows the elegance of the event which was held inside a beautifully decorated tent built for the occasion. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Premier Kathleen Wynne delivering her speech at the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. This panoramic view shows the elegance of the event which was held inside a beautiful tent built for the occasion. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam congratulates Premier Kathleen Wynne after the completion of her speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam congratulates Premier Kathleen Wynne after the completion of her speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam gathers his speech before rising to speak to the audience at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam gathers his speech before rising to speak to the audience at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam addressing the audience at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam addressing the audience at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam in an animated mood as he shares a joke related to the expulsion of his community from Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam in an animated mood as he shares a joke related to the expulsion of his community from Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mwlana Hazar Imam receives a standing ovation as he is congratulated by Premier Kathleen Wynne after the completion of his speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mwlana Hazar Imam receives a standing ovation as he is congratulated by Premier Kathleen Wynne after the completion of his speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam graciously accepts the standing ovation he receives after completing his speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam graciously accepts the standing ovation he receives after completing his speech at the opening of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mawlana Hazar Imam unveil the plaque to officially open the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mawlana Hazar Imam unveil the plaque to officially open the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mawlana Hazar Imam shake hands after unveiling the plaque to open the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mawlana Hazar Imam shake hands after unveiling the plaque to open the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam and Premier Kathleen Wynne prepare to depart after unveiling the plaque to open the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Premier Kathleen Wynne prepare to depart after unveiling the plaque to open the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam seen departing the exquisitely prepared tent structure that hosted the inauguration ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam seen departing the exquisitely prepared tent structure that hosted the inauguration ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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The President of the Aga Khan Council for Australia, Azim Remtulla, was among those who attended the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

The President of the Aga Khan Council for Australia, Azim Remtulla, was among those who attended the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Park on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

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The Aga Khan Museum became the venue for a special reception for guests who attended the opening of the Aga Khan Museum on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

The Aga Khan Museum became the venue for a special reception for guests who attended the opening of the Aga Khan Museum on May 25, 2015. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant. Copyright.

Date posted: May 27, 2015.

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Reflections on the Opening of the New Aga Khan Park: “Where Nature Gifts the Outdoors” by Navyn Naran and “Trinity” by Ikhwan Allani

WHERE NATURE GIFTS THE OUTDOORS

The Aga Khan Park. Photo: AKDN/Moez Visram. Copyright.

The Aga Khan Park. Photo: AKDN/Moez Visram. Copyright.

BY NAVYN NARAN

Its a place for contemplation,
for enjoyment,
for reflection,
In quiet pools with glimmering surfaces,
and bubbling of laughter.
In the presence of oneself or a group of others,
Welcome to the garden.

For nightime quiet,
For morning awakening,
And daytime walks
For enjoying the green earth,
the fresh smell of shrubs,
A place to sit
Where God is.
Where Nature gifts the outdoors.
Where my mind is at ease
and the murmur of the water,
the ripples from the raindrops
remind me how connected everything is.
How a central rhythm reverberates
twanging like a musical chord
in our individual auras…
Where does that send us?
I like the feeling that silhouettes these buildings
and transmits an energy reflected inside.
We are divine,
We are respectful,
We are compassionate,
We are all beautiful,
if we are only aware of who we are.

If sadness comes over you,
Come to the park.
And to the one side rises a spiritual space,
And to the other, a creative one.
Even in a busy place.
there is space.

Lines and curves, patios and earth.
It is,
My Park.
My museum.
A gift .
I too can enjoy the beauty and awakening.

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TRINITY

An aerial view of the Aga Khan Museum (left), the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo: AKDN/Geoff Grenville. Copyright.

An aerial view of the Aga Khan Museum (left), the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo: AKDN/Geoff Grenville. Copyright.

BY IKHWAN ALLANI

Bismillah-ir Rahman-ir Rahim

Alas,
Three spaces that lift the spirit,
Have come to life.
Ah, how my soul has been eager,
For this blessed day to arrive.

Masha’Allah

The Museum stands as a symbol of culture and knowledge,
A beautiful expression of the Islamic heritage.
Every art piece reflects our wonderful tradition,
Cherishing poets, scientists and mathematicians.
1400 years of Islamic history, coming together as one,
Step by step, piece by piece, what a collection this has become.
Blessed I am, to witness the past in the present,
O soul, breathe, Be one with this moment!

