Ismaili Muslims in Richmond, Virginia, Celebrate Official Opening of Glen Allen Jamatkhana

Glen Allen Jamatkhana opening
Photo: Tom Lappas/Henrico Citizen. Please click on image for article.

The nearly 1000 members of the Ismaili Muslim Jamat (community) residing in and around Richmond, Virginia, have a new 12,780 square foot Jamatkhana in Glen Allen, in Henrico County. The official opening of the Jamatkhana took place on May 6, 2022. Glen Allen is 13 kilometres from Richmond, the state capital, and 141 kilometres (appx. 88 miles) south of the US capital, Washington, DC. In a fine piece for the Henrico Citizen, Tom Lappas reports on the Jamatkhana opening. He notes that the Ismaili Jamat in Richmond is composed of members from Africa, South Asia, Syria as well as Afghanistan. Sitting on three acres of space, the Jamatkhana building was extensively madeover, and now reflects traditional Islamic geometric designs. It houses a room for prayer (the Jamatkhana itself), as well as classrooms, meeting rooms and an interfaith room for family members who are not Ismailis. Please read and listen to the piece by Tom Lappas by clicking New Jamatkhana for Ismailis in Glen Allen. Lappas is the founder and publisher of T3 Media, LLC, the parent company of the Henrico Citizen and HenricoCitizen.com.

Date posted: May 12, 2022.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Utah’s Deseret News – the Historic News Component of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Reflects on Eid ul-Fitr in the Context of its Management’s Visit to the Ismaili Centre Dubai

Ismaili Centre Dubai Photo Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Aaron Sherinian
Ismaili Centre Dubai. Please click on photo for article in the Deseret News

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and SimergphotosBarakah

Having lived in Salt Lake City in 1979-80, I would turn to the award winning Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News for my daily and weekend news. Deseret News, the longest-running news organization in Utah, is a subsidiary of the Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

I have often turned to the two papers’ on-line editions to catch up with news on Salt Lake City, my favourite city in the world for two main reasons — the inspiration it gave me to truly appreciate nature and also by the way the city and its people, and especially the professional group of people I worked with, instilled in me a good work ethic and self-confidence during my very early years in the IT field. That along with Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s blessings, have enabled me to cope with life’s ups and downs and everything it has thrown in my way — good as well as challenging — pretty well.

On May 2, while I joyously celebrated Eid ul-Fitr with the Ismaili Muslim community at Calgary’s Westwinds Jamatkhana, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a piece in Deseret News entitled “Breaking the fast: Today is Eid ul-Fitr, an occasion of peace” containing beautiful photos of the Ismaili Centre Dubai. Apparently, Aaron Sherinian, the author of the article along with photographer Jefferey D. Alfred were part of a team from Deseret Management that visited the Ismaili Centre recently. I invite readers to click Ismaili Centre Dubai or on any of the the two photos on this page to view the beautiful photos in the Deseret News.

Ismaili Centre Dubai Photo Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Aaron Sherinian
Please click on photo to read article in Utah’s Deseret News. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

While on the subject of Utah’s newspapers, may I draw the readers’ attention to a piece published on this website on the 48th Ismaili Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s historic visit to the USA in 1907. The visit was covered in a number of American newspapers including the Salt Lake Tribune. Please click Historical American Newspapers on His Highness the Aga Khan’s ‘Incognito’ Visit to the USA in 1906-1907 to read the article that was compiled from the archives of historic newspapers at the US Library of Congress.

Date posted: May 3, 2022.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com

New Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre in Mumbai Nominated as Building of the Year in Religious Buildings Category of ArchDaily’s 2022 Awards

Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergSimergphotos and Barakah


UPDATE (February 19, 2022): With over 100,000 votes cast during the last three weeks, ArchDaily has announced the 2022 ArchDaily Building of the Year Awards. The new but yet to be opened Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre in Mumbai was nominated for the award in the religious building category (see story below) but did not come out as the winner. Readers can meet the winners for all the categories by clicking on Winners.

Our attention has been drawn by a reader to ArchDaily’s 2022 building awards, in which a new yet to be opened Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre in Mumbai has been nominated as one of the buildings for the award in the religious buildings category. The following piece is compiled from Archdaily, NUDES (the website of the Jamatkhana’s design company), and a recent Mumbai Diary column in the e-paper Mid-Day — Ed.

For the 13th consecutive year, ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website worldwide, is asking its readers with the responsibility of recognizing and rewarding the projects that are making an impact in the profession with ArchDaily’s 2022 Building of the Year Awards. The nomination phase began on January 25th, 2022 and ends on February 9th, 2022, following which five projects per category that also includes religious buildings will move into the finalists stage, starting February 9th and ending on February 17th. Thus readers will be filtering over 4,500 projects down to just 15 stand-outs.

One of the candidates nominated for the award in the religious buildings category is the Ismaili Jamatkhana & Community Centre located in the neighbourhood of Oshiwara in the western suburban region of Mumbai.

