A Reflection on the Land Grant Ceremony of the New World Class Aga Khan University Hospital to be Built in Uganda

Partnership for Change

Aga Khan and Musoveni at the Land Grant CeremonyBY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

The sacred space is set
The energy is invoked
The earth’s ochre red
Makes a path through the green.
Reflected in the Ismaili and Uganda flag
The logo of the university
Radiating, rippling outwards

Our world of rapid change
Meets in Uganda to break the ground
Nakawa is chosen to propel
the University Hospital

To reach beyond its borders
The frontiers of Science
Radiation ever outwards

Decades of decay at Mulago
A new seed of hope is planted
Pioneering pluralism
In Uganda’s rich soil
Revitalizing the land
For life long learning
Radiating ever outwards

Coat of Arms Uganda, AKU Logo, Flags Uganada and Ismaili ImamatThe President and Imam’s vision
Bringing to the region
Appropriate advanced Health Care
The people can access
Here at home the very best
The youth empowered to remain
Here at home to give their best practices
Expanding ever outwards

The people rejoice with lush voices
Their partners join hands to celebrate
This great milestone laid by the red bricks
That fulfills the words of the anthem
That ever propel outwards

Aga Khan Musoveni Kampala

Salute to the President and Imam for
Their vision, their respect
For national progress
Global standards of excellence
To be in the frontier of scientific
and humanistic knowledge

The best in the world
Propelling expanding ever outward
An emblematic crown over Uganda

Date posted: December 18, 2015.

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee/Simerg

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Nakawa – an area in the city of Kampala.
Mulago – The hospital located on Mulago Hill in Kampala.

Links to stories and videos of the Land Grant Ceremony of the new Aga Khan University Teaching Hospital to be built in Uganada:

Please also visit:
http://www.theismaili.org
http://www.akdn.org
http://www.ismailimail.wordpress.com.

Also, http://www.nanowisdoms.org is an excellent resource for speeches of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

Ismaili History: The Marco Polo Myth of the Assassins

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Major excavation activities have been underway for the past few years resulting in interesting archaeological discoveries. Here we see the legendary water basin which filled itself up by collecting rainwater and melting snow from channels and canals on the mountains. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright.

PULLING BACK THE SILK CURTAIN

“The Nizari [Ismailis] excelled in the fields of theology, philosophy, architecture and science, but their opponents demonized them as bloodthirsty extremist religious murderers…The returning Crusaders brought back the legend of the pothead assassins, partly because they loved to believe imaginative romantic tales of the East…In 1256, Genghis Khan’s grandson, Hulagu, destroyed the Nizali mountain castles, one at a time. Their political and military power was permanently broken (although today, some several million Nizalis still survive in some 25 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America).

Timeline

Timeline by Dr. Ali M. Rajput, Birmingham, England.

“In 1273, Marco Polo visited Alamut, and brought back the story of how hashish was used to attract potential killers…After, Dante was the first to use the word “assassin” in the 19th Canto of The Inferno in his Divine Comedy. The word “assassin” remained in various European languages, right through to Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code, who mentions the Assassins in his book, Angels and Demons. But there are a few reasons why the hashish-assassin myth is almost certainly wrong….If hashish is given in a large enough dose to cause unconsciousness, it will first cause nausea and hallucinations – which are usually very scary and unpleasant to the unsuspecting user.” — Excerpts from  Dr. Karl  S. Kruszelnicki’s “Hashish Assassin – Pulling Back the Silk Curtain”, broadcast on ABC Science Australia. Dr. Karl is Julius Sumner Miller Fellow, School of Physics, University of Sydney. 

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Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright.

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ETYMOLOGY

Nevertheless, the most acceptable etymology of the word assassin is the simple one: it comes from Hassan (Hassan ibn al-Sabbah) and his followers, and so had it been for centuries. The noise around the hashish version was invented in 1809, in Paris, by the French orientalist Sylvestre de Sacy, whom on July the 7th of that year, presented a lecture at the Academy of Inscriptions and Fine Letters (Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres) – part of the Institute of France – in which he retook the Marco Polo chronicle concerning drugs and this sect of murderers, and associated it with the word. Curiously his theory had great success and apparently still has…Jacques Boudet, in Les mots de l’histoire, Ed. Larousse-Bordas, Paris, 1998

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THE TRUTH IS DIFFERENT

[…] their contemporaries in the Muslim world would call them hash-ishiyun, “hashish-smokers”; some Orientalists thought that this was the origin of the word “assassin,” which in many European languages was more terrifying yet….the truth is different. According to texts Hassan-i Sabbah liked to call his disciples Asasiyun, meaning people who are faithful to the Asās, meaning “foundation” of the faith. This is the word, misunderstood by foreign travelers, that seemed similar to “hashish” — Amin Maalouf, in Samarkand, Interlink Publishing Group, New York, 1998

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Editor’s note: The following piece by Valerie Gonzalez has been adapted from her review of the book Eagle’s Nest – Ismaili Castles in Iran and Syria by the late Professor Peter Peter Wiley, who had spent nearly a lifetime discovering and investigating the Ismaili castles of Iran and Syria. Professor Wiley passed away on April 23, 2009, at the age 86. Valerie’s copyright piece originally appeared in REMMM (Issue 123|July 2008)  and was reproduced on this blog in full (see link below) with the kind permission of Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée.

DECONSTRUCTION OF THE MYTH

The Rock of Alamut.

The Castle of Alamut, nested on the top of the colossal mass of granite rock, became the centre of Nizari Ismaili activity after the fall of the Fatimid Empire. It is not until you come to the foot of this colossal mass of stone that you realize the immensity and impregnability of the fortress at its summit. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright. Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright.