Subhan’Allah

The Park is majestic, a sight of pure aesthetic beauty,
Humbly sowing the seeds of brotherhood and unity.
Every blade of grass promises a new conversation,
As fresh gusts of wind whisper new information.
Flowing water pledges a cleansing of the mind and spirit,
Every thought, every action, one with the universe, no limits.
Blessed I am, to experience this natural ornament,
O soul, breathe, Be one with this moment!

Al-hamdulillah

The Ismaili Centre is the abode of the soul, paradise,
Where the Lord and His believer become one, synchronize.
The flawless rock crystal is the epitome of perfection above,
Where light and shadow blissfully coexist, intoxicated in love.
Ya Allah, Ya Ali, Ya Muhammad, resonate with every heartbeat,
Humbled, I prostrate before The One, I am now complete!
Blessed I am, to free my mind from worldly involvement,
O soul, breathe, Be one with this moment!

Shukran’Allah

May the Museum inspire the mind,
May the Park energize the body,
And may the Prayer hall purify the soul.

Ameen!

Date posted: May 26, 2015.

Copyright.

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About the writers: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar and Badrudin Naran. After beginning her high school in the UK, her family immigrated to the USA where she has lived since. Dr. Naran went to medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA. She currently works in the Paediatric field.

Ikhwan Allani graduated from the University of Toronto, with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mental Health Studies. He currently works as a Medical Assistant at Appletree Medical Group, and has previously worked as a Research Consultant for The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, and as a Research Assistant at the University of Toronto.

2015 Toronto Doors Open: Thousands Explore Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

It is indeed a pleasure for Simerg to present a collection of photos with interviews that were done at the site of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre on the occasion of  Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open held during the weekend of May 23-24, 2015. These two new Islamic gems were added to this year’s Doors Open exploration roster of more than 155 architecturally and culturally rich buildings across Toronto.

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. TheIsmaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015, Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum.  Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Park with Museum in background. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Park with Museum in background. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum Bellerive Room (Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum Bellerive Room (Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

The two iconic buildings were added to the Toronto landscape when they were officially opened last September by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in the presence of the patron, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. Prince Karim became the Imam of the Ismailis on July 11, 1957, when he was only 21. His Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated in 2017, the same year (and month) Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum, Diwan Restaurant. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum, Diwan Restaurant. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum, gift shop. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum, gift shop. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum, gift shop. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum, gift shop. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre, a briefing for visitors. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre, a briefing for visitors. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Visitors on the move to see other sections of the centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Visitors on the move to see other sections of the centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 - Toronto's 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Volunteer Mehdi Ansar. Photo: Malik Merchant /Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Volunteer Mehdi Ansar. Photo: Malik Merchant /Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. Visitors at the Aga Khan Park, outside the Aga Khan Museum. Background – the Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. Visitors tour the Aga Khan Park. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. Visitors tour the Aga Khan Park. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

May 24th 2015 – Toronto’s 16th Annual Doors Open. The Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg. Copyright

It is estimated that more than 10,000 people visited the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre during Doors Open. Visitors described their experience as rich, and complimented the hosts for their excellent organization and the explanations that were provided. Several Toronto residents said they would return to visit the museum’s collection of Islamic art in greater detail.

Date posted: Monday, May 25, 2015.

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The Aga Khan Park: Tranquil, Contemplative Space, and a Place to be Enjoyed by All to be Inaugurated on Monday, May 25, 2015

PHOTOS CAPTURE THE 5 YEAR EVOLUTION OF THE SITE

April 2010: Preparation

A photo from April 2010 of the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park as the trees were being removed to make room for the contruction.

A photo from April 2010 of the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park as the trees were being removed to make room for the construction. “No need to worry…the trees will be replaced,” wrote Jim Bowie for a photo essay for Simerg. Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.

It was officially announced in Jamatkhanas across Canada yesterday, May 17th, that the opening of the Aga Khan Park will, Inshallah, take place in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Monday May 25th, 2015. The announcement also noted that arrangements are underway to webcast the event live as well as telecast the opening ceremonies at Jamatkhanas across the country.