By Valerie Gonzalez

Old myths are very difficult to deconstruct, even when historical evidence reveals the absurdity of their foundations. The infamous “assassin” legend that from the Middle Ages soils the memory of the Nizari Ismaili community is an example of this incorrigible defect of the collective consciousnesses. The image presented by both Christian and Muslim chroniclers of the Ismailis as unscrupulous terrorists is unfortunate if their sole fault lay in surviving as a distinct political and religious community within a hostile and troubled environment. The Crusaders, Sunnis and Seldjuk Turks naturally saw in this Shi’ite minority a threat to their establishment and expended great efforts in eliminating the Ismaili State from Iran and Syria. In addition to the pressures exerted by the great powers holding sway over the Middle East, in the 13th century, the Ismailis had to confront the Mongol threat which finally overwhelmed them. It is not wonder that in such a context they deployed the most efficient means of defense available to maintain not only the network of their strongholds and basis of their State, but also their faith and culture, the very sense of existence. In practice however, they were no more immoral or cruel than their contemporaries. They simply proved tremendously clever and obstinate in facing adversity and in struggling against forces vastly more powerful than their own. And it is probably for this reason that the Nizari Ismaili community were subject to demonization.

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Attaining the summit at Alamut is a breath-taking and exhilarating experience. The fortress complex, one soon discovers, sits astride a dangerously narrow ledge of rock resembling the handle and blade of a knife. The above is an open passage through the mountain. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright

Much scholarship was required to unravel the dark mystery of the medieval Ismaili community. Numerous historical essays and archeological reports, among them Fahrad Daftari’s extensive works, have provided an accurate view of the Ismailis within the Islamic tradition. But assuredly the latest release on the subject, Peter Willey’s book Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castles in Iran and Syria, brings invaluable new insights by accurately portraying the environment in which the life and struggles of the Ismaili faithful took place. There is no question but that this book offers a convincing tool for the deconstruction of the false myths which surround the cult of the Assassins.

Far from being the addicts of hashish (the word assassin is believed widely, but incorrectly, to derive from the word hashishin) and a band of murderous brigands, the Ismailis were highly intelligent and devout Muslims serving their own Imam or spiritual leader (the present Imam is the Aga Khan) and attempting to build a new and vigorous Islamic state independent of the Seljuqs who had conquered Iran in 1038 – Peter Willey, Geographical Magazine, UK, February 1998

More than a mere treatise on the archaeology of the Ismaili castles in Iran and Syria, Willey’s book shows multiple qualities. As an academic work, it fulfills its main objective which is to present the results of a meticulous description and observation of these fortified sites. The considerable amount of information contained in the volume reflects a near life-time of research devoted to the subject. Not a single pile of stones or rubble has escaped Willey’s acute attention, or skillful restoration in clear prose of the forbidding grandeur of the Ismaili military architecture. Each remaining element of structure is analyzed and appropriately re-situated in the initial order both of the architectural organization of the building itself and of its broader setting within the coherent chain of fortresses spread over Ismaili territories. The material and documentation at the author’s disposal, including building scale, purpose, population levels and strategic importance have been patiently collected in order to present a reliable picture of the complex network of Ismaili strongholds. Maps, ground plans, photographs and even artists’ impressions and drawings complete the written work together with four appendices which include the castles’ inventory, a list of Willey’s expeditions and two catalogues of the ceramic and coin artifacts dating from the Alamut Period found at the site.

As seen on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day and the National Geographic News a meteor's streak and the arc of the Milky Way hang over the imposing mountain fortress of Alamut in this starry scene. Photo: Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net . Copyright.

As seen on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day and the National Geographic News, a meteor’s streak and the arc of the Milky Way hang over the imposing mountain fortress of Alamut in this starry scene. Photo: Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net . Copyright.

Beyond the high quality scientific report based on the archaeological record, Eagle’s Nest offers a brilliant reconstitution of Ismaili material culture from an historical, intellectual and sociological point of view, from the 11th century through the Mongol destructions of the mid 13th century. Willey restitutes the very meaning of the architecture he studies through the history of its builders and inhabitants, pointing out the most significant events of their lifetimes and portraying the great spiritual and political leaders of the Ismaili community. Methodically and surely, Willey describes the intricate historical background of the Ismaili State in which multiple powers confronted or fought each other, including Seljuk Turks, ambitious Sunni and Shii’a rulers, Crusaders on the Mediterranean coast, to propose his own interpretation of the historical evidence. Where evidence lacks or where persistent misconceptions require redress, the author proposes and defends critical hypotheses. The historical and cultural dimension of Willey’ archaeological investigation is particularly enhanced by the presentation of certain situations and events as literary narratives, as he does in the beginning of chapter 2, “Hasan Sabbah and the Ismailis of Iran”. The passage in question relates the capture without bloodshed of the Alamut fortress under Seljuk authority and begins thus: “It was nearly noon on a hot day in the early summer of 1090. Mahdi, the lord of the castle of Alamut, was beginning to sweat a little” (p. 21). In this way, the author makes us relive the extraordinary event in a human atmosphere that is quite uncommon in scholarly works.

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A tribute to the great Ismaili dai, Hasan bin Sabbah who was responsible for establishing the Alamut state after the divisions in the Fatimid Empire led to its eventual demise. Hasan maintained that Imam Nizar and not Musteali was the rightful heir to Imam Mustansir billah, the 8th Fatimid Caliph. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright.