This follows the opening last September of two architectural gems, the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana, which adjoin the Park.

September 2011: Construction

September 14, 2011. The return of the trees. Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.

September 14, 2011. The return of the trees, while the construction of the Aga Khan Museum (foreground) and the Ismaili Centre proceeds speedily Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.

The presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam once again in this country will be a source of immense grace and barakah, and the jamats across Canada truly offer their humble shukrana to their beloved Imam.

The Aga Khan Park is the newest addition to other civic green spaces established or restored by Mawlana Hazar Imam, such as the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, Forodhani Park in Zanzibar, Khorog City Park, Babur’s Gardens in Kabul, and the parks currently under development in Burnaby and Edmonton.

September 2014: Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum Opening

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prime Minister Stephen Harpur at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre on September 12, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prime Minister Stephen Harpur at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre on September 12, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Mawlana Hazar Imam explains the significance of the garden in Islamic cultures and its establishment in Canada in the following remarks made at the Presentation of the Gold Medal by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in Ottawa in November 2013:

“… our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, to leave the world in a better condition than we found it. The garden is, in this context, a particularly important space in Islamic cultures… Bringing such beautiful spaces to Canada is one of our intended contributions to the Canadian landscape. An example is the new park in Toronto which will surround the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre as well as new projects in Edmonton and Burnaby …”

The park’s architect, Vladimir Djurovic, describes its inspiring vision in the following manner in an interview in 2010:

“Our vision for the project is one that captures the essence of the Islamic garden and translates it into an expression that reflects its context and contemporary age. Embracing the five senses as the means to reach the soul, every space and garden are imbued with the delicate sensations that we seem to have lost in this fast-paced era.”

The Aga Khan Park is intended to be a space of tranquility and contemplation, and a place of beauty and reflection for the Jamat and the larger society. It is also designed to host educational programmes and outdoor gatherings, such as concerts and weddings. It will be an inviting space for diverse members of the larger community to meet, for families to gather and children to play.

It will be a place where people can take a walk, enjoy and immerse themselves in the beauty and majesty of Allah’s creation and perhaps also reflect upon the nature and significance of the two spectacular buildings that the park surrounds.

December 2014: Three Views of the Park

The  Aga Khan Park photographed in December 2014, with the Ismaili Centre in the background. Photo: Copyright. Rian Dewji, Toronto.

The Aga Khan Park photographed in December 2014, with the Ismaili Centre in the background. Photo: Rian Dewji, Toronto. Copyright.

The Aga Khan Park photographed in December 2014, with the  Aga Khan Museum in the background. Photo: Rian Dewji, Toronto. Copyright.

The Aga Khan Park photographed in December 2014, with the Aga Khan Museum in the background. Photo: Rian Dewji, Toronto. Copyright.

A panoramic view taken from the Aga Khan Museum, with the Ismaili Centre in the background. Photo: Rian Dewji, Toronto. Copyright.

A panoramic view taken from the Aga Khan Museum, with the Ismaili Centre in the background. Photo: Rian Dewji, Toronto. Copyright.

The Aga Khan Park is one of several significant Imamat institutions and projects established in Canada, including the Global Centre for Pluralism, the Ismaili Centres in Burnaby and Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat. Inshallah, through their respective functions and architectural idioms, these institutions will continue to express the aspirations, identity and values of our faith, such as respect for pluralism, the notion of a common humanity, search for knowledge and beauty, and balance between din (the sacred) and duniya (the material world).

In place of negative representations of our faith and the “clash of ignorance”, these “gifts” benevolently provided to us by Imam-e-Zaman will foster an increased and enlightened understanding of the faith of Islam, as well as stimulate dialogue and fraternity between different cultures and communities, which is so urgently needed today in a world filled with turmoil, intolerance and extremism.

Date posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2015.