Willey’s sensitivity to humanistic values is perceptible throughout the book, not only through the telling of the past but also in the lively narration of the research trips themselves. First, he pays considerable attention to the actual environment of the castles he visits, their awesome natural frame and the rural or urban settings of the surroundings that are presented with delight and consideration. Although most of the time the Ismaili vestiges are ghost constructions in remote, isolated regions, they are not at all presented by Willey as still life portraits. Rather, each fortress is an element in a busy, human landscape. As an example, where appropriate Willey writes about agriculture and local conditions in the surrounding villages for fortresses located in rural areas. Also, the local population and individuals involved in Willey’s expeditions frequently are mentioned as actors in the archaeological narrative. In this way, Willey underscores the support of both his team and the local community in contributing to the success of his research. Particularly moving is his attitude toward the people who help him visit inaccessible locations under difficult conditions and various orders, especially his work partner Adrianne Woodfine. More broadly, the practical aspects of each journey, the general organization and unexpected situations and encounters are meticulously recounted so that the book offers the live texture of a human adventure together with its purely scholarly content.

It is often difficult to describe to friends the problems which the investigation of Ismaili castles present. They are built on the top of high mountains, covering the entire summit, and are normally surrounded by three defensive walls with numerous outworks. Most of the castles were destroyed by the Mongols and the ruins are dangerous and infested with snakes and scorpions on or under the stones or in the cracks of walls. The steep scree and sharp rocks are formidable, especially in the intense heat and altitude of over 2000 metres – Peter Willey, Geographical Magazine, UK, February 1998

Chapters 7 through 12 cover the various areas of the Iranian Ismaili strongholds. Willey naturally begins with the fortresses in the famous Alamut Valley of the Alborz Mountains, the fortress in which the infamous legend of the “Assassins” took place. Alamut fortress constituted the very heart of the Nizari State in Iran and was the seat of Hasan Sabbah. Alamut and its sister fortresses represented the epitome of Ismaili military science. Willey presents it with a rigorous method of sketching, measuring and enumeration of the construction’s features and structures, topography, architectural configuration, water equipment, cisterns, underground storage, garrison quarters and so on.

Alamut Potter Kilns

The pottery kilns in the valley of Andij in the Alamut valley. Some 15 kilns were discovered including good examples of contemporary ceramics. Photo: http://www.iis.ac.uk

The Alamut castle like many of the Ismaili strongholds contained facilities for religious activities and higher learning such as libraries. To support his observations, Willey quotes several times the Mongol historian, Juwayni, who witnessed the surrender of the Alamut fortress among other similar events. Although this chronicler was hostile to the Ismailis, his detailed reports offer an invaluable source of information. In particular he inspected the Alamut fortress’ interior prior to destruction and mentions, not without admiration, its remarkable facilities (p.100). Indeed, the sophistication of their architecture allowed the Ismailis to resist the fiercest attacks while ultimately succumbing to the formidable Mongol war machinery. Willey relates with great empathy for the desperate inhabitants the dramatic capture and systematic destruction of Alamut and other Ismaili strongholds. After Alamut, Willey investigates the other Iranian Ismaili castles of the regions of Qumes, Khorassan, Qohistan and in the surroundings of the Seldjuk capital Isfahan.

Willey terminates his book with a moving epilogue in which he shares a few of the thoughts, feelings and questions raised in his heart and mind by the exceptional fate of the Ismailis. He naturally mentions the remarkable endeavor of the Aga Khan’s organization for the development of both Ismaili and Islamic culture in continuation with the educational tradition of the community since the Middle Ages.

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Nevin Harji stands by an official road sign when she visited Alamut with husband Muslim. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. © Copyright

If, through such personal treatment, Willey hoped to clarify the historical issues surrounding Ismaili culture through the ages, he most assuredly succeeded. Eagle’s Nest unveils the extraordinary reality and humanity of the medieval Ismaili civilization, often hidden behind romantic images of remote ruins and the dark secrets contained behind crumbling walls. Finally, that Willey should communicate his deep affection for the countries he explored, particularly Iran, and the Ismaili themselves, is not the least quality of this book.

Date posted: December 14, 2015.

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Credits and notes:

1. The book review originally appeared in REMMM (Issue 123|July 2008) and was reproduced on this web site with the kind permission of Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée under the title Voices: Unravelling the Dark History of the Medieval Ismaili Community

2. Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castles in Iran and Syria, by Peter Willey, published by I.B. Tauris, 2005, London – New York, 321 pages, hard back. Approximate prices in Canada, USA and the UK (at Chapters.ca $45.00 – $61.00; at Amazon.com $37.00 – $58.00; new at Borders.com $58.00, at Amazon.co.uk Pounds 9.95 – 21.25, note price range based on used – new book)

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Glimpses of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Global Travels and Work in 2015

PLEASE CLICK: The 2015 Travels and Accomplishments of the Global Humanitarian and Spiritual Leader, His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on image for the first part of a special 3-part series on His Highness the Aga Khan's Work and Travels in 2015.

Please click on image for the first part of a special 3-part series on His Highness the Aga Khan’s Work and Travels in 2015.

The Nile: Its Role in the Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Fatimid Dynasty During its Rule of Egypt

BY DELIA CORTESE

Please click on image for Delia Cortese's article

Please click on this night time NASA image of the Nile for Delia Cortese’s article on the Fatimids

Please read the PDF version of this article in History Compass at the Wiley Online Library by clicking on the above image or http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hic3.12210/pdf.