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The Karachi Attack: Mawlana Hazar Imam Expresses Sadness and Sends Prayers

AGONY AND GRIEF IN KARACHI

Click for enlargement

KARACHI, PAKISTAN - MAY 13: Relatives of injured and killed cry and wait outside a hospital following a gun attack on a bus carrying members of Ismaili Shia community, in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 May 2015 that killed at least 45 people including over a dozen women and injuring more than 14 people. (Photo by Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

KARACHI, PAKISTAN – MAY 13: Relatives of injured and killed cry and wait outside a hospital following a gun attack on a bus carrying members of Ismaili Shia community, in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 May 2015 that killed at least 45 people including over a dozen women and injuring more than 14 people. (Photo by Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images). Photo published by Simerg under a licencing agreement with Getty Images.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in an official press release issued on the website of the Aga Khan Development Network has expressed shock and sadness in the wake of an attack on a bus carrying Ismaili members of his community in Karachi, Pakistan, that left 43 people dead today, Wednesday, May 13th. There were 16 women and 27 men among those killed. Other external reports suggest that the death toll was 45.

“This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those killed and wounded in the attack,” Mawlana Hazar Imam said. He noted that the Ismailis are a peaceful global community living in harmony with other religious and ethnic groups in many countries across the world, including in the Muslim world.

According to a report by the  BBC (please click for full report and photos) a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban called Jundullah has said it carried out the attack. The report also states that a leaflet was left at the scene claiming the so-called Islamic State group was responsible. The BBC’s Urdu service editor Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi said it seemed to be a well-planned attack.

He said the bus was making one of five daily scheduled trips between a gated community housing mainly Ismailis on the north-eastern outskirts and the main city.

The relatives of some survivors said it was stopped as it was about to enter the city by men dressed as policemen who clearly intended to kill and fled minutes after the assault.

Pakistan’s  Dawn newspaper says that a survivor of the attack recorded her statement before the police and said that the attackers entered the bus from the rear portion a few minutes after its departure. She added that the occupants of the bus thought that robbers had embarked on the vehicle. The assailants subdued the driver and separated (two) children from the others, the victims said and added that, “They told the passengers to keep their head low. One of the attackers situated in the rear side of the bus then ordered his associates to ‘shoot every one’ after which they indiscriminately targeted all passengers of the bus.”

We express our deep sorrow at this horrible tragedy and convey our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims and the entire Pakistan Jamat and pray for the souls of the deceased members of the Jamat. We pray for the recovery of those who have been injured from this senseless act.

Date posted: May 13, 2015.
Last updated: May 13, 2015, 23:40 (photo added).

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“Together-Ensemble”: The Amazing Aga Khan Foundation Exhibition on 18 Wheels – Interview and Photos

BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg

“Development is ultimately about people, about enabling them to participate fully in the process and to make informed choices and decisions on their futures.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam speaking in 2013, excerpt on a panel display at the exhibition.

Stephanie in front of the exhibition bus. Photo: Malik Merchant

Stephanie in front of the exhibition bus. Please watch her interview with Simerg, link at bottom of page. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Launched on April 27th, 2015, at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building by the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Khalil Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the collaborative exhibition of Global Development under the theme “Together” (French “Ensemble”) arrived at the city’s famed Le Breton neighbourhood, located by the new War Museum on Thursday, May 7, 2015 for a 7-day stop over.

I took an opportunity to visit the astonishing bus filled with educational and inspiring exhibits today (Sunday, May 10th), a much cooler day than the previous few days when the temperatures in the city had surged to 30 Celsius, not taking humidex into consideration. While thousands of local Ottawa residents and tourists were enjoying the marvellous and colourful annual tulip festival by Dow’s Lake, hundreds of parents with their children took to the Le Breton grounds to visit the Ottawa International Children’s Festival as well as take a tour of the exhibition in the “Together/Ensemble” bus, just metres away.

Before reaching the Aga Khan Foundation's magnificent Together bus, I was politely confronted by

Before reaching the Aga Khan Foundation’s magnificent Together bus, I was politely confronted by “a past British Monarch” who was measuring my loyalty to her rule. I excelled as a fine citizen, for which she offered to crown me with some kind of an Order named after the Ottawa’s River Parkway, a fine and scenic road running by the Ottawa River one hundred metres behind her! Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Together Exhibition Bus just metres away from  activity tents set up  for the Ottawa International Children's Festival. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Together Exhibition Bus just metres away from activity tents set up for the Ottawa International Children’s Festival. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A youth takes the time to view the interactive global map and test out his knowledge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

A youth takes the time to view the interactive global map and test out his knowledge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

A panel introducing the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and its  founder, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Foundation offices around the world are now agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, a global network created by His Highness the Aga Khan to serve millions on this planet in all areas of human endeavour.  Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A panel introducing the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and its founder, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Foundation offices around the world are now agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, a global network created by His Highness the Aga Khan to serve millions on this planet in all areas of human endeavour. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Children exchange their ideas and thoughts on global matters on these little leaves. They are invited to take away with them any leaf containing the though of another child. When the leaf is cut open at home it contains wild flower seeds that children can plant in their gardens. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Children exchange their ideas and thoughts on global matters on these little leaves. They are invited to take away with them any leaf containing the thought of another child. When the leaf is cut open at home it contains wild flower seeds that children can plant in their gardens. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A young child's aspirations and hopes for a better world:

A young child’s aspirations and hopes for a better world: “No hunger, child labour, everyone being treated equally.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another child, 8 year old Hannah Saikaley, describes her thoughts of helping others:

Another child, 8 year old Hannah Saikaley, describes her thoughts of helping others: “Donating food, money, drinks and clothes and by cleaning the earth.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another informative section of panels inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another informative section of panels inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The front of the Togther-Ensemble exhibition bus. Over the next 2 years, the bus will be travelling across Canada to highlight perspectives on Global Developments to thousands of Canadians. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. perspectives

The front of the Together-Ensemble exhibition bus. Over the next 2 years, the bus will be travelling across Canada and offer perspectives of Global Development to thousands of Canadians. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The centre panel is the actual width of the bus. The two side panels show the extensions for this bus, giving the exhibition space inside the bus the feel of an actual museum gallery. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

The back of the Together-Ensemble Bus. The centre panel is the actual width of the bus. The two side panels show the collapsible exhibition extensions on the bus, giving the space inside the bus the feel of an actual museum gallery. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Inside the bus, an exhibit. Photo: Malik Merchant/Malik

Voices of Change exhibit inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Malik

The

The “Together-Ensemble” Exhibition Bus at the Le Breton neighbourhood at the Canadian War Museum grounds. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A display inside the bus under the theme

A display inside the bus under the theme “Stronger Together.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Stephanie, coordinating the media on behalf of the Aga Khan Foundation, was eager to participate in an interview with me, though she felt before the interview that she was a little bit nervous. “Simerg is the first media I am talking to,” she explained. But any apprehension that she felt quickly dissipated as she enthusiastically explained the exhibition with all her charm and grace. Please watch her excellent interview by clicking on the link below.

Date posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015.

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We invite your feedback and comments. Please click Leave a comment.

Please also visit the Aga Khan Foundation Canada Website http://www.akfc.ca for more details and schedules about the Global Development Exhibition, which will be touring Canada in 2015/2016.

This piece has been simultaneously published under a different format at Simerg’s photoblog. Please click Photoessay and Interview: Aga Khan Foundation’s Unique Global Development Exhibition on 18 Wheels

Voices of Graduates: The Magnificent Aga Khan University Convocations in Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-es-Salaam

….The guiding rope
That God has cast
We hold fast to it
The pendulum moves

We Appreciate…Read More

PLEASE CLICK: “We Appreciate” – Poem and Voices from the Aga Khan University East Africa Convocations: Graduates and Families Speak About Hopes and Express Gratitude to University’s Founder, His Highness the Aga Khan
Dar-es-Salaam Procession

Fascinating Midwife and Nursing Stories from East Africa, as Mawlana Hazar Imam Arrives for Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremonies

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE
Special to Simerg

Midwives are frontline health care providers playing a vital role in reducing maternal mortality. The Aga Khan Hospital’s Nursing and Midwifery Service is committed to providing effective and efficient care to meet the needs of its patients. The Service delivers a high standard of patient care that is intended to exceed expectations of patients, families and the local community. Nurses are trained on a regular basis to cope with technological advances and societal complexities.Photo: The Aga Khan Hospital for Women, Karimabad