Abstract (from History Compass): The Fatimids have been consistently studied as powerful contenders in the commercial and political control of the Mediterranean Sea. It is therefore surprising to find that only passing attention has been paid so far to the use of the Nile the Fatimids made as the ‘avenue’ through which goods from Africa and the Indian Ocean could be transported from Upper Egypt, to Cairo, then Alexandria and from there distributed to other Mediterranean ports. My argument in this paper is that the imperial aspirations of the Fatimids in Cairo and beyond were in many ways dependant on the unpredictability of the natural cycles that are characteristic of the river to this day but also on the Fatimids’ success or failure in politically and economically managing the varied social, political and trading activities that took place along the Egyptian section of the Nile valley. Beside commercial navigation, throughout the history of Egypt during the Fatimid period, the river was used for transport of people, water supply, the staging of state rituals and parades, as holiday destination for the imam-caliphs and their courts but also as a vehicle through which pilgrims form various regions of the Islamic world continued to penetrate Egypt whilst back and forth on their way to Mecca.

Read article in History Compass at the Wiley Online Library. Please click: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hic3.12210/pdf.

Date posted: December 6, 2015

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Pomp and Celebration in Fatimid Egypt During the Flooding of the Nile

BY THE LATE JOHN FEENEY

“When the Nile reached its peak, the golden parasol was unfurled, trumpets sounded, and the caliph, mounted and clothed in sapphires and emeralds, emerged to the wonderment of his subjects…it was difficult for many spectators to catch even a brief glimpse of the passing caliph. But the very act of seeing him, it was believed, conveyed blessings upon the beholder.”

This pair of true-and false-color images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer was acquired on June 3, 2002. For thousands of years, the lower Nile valley (northern end) has been a cradle of civilization. Surrounded by deserts, the Nile river brings much—needed water to the land and people, making the valley into an oasis of agriculture and life. At its delta at the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile broadens into a large fan-shaped delta. All of Egypt’s large cities fall along the Nile, which sustains life in a region of scant rainfall. Photo Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Flowing out of a barren desert, from a source “beyond all known horizons,” the Nile had baffled the world for thousands of years. Regular as sun and moon, in the middle of burning summer, without a drop of rain in sight, when all other rivers on earth were drying up, for no apparent reason at all, the Nile rose out of its bed every year, and for three months embraced all of Egypt.

The ancient Egyptians knew when the flood would come, almost to the hour, but they never knew how much water it would bring to irrigate their fields. Egypt’s prosperity depended not only on the flood but also upon the accurate measurement of its height, for on that depended the allotment of water to its many users and the taxes they would have to pay in the coming year.

In the Middle Ages, each day during flood-time, the town crier walked the streets of Cairo announcing to the city the height of the rising Nile, although in drier years the actual height might be kept secret for fear of causing financial panic. “Twelve cubits today and the Lord is bountiful. God hath given abundance and watered the high fields,” he would say, to which a boy accompanying the crier would reply in his high-pitched voice, “Bless ye Muhammad.”

…The river having reached its anxiously awaited peak, preparations were made for the annual ‘Procession to the Nile.’ In 1047, the visiting Persian scholar Nasir Khosrau left a particularly rich description of the annual Fatimid procession celebrating the Nile’s inundation of Egypt.

For this great occasion, he wrote, the caliph [Imam al-Mustansir Billah] went personally to his treasury to select his symbolic regalia: parasol, turban, sceptre and sword. The sound of the palace band, which would accompany the procession, was so enormous that for three days before the event, massed drums and trumpets played continuously in the palace stables to accustom the animals to the noise. The job of decking out the processional route fell to the jewelers and tailors of the city, and this, too, always took three days and nights to arrange.

When the Nile reached its peak, the golden parasol was unfurled, trumpets sounded, and the caliph, “mounted and clothed in sapphires and emeralds,” emerged to the wonderment of his subjects.

Amidst clouds of incense, the procession of 10,000 men on horses moved off toward the great gate of Bab Zuwaylah, and beyond it to the flooding Nile.

From the surrounding rooftops, joining the din of drums, clashing cymbals and trumpets, “which sounded like thunder,” came choruses of the women’s ululations, “made by holding one hand under the nose and waggling the tongue in mid-scream.”

Leading the great procession were the sons and soldiers of the caliph’s princes (amirs). Then came the “amirs of the silver rods,” their symbols of office hung with little silver bells that jingled as they marched. Next came the “amirs of the collar,” two bearers of “the standards of praise,” and bearers of the symbolic inkstand and sword. Next came the mounted caliph surrounded by “men of the stirrup,” two at his horse’s bit, two at the neck, two at the stirrups, with the “commander of commanders” holding the caliph’s whip. The bearer of the golden parasol “took care to keep the caliph shaded from the sun,” while strategically placed in front of the caliph’s horse were two designated fly-swatters.

Amidst such a vast assembly of courtiers and crowd, it was difficult for many spectators to catch even a brief glimpse of the passing caliph. But the very act of seeing him, it was believed, conveyed blessings upon the beholder.

In both ancient and medieval Egyptt a nilometer was used to record how high the Nile was during the year. The nilometer was a staircase that proceeded down into the Nile with marks on it so the Egyptians knew how far the river rose. Image: TourEgypt.net

On reaching the Isle of Rhoda, the caliph dismounted, and the ceremony of anointing the Nilometer began. A mixture of saffron and mastic was handed to an official. Still in his clothes, he plunged into the flood-water and hung by his legs around the measuring column, dabbing on the perfumed mixture as readers above recited verses from the Qur’an.

The caliph went on to attend the opening of the “Canal of Egypt” (Al-Khalij al-Misri), which was kept dammed with stagnant water during the river’s winter months. At the canal, one of the caliph’s most magnificent silk tents was ready to give him protection from the summer sun. (Fatimid tents, transported on the backs of many camels, were portable palaces that took seven to nine years to make.) Amid more trumpet fanfares, the caliph thrust a spade onto the winter earthen dam and at once diggers attacked the dam with their hoes, cutting a series of narrow trenches across its surface. The impatient floodwaters quickly took over, eroding deeper channels, washing the dam completely away, and within an hour the life-giving flood reached the heart of all Cairo.

[Today] The Nile flood still comes, of course, but no one in Egypt sees it. Instead, it is contained in the immense inland sea called Lake Nasser, behind the Aswan High Dam. Here, Nile water collected year by year is led along neat narrow canals as unobtrusively as water coming out of a bathroom tap.

ISS025-E-09858

One of the fascinating aspects of viewing Earth at night is how well the lights show the distribution of people. In this view of Egypt, we see a population almost completely concentrated along the Nile Valley, just a small percentage of the country’s land area. The Nile River and its delta look like a brilliant, long-stemmed flower in this astronaut photograph of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea, as seen from the International Space Station. The Cairo metropolitan area forms a particularly bright base of the flower. The smaller cities and towns within the Nile Delta tend to be hard to see amidst the dense agricultural vegetation during the day. However, these settled areas and the connecting roads between them become clearly visible at night. Likewise, urbanized regions and infrastructure along the Nile River becomes apparent . This astronaut photograph (ISS025-E-9858) was acquired on October 28, 2010, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 16 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 25 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. Credit: NASA

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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, recently past the halfway mark of his one-year mission to the International Space Station, photographed the Nile River during a nighttime flyover on Sept. 22, 2015. Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) wrote, “Day 179. The #Nile at night is a beautiful sight for these sore eyes. Good night from @space_station! #YearInSpace.” Image Credit: NASA

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John Feeney (d. 2006)

About the writer: The late New Zealand born filmmaker, photographer and writer John Feeney was among the early developers of wide-screen and large-format film techniques. For over 4 decades from 1963 onwards until his death in Wellington in 2006 at the age of 84, he divided his time between residences in Cairo and New Zealand. His piece (images excepted) is adapted from “The Last Nile Flood” which originally appeared in the May/June 2006 print edition of Saudi Aramco World, a publication to which Feeney regularly contributed for some 35 years.

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Related articles on this Website:

Cairo in the Light of Nasir Khusraw’s Safarnama by Hatim Mahamid
“Riding Forth to Open the Canal” with Nasir Khusraw by Alice Hunsberger

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A Spiritual Father’s Love for His Community: The 79th Salgirah (Birthday) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“When I leave this evening I would like that you should remember two things. One, that I will take with me in my heart the remembrance of each and everyone of you, the face of each and everyone of you. Secondly, that my love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this…you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, Karachi, December 26, 1964.

Photo_AKDN_Anya Campbell

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.

Spread in various countries around the world, the Shia Imami Ismailis have their own innumerable ways for celebrating important religious occasions according to their various cultural, social and religious traditions and backgrounds. One very important occasion in the annual calendar of the Ismailis is the Salgirah, or the birthday of their spiritual leader (Imam). His Highness the Aga Khan is their present Imam, and Ismailis around the world will be marking his 79th Salgirah on December 13, 2015. The following readings will enhance the readers’ understanding about the occasion as well as the special relationship that binds the Imam of the Time with his spiritual children.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Salgirah and the Depth of His Love for the Jamat

The term Salgirah is of Persian origin. Sal means anniversary and girah means knot and hence Salgirah literally means ‘an anniversary knot added on to a string kept for the purpose’. This article approaches the subject of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s birthday in terms of the Imam’s love for his murids and the love and devotion of the murids for their Imam.

In Salgirah Ginan Pir Sadr al-Din Asks Mu’mins to Act Righteously and Gain Spiritual Recognition of Imam-e-Zaman

+ Listen to ginan at Ginan Central

Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano has attained a very special status because it is primarily recited during the festivities marking the birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The appropriateness of reciting the ginan during Salgirah will become apparent as we try to understand the ginan and its underlying spiritual teachings. To listen to various renditions of Eji Dhan Dhan (#160),  as well as over 760 other ginans please click http://ginans.usask.ca/recitals/ginans.php?id=0.

The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”

The new Ismaili Constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by His Highness the Aga Khan on December 13th, 1986, his 50th birthday. His Highness did this with the belief that the Constitution would provide a strong institutional and organizational framework for his Ismaili community to contribute meaningfully to the societies among whom they live.

His Highness the Aga Khan and the Ismailis

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On the occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 75th birthday on December 13, 2011, Simerg published a three-part photo essay tribute to the 49th Ismaili Imam. For those who may have missed, the series has been consolidated into a captivating one piece photo essay, which can be read by clicking on the above link.

Date posted: November 28, 2015.

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Congratulations to the Rt. Honourable Justin Trudeau, the new Prime Minister of Canada: For Ugandan Ismaili refugees, he reminds them of the glory days when his father and the Aga Khan facilitated their settlement in Canada

BY VALI JAMAL
Kampala, Uganda
(Special to Simerg)

Justin Trudeau has a special moment with his mother, Mrs. Margaret Trudeau, before the searing in ceremony. Photo: Sgt. Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall.

Mr. Justin Trudeau has a special moment with his mother, Mrs. Margaret Trudeau, before the swearing in ceremony. Photo: Sgt. Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall.