Midwives are frontline health care providers playing a vital role in reducing maternal mortality. The Aga Khan Hospital’s Nursing and Midwifery Service is committed to providing effective and efficient care to meet the needs of its patients. The Service delivers a high standard of patient care that is intended to exceed expectations of patients, families and the local community. Nurses are trained on a regular basis to cope with technological advances and societal complexities. Photo: The Aga Khan Hospital for Women, Karimabad

Editor’s note: In a recent piece for Simerg, Shariffa Keshavhejee enlightened our readers with The Amazing Story of Kundan Paatni: A Graduate of the Aga Khan Nursing School in Nairobi in the 1960s which included rare pictures of His Highness the Aga Khan. In this new exclusive essay, which coincides with the arrival of Mawlana Hazar Imam to East Africa to preside over the Aga Khan University Convocation in Dar-es-Salaam (February 24, 2015), Kampala (February 26), and Nairobi (March 2), Shariffa tells us contrasting tales of midwifery and nursing from decades earlier, including that of her own birth.

Midwife Noor Banu

My friend Mala Pandurang told me of an Ismaili Khoja midwife who delivered three of her children at home in Bukoba. She was called Noor Banu, the only Asian midwife in the locality. Mala’s search to get more information about Noorbanu at the British colonial office drew a blank. She is now looking at links from India to see if any of the midwives came from the  nursing institutions started by the British early 20th century. Child birthing was associated as unclean, and hence the Hindu women who joined these professions were of the lower castes. Mala also wants to know if any of the midwives were spinsters/widows.

Zarin Jivanjee and Midwife Asbaimasi

Zarin Jivanjee was born at home in 1943 in Nagara. Her house was a traditional Indian home with a fario (deck) in the center where all activities happened — drying clothes, lentils and making large amounts of food.  Midwife Asbaimasi came home. She was old, and well known even by prominent families such as Sir Eboo Pirbhai. Asbaimasi also prescribed herbal medicines for aches, pains, colds, digestive problems, rashes. In her window there was black thread. For each complaint. she would give a thread and a powder. She lived in River Road and had to be summoned at birth. There was a Dr.Anderson but the treatment given by Asbaimasi was more effective and preferred.

Shirinbai, Fatmabai, Roshankhanu and Khatibai

Shirinbai Juma born in 1934 in Jugu Lane. The midwife came home.

Fatmabai was born in Kathiawar, her family came from Harravad.  There was a bai who came to deliver at home. She was given five and a half rupees for delivery.

Roshankhanu Jiwa Nathoo was born in 1935 in Kisii. In Kisii too children were born at home The midwife was an old Nubian lady who was very well versed.

Khatibai Mohamed was born in Jugu Lane in the centre of Nairobi. She would go home and the staff would help with the hot water and cleaning up. If there was a miscarriage, she could not remember what would happen.

The Impact of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s Farmans

Portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. Photo: US Library of Congress.

Portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. Photo: US Library of Congress.

I was told by Dr. Sultan Somjee, the author of Bead Bai, that there was a farman (guidance) of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957) telling the Ismaili community to take up nursing and not to look down on the profession. Thereafter many Ismaili women trained as nurses that included midwifery. We called them collectively as naaras and not nurse. Fatma naaras was well known in Nairobi. Indeed Somji’s book begins with Birth Stories (Chapter II) told by midwife of old Nairobi, Jugu Bazaar. Now, the Aga Khan Hospitals/University have nursing as priority programmes.

The Story of Shirin

Shirin Cassam Keshavjee was inspired by the 48th Imam’s farman. She joined Witwatersrand University (Whits), South Africa, to train as a nurse and then as a midwife. However she could not practice nursing near her home, being a person of colour.

Fortunately for Shirin, she heard an announcement in the Pretoria Jamatkhana that they were looking to employ a nurse in the Aga Khan Clinic in Kisumu. Lucky for Shirin, her uncle, Habib Keshavjee, was off to East Africa with his family.

So Shirin joined Habib Keshavjee’s family for the trip. She came to Nairobi and proceeded to Kisumu to live with the family of my grandfather, Count Hasham Jamal. Here Shirin was to change the face of midwifery in the Nyanza District. She was the first ever qualified midwife.