The remarkable victory by Justin Trudeau in the Canadian Federal Election held last month, and his momentous swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall on November 4, 2015, as Prime Minister of Canada, has resonated with Uganda-origin Ismailis everywhere for the role played by his father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919 – 2000), in the settlement of 7,000 of them after the expulsion of 1972.

Please click on photo for enlargement

The swearing-in ceremony of the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, seated 5th from left, and his cabinet took place at Rideau Hall. The Governor General of Canada, the Rt. Honourable David Johnston, is seated next to the Prime Minister. Photo: The website of the Governor General of Canada.

The swearing-in ceremony of the new Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, seated 5th from left, and his cabinet took place at Rideau Hall on Wednesday November 4, 2015. The ceremony was presided by the Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable David Johnston, who is is shown in the photo on the right of  the Prime Minister. Photo: Sgt. Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall

This is the first time in Canadian history that a child of a former Prime Minister has followed in the footsteps of his father, and taken the top job in the country. The Liberals got a majority of 180 seats, but more, their victory signals a 180 degree turn from the divisive politics of the Conservative government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the presence of his Cabinet delivers a statement in front of the Rideau Hall facade. Photographer: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the presence of his Cabinet delivers a statement in front of the Rideau Hall facade. Photographer: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall.

In his address the newly sworn Prime Minister stated: “Canada is strong not in spite of its diversity, but because of it, and we are committed to bringing new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa. We also made a commitment to pursue our goals with a renewed sense of collaboration. Most importantly, we will be a government that governs for all Canadians and brings Canadians together.” These are significant words.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was plunged into a selfie ocean as he and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, mingled with the crowd outside Rideau Hall after the swearing ceremony. Photo: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was plunged into a selfie ocean as he and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, mingled with the crowd outside Rideau Hall after the swearing ceremony. Photo: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall.

To me, today’s grand event of Justin Trudeau taking the oath as Prime Minister was also “back to the past”, 1972, when Canada admitted so many of us Uganda Asians under the leadership of his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. For me, too, as an Ismaili, the 1972 expulsion is special because of the role my spiritual leader, His Highness the Aga Khan, played in the resettlement of the expellees in Canada, with Pierre Elliot Trudeau, no less, and because of the role played by his uncle Prince Sadruddin as head of UNHCR in taking the last of the Uganda expellees to refugee centres in Europe.

Our success in settling down in Canada led to Canada enshrining Multiculturalism in Canada’s laws in 1987, and to His Highness the Aga Khan siting the Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada.

There were around 65,000 Asians in Uganda at the time of the 1972 expulsion. The British papers racheted it up to 80,000 based on the census of 1969, not realizing that over ten thousand had crept away to UK to beat immigration quotas, and thirty thousand or so had non-British nationalities, including 15-20,000 Ugandans.

Asian refugees boarding a plane at Kampala's Entebbe airport after Idi Amin's edict in 1972 cleansing Uganda of its Asian citizens and residents. Photo: Government of Canada archives.

Asian refugees boarding a plane at Kampala’s Entebbe airport after Idi Amin’s edict in 1972 cleansing Uganda of its Asian citizens and residents. Photo: Government of Canada Archives.

The UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath, started calling up all Commonwealth Premiers to help with the crisis. Australia said they would not budge from their “White Australia” policy. India and Pakistan said, sure, they’d take their 10,000 nationals but not UK passport-holders. USA said they would accept 1,500 Asians “on parole” – i.e. without going through their immigration processes. The British passport-holders in fact didn’t want to go anywhere except Britain, viewing the expulsion as a blessing in disguise for short-circuiting the never-ending voucher system of the British. Britain eventually accepted responsibility for their 30,000 subjects.

Edward Heath’s pleas fell on receptive ears in Canada. Within a week of the expulsion notice, departmental meetings were held in Ottawa to respond to the Uganda Asian crisis and within a fortnight the Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, announced at the parliament that Canada was ready to accept “without numerical limitation those Asians who meet the immigration selection criteria.” His Highness the Aga Khan contacted Mr. Trudeau to negotiate with him how many refugees Canada would accept. In the end Canada admitted around 7,000, one-third non-Ismailis.

Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan pictured with Ugandan Asian refugees at the Naples refugee centre. Photo: Vali Jamal Collection. Copyright.

Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan pictured with Ugandan Asian refugees at the Naples refugee centre. Photo: Vali Jamal Collection. Copyright.

The Aga Khan family played another significant role in the expulsion story in the form of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (uncle of His Highness) as head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. At the last week of the expulsion deadline there were still around 6,000 Asians in Uganda who wanted to make a go of their verified citizenship or who were handicapped and had failed getting into any country. UNHCR quietly let it be known that they’d take away any Asian wanting to leave. Prince Sadruddin personally visited several UNHCR centres and managed to resettle all the 6,000 or so Uganda Asian refugees in a score of countries within a year.

I have recorded the expulsion drama of the Ugandan Asians in a major well-researched and exhaustive work of around 1700 pages which is expected to be published next spring. I am just so pleased my book will come out under a compassionate administration in Canada, one that holds fast to the tenets of multiculturalism.

FLASHBACKS 25 YEARS APART

[I] THE SILVER JUBILEE OF HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN (1982-1983)

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A unique and historical photo signed by the late Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, which was taken in the Prime Minister's Office during Mawlana Hazar Imam's Silver Jubilee visit to Canada in April 1983. (l to r) - Hon. Sec Farouk Verjee (National Council), Mr. Gerry Wilkinson (His Highness the Aga Khan's Secretariat, Aiglemont, France), Hon. Sec Mohamed Manji (Ontario Council), President Amirali Rhemtulla (Grants Council), Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan, President Mehboob Dhanani (Ontario Council) and President Zulficar Lalji(National Council). Canada. The full signature line note from the Prime Minister read: To Farouk with the best of Memories . Trudeau. 1983. Photo: Photo: Farouk Verjee Collection, Vancouver,

A unique and historical photo signed by the late Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, which was taken in the Prime Minister’s Office during Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan’s Silver Jubilee visit to Canada in April 1983. (l to r) – Hon. Sec Farouk Verjee (National Council), Mr. Gerry Wilkinson (His Highness the Aga Khan’s Secretariat, Aiglemont, France), Hon. Sec Mohamed Manji (Ontario Council), President Amirali Rhemtulla (Grants Council), Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan, President Mehboob Dhanani (Ontario Council) and President Zulficar Lalji(National Council). Canada. The full signature line note from the Prime Minister read: To Farouk with the best of Memories . Trudeau. 1983. Photo: Photo: Farouk Verjee Collection, Vancouver.

[II] AND TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER…THE GOLDEN JUBILEE (2007-2008)

Justin Trudeau greets His Highness the Aga Khan as he arrives in Ottawa, Canada, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 2008. Looking on are Senator Mubina Jaffer, left, and MP Yasmin Ratansi. Mr. Trudeau was then an MP for his Papineau riding in the Quebec. Photo: The Ismaili.

Justin Trudeau greets His Highness the Aga Khan as he arrives in Ottawa, Canada, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 2008. Looking on are Senator Mubina Jaffer, left, and MP Yasmin Ratansi. Mr. Trudeau was then an MP for his Papineau riding in the Quebec. Photo: The Ismaili.

Date posted: November 4/5, 2015.
Date last updated: November 8, 2015 (new photo at top)

For more photos and reports please visit the websites of the Governor General of Canada at http://www.gg.ca and the Prime Minister of Canada at http://www.pm.gc.ca.
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Dr. Vali Jamal

Dr. Vali Jamal

About the writer: Vali Jamal has a BA from Cambridge (Trinity College) and a PhD from Stanford. He was a Senior Economist with UN-International Labour Organization from 1976 to 2001. He lives in Kampala, Uganda. As noted above in his piece, his mammoth illustrated work on the Ugandan Asians will be released next spring.

We welcome your feedback on Vali Jamal’s piece. Please click Leave a comment.

Memorable Photos, Quotes and Messages of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III

IRRESPECTIVE OF AGE, THE ISMAILI IMAM’S STATUS IS EXALTED

“O Jamat do not consider me small. I am the descendant of the Prophet and my grandfather is Hazrat Amirul Mominin (Hazrat Ali) and my grandmother is Khatoon-e-Janat (the Lady of Paradise) Hazrat Bibi Fatima. I am the Light (Nur) of both Hazrat Ali and the Prophet (Muhammad). Though young in age I am exalted. We Imams change the physical bodies in this world but our Nur is eternal and originates from the very beginning. You should therefore take it as one Nur. The Light of God is ever present. The Throne of the Imamat of Mawlana Murtaza Ali continues and it will remain till the Day of Judgement.” — Quoted in “Le Renovation du Shiisme Ismailien en Inde et au Pakistan” by Michele Boivien. Click to Read More in a Special Photo Essay.

Reverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan III. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan

Reverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan III. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan. Please click on photo for article on the Jubilees.

In about 20 months, on July 11, 2017, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (addressed as Mawlana Hazar Imam by his Ismaili community) will, inshallah, complete 60 years of his reign as the 49th hereditary Imam of his worldwide followers. He became the Imam upon the death of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who had reigned the community for 72 years, having become the 48th Imam in August 1885 at the age of 7. The quotes mentioned at the top of this post refer to his young age when he became Imam. He was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877.

The late Imam went on to describe his own Diamond Jubilee, 60 years of Imamat, as an “incomparable occasion.” In this piece, we mark Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s 138th birth anniversary (which falls on November 2, 2015) with a collection of memorable photos, messages and quotes, particularly as they relate to his Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees that the Ismailis celebrated during his life time.

PLEASE CLICK: Photo Essay: The Historical Jubilees of His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), the Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution

Date posted: November 1, 2015.

His Highness the Aga Khan on the Imamat and the Unity of Mankind; Id-e-Ghadir – The Designation of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) as Commander of the Faithful

Mawlana Hazar Imam thanking the government for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent Seat in Portugal. TheIsmaili/Gary Otte

Mawlana Hazar Imam thanking the government of Portual for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent Seat in the country. Photo: TheIsmaili/Gary Otte. See text of agreement, click on note 4 below.