She was appalled at the state of the women and the new born child. Her kind hearted and soft spoken manner brought mothers from all over the district of Nyanza, Homa Bay, Kindu Bay, Kissii, Kimlili, and all the way from Kampala too!

She explained early care of the child, sanitation, breast feeding, sterilization, diet of mother and child. Shirin then married my cousin, Amir Shamji. Thus began the liaison. Now there are five Keshavjees, married to five Jamals!! Shirin Shamji (nee Keshavjee) lives in Toronto.

A midwife in Upper Egypt holding a kulleh pot. Also known as the goollah, it is a porous water-jar of sun-dried Nile mud. Photo Credit: Winifred S. Blackman/ Wellcome Library Image, London.

A midwife in Upper Egypt holding a kulleh pot. Also known as the goollah, it is a porous water-jar of sun-dried Nile mud. Photo Credit: Winifred S. Blackman/ Wellcome Library Image, London.

‘Laxmi’ Jenab Nanjee

The following story was narrated by Jenab Nanjee to her daughter-in-law, Nuri Abdul, daughter of Madatali Suleiman Verjee

“I was born in Jugu Lane now called Gulzar Street on Sunday, August 20, 1930. It was my grandfather’s house, Madatali Suleiman Verjee. It  was customary to go to your parents house at the time of birth.

“My mother was in her final days of pregnancy. She was ready now to go to her parental home for Khoro Bharavo. Khoro is the lap. Bharavo is to make full. This is a ceremony filled with abundance on the lap of the new mother. A special prayer is recited and the expectant mother’s mother prepares a coconut and some sweet meats to take to Jamatkhana to make sacred this time of birth. The new mother usually wears green as a symbol of plenty and of happiness.

“A European nurse, a qualified midwife was asked to come home for delivery. This was a privilege of the wealthy. ( I wonder what happened to the not so wealthy)

“I was born on a Sunday. My grandfather was very happy and pleased that a ‘laxmi’, a daughter was born to his daughter. Sometimes a daughter was a bad omen. Suleiman Verjee saw this as a sign of prosperity. He gave me the first gursurdhi  jaggery mixed with water. A sweet drink to  bring sweetness into my life. He gave me the name of Jenab, a name of one of the wives of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (s.a.s).

“My mother and I stayed at my grandfathers house for a month. This was so that my mother could be helped with my first initial upbringing and that my mother would regain her strength. At this time the family visited my mother and she was given many gifts called ‘chati’.

“Customarily it was significant that Mrs Suleiman Verjee was given such good care, received many gifts and that she had the care of a qualified midwife. Jenub, now 82  lives in Nairobi.

“Now the course offered by Aga Khan University in East Africa is call Nursing and Midwifery. It leads the way in East Africa. It offers undergraduate, and graduate programmes as well as conversion and professional and continuing education courses.

“The nurses can achieve international standard, even when they are studying and are mothers. They study as they work.”

During his visit to East Africa in 2009, Mawlana Hazar Imam toured  some of the Hospital’s diagnostic services and specialist clinics.  Photo: AKDN

During his visit to East Africa in 2009, Mawlana Hazar Imam toured some of the Hospital’s diagnostic services and specialist clinics. Photo: AKDN

The Story of My Own Birth

I now share the story about my birth in Kisumu on June 1, 1946. We lived in Jamal Building facing Lake Victoria. The building was constructed on Main Street Station Road in 1945.

Now that she was full term, my mother Khatija had to move to the downstairs room. She could not deliver her baby in the upstairs room, where there was a great deal of traffic of the extended family. Besides older children Zeenat and Amina, she had a brother-in-law Amirkaka, sister-in-law Nasirbanu and of course her in-laws, Bapaji and Ma. The downstairs room was called ‘Nichlo room’.

It was already embarrassing moving down. In 1945, women or men never talked about pregnancy, welfare of the mother and so on. Expectant mothers were covered by a long dress and a pachedi (shawl) would be drawn over the head in the presence of Bapaji or any male relative.

So Khatija, my mum, was all prepared with clean sheets and extra americani sheeting for the baby. No early preparation was made for the baby. It was a bad omen to do so. No layette, no baby showers!!!