“The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.” [1]

~~~

“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.

“…As you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Quran which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”

“I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.” [2]

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Id-e-Ghadir

The twelve months of the Muslim calendar and major Muslim festivals. Image by Simerg.

The twelve months of the Muslim calendar and major Muslim festivals. Image by Simerg.

‘Id-e-Ghadir is celebrated by the Shi ‘ite communities to mark the event that took place at Ghadir Khumm (Valley of the Pond) on the 18th Dhul-Hijjah (which falls on September 30 or October 1 in 2015). This event commemorates the designation (appointment by way of nass) of Hazrat All as the ‘Amir-ul-Mu’minin (commander of the faithful) and Imamul-Muslimin’ (the Imam of the community of believers) at Ghadir-i Khumm when the Prophet (s.a.s.) was returning from his Last Pilgrimage (hajjatul-wida) in the year 632 AC. On this occasion, the Prophet publicly proclaimed Ali to be his successor [3] in guiding the community after the end of the institution of Nubuwwah. According to the Shi’a doctrine, tradition and interpretation of history, the designation of Hazrat Ali marked the beginning of the institution of Imamah. The designated Imam was to continue the ta’wil (interpretation) and talim (teaching) of Allah’s Final Message, i.e. the Holy Qur’an.

This stamp, issued by Iran in 1990, includes the Shahada, Qur'anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir-e Khumm

This stamp, issued by Iran in 1990, includes the Shahada, Qur’anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir-e Khumm “Mun Koontu Mawla, Fa Hada, Aliyun Mawla” (He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla). Image not exact stamp size.

Accordingly, throughout the course of the history, the Shi’a have commemorated this occasion as a mark of recognition and acceptance of Allah’s mercy to mankind by bestowing continued guidance. Each Imam, since the time of Hazrat Ali has designated his successor. The Imam in his time has continued to guide his followers according to the prevailing conditions. His function has always been to look after the welfare of the community both in spiritual and worldly (material) matters. His guidance to his followers is that they should lead their lives in such a way so as to practice their Faith with a sense of balance and harmony, ensuring that there is no conflict between the two aspects of an individual’s life. The practice of the Faith thus becomes the way of life.

Presently, the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims celebrate the day of accession of their present Imam to the office of Imamah as Yaum-e Imamat or Imamat Day. This occasion is celebrated as a mark of gratitude to Allah in having bestowed His mercy and bounty in guiding them through the office of the Imam on Sirat al-Mustaqim (the Straight Path).

Date re-posted: September 30, 2015 (The Id-e-Ghadir article had first appeared on this blog in 2013, and has been adapted from Ilm magazine, December 1989).

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Notes

[1] Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale (English translation)

[2] In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

[3] Vagglieri, Ghadir Khumm, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol II, E.J. Brill, 1965, pp. 993-994

[4] “Seat of the Ismaili Imamat” — Text of the Historic Agreement Between the Ismaili Imamat and the Portuguese Republic.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visit to Los Alamos Lab On Thanksgiving Day 56 Years Ago Impressed Scientific Hosts, and Revealed He Was In Top Physical Condition

The 49th Ismaili Imam

“Friendly, smiling and interested in everything he saw, the Aga Khan impressed his scientific hosts on every phase of the medical research. He manifested particular interest in the Laboratory’s work in tissue culture and its potential for cancer research, in the genetic effects of both radiation and inbreeding in mouse colonies, the use of radioactive isotopes in diagnostic medicine, and the possibilities of using whole body counters for studying the problems of aging.

“The Moslem leader eagerly donned the required surgeon’s scrub suit to be measured in the Laboratory’s whole body counter and appeared gratified to learn that his high potassium content indicated top physical condition.” — Excerpt from “NASL Community News”

aga-khan-iv-in-surprise-visit1

The Aga Khan, seen with Dr. Thomas Shipman, showing immense delight of gift of trinite presented to him during his visit to the Health Research Laboratory in Las Alamos, California, in November 1959

Official News Release of the Aga Khan's Visit to the Lab

OFFICIAL NEWS RELEASE OF THE AGA KHAN’S VISIT TO THE LAB ON THANKSGIVING DAY, NOVEMBER 27, 1959

The following is the transcript:

Los Alamo, New Mexico, November 27, 1959: A surprise Thanksgiving Day visit was paid to the health research center of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) by Aga Khan IV, youthful spiritual leader of 20,000,000 Moslems in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The 23-year-old Imam of the Shiah Moslem Ismalli sect is currently touring medical institutions throughout the United States with the purpose of raising money to support a surgical wing in a hospital which he established in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa last year. His trip to Los Alamos was an offshoot of a two-day visit to Dr. Randolph Lovelace, head of the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque.

Hosts of the Moslem dignitary for the Laboratory were Dr. Thomas L. Shipman and Dr. Wright Langham of the LASL health division. They greeted the Aga Khan at 9:20 am at the Los Alamos airstrip and spent two hours demonstrating to him the cancer research facilities of the biomedical building. The visitors returned by plane to Albuquerque at 11:00 am.

Accompanying the Aga Khan to Los Alamos were Dr. Lovelace; Dr. Thomas Rees, plastic surgeon associated with Cornell Medical School; Michael Curtis, a traveling companion; and Madame Buguel, private secretary.

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A report of the visit appeared in “NASL Community News” on December 3, 1959, Volume 1 Number 24, under the heading “YOUNG AGA KHAN TOURS HEALTH LAB ON SURPRISE THANKSGIVING VISIT.” See below for images of the report, and click each image on this page for enlargement.

Aga Khan IV Los Alamos Lab Visit News Report page 1

continuation of above news report

Last updated: September 25, 2015.

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NOTES

1. About Los Alamos (from Wikipedia)

In a study conducted by American City Business Journals in 2004, Los Alamos County topped the list as the best place to live in America in terms of quality of life. This was attributed to the high levels of job stability, income and education of Los Alamos residents, many of whom are employed as scientists and engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The county has one of the highest number of PhDs per capita and the median household income of $78,993 per year is the fourth highest among all the counties in the US. In per capita income, Los Alamos County ranks 1st in New Mexico and 18th in the United States. Other factors contributing to Los Alamos’s high quality-of-life index were the access to affordable housing and short commuting times.

2. Source of article of the Aga Khan’s Visit:

http://www.lanl.gov/

(This piece had appeared on this website earlier – ed.)