It was before 4 a.m on 1st June. Khatija hoped that Bapaji would go for his early morning prayers, so that she could ask my dad to get Sherabai Hirji, the midwife.

Sherabai was smart. She was also cheerful and kind. In her white uniform, she inspired confidence. She was very good at delivering but she did not keep medical notes such as the baby’s weight, height, and temperature. However, my mum was relieved to see the arrival of Sherabai, who was a friend and well known to the family. Seeing my mother out of bed she admonished,  “What are you doing out of bed? You are so close now, get into bed!”

As if to help, my mother said “Let me get the hot water and the sagri….open brazier, jiko.” She got another reprimand, “You are doing no such thing.” Sherabai organised the water, sheeting and towels. She was familiar with the household having brought into the world Amina and Nasirbanu just a few years earlier.

Thus I was born in the presence of midwife and nurse. Sherabai then organized a brick, which would be heated on the jiko and placed on the mother’s stomach to keep it in shape.

Sadly, I was yet another female child. This did not auger well for my mother, nor for the family. Nevertheless, there I was, plump and full of life, to be loved by all the family in Kisumu till a year later we moved to Mombasa.

Date posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015.

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee. 2015.

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Shariffa KeshavjeeAbout the writer: Shariffa Keshavjee is  a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.

Feedback: We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click Leave a comment or submit your letter to simerg@aol.com. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Links to a selection of articles by Shariffa Keshavjee on simerg and simergphotos:

  1. Bagamoyo’s Historic Ismaili Jamatkhana Through Pictures, Poetry and Prose
  2. Inferno of Alamut
  3. The Jamatkhana in Toronto — “A Seed of Faith Planted…” by Shariffa Keshavjee
  4. My Fascination with the Once “Exotic” World of Paan

Kundan Paatni: A Dedicated Nurse Shares Her Special Moments at the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi, in the 1960s

“To my overwhelming surprise the lift door opened on to the fifth floor where I was in charge. There they were, the Aga Khan and the President. I was honoured and awed. I felt like the luckiest person on earth. I met all the dignitaries and escorted them through the impeccable ward of which we were so proud.” — Kundanben Paatni

ESSAYS AND LETTERS: The Amazing Story of Kundan Paatni: A Graduate of the Aga Khan Nursing School in Nairobi in the 1960s

His Highness the Aga Khan and the late President Jomo Kenyatta visit the Aga Khan Hospital. Photo: Kundan Paatni Archives.

His Highness the Aga Khan and the late President Jomo Kenyatta visit the Aga Khan Hospital. Photo: Kundan Paatni Archives.

Aga Khan Museum’s “The Garden of Ideas” – A Fine Example of Collaboration and Partnership Between Artists, the Museum and Corporate Sponsors

“The Garden of Ideas” is a collection of fascinating, inspiring and vibrant works of art by a team of six Pakistani artists in the gallery spaces inside the Aga Khan Museum as well as outside in the Park. The exhibition received a major boost when three international corporate sponsors stepped in with a generous donation. The three sponsors, Aljomaih Group, Trimark Capital and Asharys are from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan respectively. Future sponsorships, along these lines, would immeasurably add to the hosting of other fine temporary exhibitions by outstanding local and international artists, and be a boon to the artistic community writes Malik Merchant of Simerg….Read more at Collaboration and Partnership Between Artists, the Aga Khan Museum and Corporate Sponsors

"Garden of Ideas" exhibition in the upper gallery of the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Please click for article.

“Garden of Ideas” exhibition in the upper gallery of the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Please click for article.

….AND FOR ONCE, ENTER THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM FROM THE INDOOR PARKING LEVEL AND BE WELCOMED BY ENCHANTING ART WORK

This magnificent display of ever changing panaromic display of images welcomes  visitors to the Aga Khan Museum as they enter its doors from the indoor parking garage. The parking level provides excellent resting facilities for Museum guests. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

This magnificent panoramic display of ever changing images welcomes visitors to the Aga Khan Museum as they enter its doors from the indoor parking garage. The parking level also provides excellent resting facilities for Museum guests. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.