No firm date has yet been established for the Jamatkhana’s opening. The building was designed by city based architectural firm NUDES, whose principal Nuru Karim has worked on a host of institutional projects both in competition/ schematic design and design development stages.

A collection of some 20 photographs of the Jamatkhana and Community Centre taken by Nazim Lokhandwalla are posted on the ArchDaily website.

Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre, Mumbai, 2022 Nomination for Archdaily award in religious buildings category
Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre, Mumbai, India. Photo: Nazim Lokhandwalla/Via Archdaily. Please click on image for more photos on Archdaily.

Writing in the Mumbai Diary column of mid-day under the title All eyes on Oshiwara’s new architectural wonder, the diarist quotes Nuru Karim as saying, “The Jamatkhana and Community Centre design explores the relationship between light, Islamic geometrical patterns, and built form to create an experiential space”. Karim goes on to explain that Islamic geometrical patterns are analysed to develop arrays of multi-sided polygons, thereby creating “Mashrabiya,” that stems from “Ashrab,” meaning “to drink.” The diarist further notes that the term which was originally defined as a space to drink water, evolved later as a space to cool water stored in earthen pots.

We invite all our readers to visit the page highlighting nominations for religious buildings, learn more about the features of the buildings and cast their votes for the building that impresses them the most. The voting for the Ismaili Jamatkhana may be submitted HERE. Readers who wish to vote are required to create an Archdaily email account or sign in via their Google or Facebook account.

Date posted: February 4, 2022.
Last updated: February 19, 2022 (see announcement at top, re : Winners)

Featured photo at top of post: Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre, Mumbai, India. Photo: Nazim Lokhandwalla/Via Archdaily. Please click HERE for more photos of the project on Archdaily.

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Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also, visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Nairobi’s Iconic ‘Town Jamatkhana’, Once the ‘Darkhana’ of Kenya, Celebrates 100 Years

Nairobi’s Town Jamatkhana was opened on January 14, 1922. On its 100th anniversary, we invite our readers to read Zahir Dharsee’s highly acclaimed piece Memories of Nairobi’s Majestic Town Jamatkhana that first appeared on this website in 2011 as part of our special Jamatkhana Series

May we note that to mark the anniversary, Kenya’s Daily Nation has published a special piece co-authored by Azim Lakhani and Shamira Dostmohamed. Please read their article by clicking on Celebrating Over a Century of Ismaili Community in Kenya. It includes an excellent overview of numerous events that have taken place at the Jamatkhana over the past decade.

Please click for article and photos.

Date posted: January 14, 2022.

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Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also, visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Ismaili Jamtkhana and Center Houston, Simerg

Reflections on the Design of the Ismaili Center Houston

By KARIM H. KARIM

The Ismaili Center Houston (ICH) promises to be an architecturally innovative building. It draws inspiration from several design traditions and will likely generate discussion and debate about present-day Muslim architecture. The confluence of Muslim and non-Muslim motifs in the Center very much reflects the centuries-long Ismaili openness to diverse cultures (e.g. see my article Ismailis: A Pluralist Search for Universal Truth). It is fascinating how the building’s architect, Farshid Moussavi, has intermingled features from the Zoroastrian Sassanid, Christian Byzantine, Muslim Isfahani and secular Western societies in a contemporary Ismaili American edifice.

However, some vital considerations seem to be missing from the building that aspires to stand as “a symbol of dialogue” in responding to its “geographies and contexts.”

  • An architectural conversation with the first peoples of Texas would have been far-sighted, especially at a time when indigeneity is of rising importance in North American contexts. For example, the challenge of dealing with Houston’s heat and humidity could have turned to the history of the local Akokisa people who built airy beehive-shaped structures to cope with the climate.

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The prominent "chorkhona" skylight in the Ismaili Centre Dushanbe. The chorkhana is the main defining symbol of the traditional structure of the Pamiri House
The prominent “chorkhona” skylight in the Ismaili Centre Dushanbe. The chorkhona is the defining symbol of the traditional structure of the Pamiri House, whose design principles reflect pre-Islamic philosophical symbols of the Central Asian region. Photo: Karim H. Karim.
  • A vital principle of architectural practice is attention to the cultural heritage of the proposed building’s daily users. The vast majority of Houston’s Jamat are families that have either arrived directly from India and Pakistan or from the South Asian Ismaili diaspora in Africa. But South Asian architecture appears to have been downplayed in ICH. On the other hand, conscious efforts were made to reflect Pamiri design in Dushanbe’s Ismaili Centre. The databases of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Aga Khan Program in Architecture are rich with information about Muslim architecture in India and Pakistan. Given that the cupola is celebrated in ICH’s design, a nod to the innovative and distinctive chattri in the Indo-Muslim style of Gujarat would have been particularly apropos.
  • The American Ismaili Jamat’s dominantly South Asian provenance holds other potential that could have been explored through ICH’s architecture. Among the possible partners for dialogue in local and global contexts for Muslims in the USA are diverse Indian American associations. They have strong presence in the American political establishment and are also key players on the transnational scene, including the ties of some with India’s ruling Hindu nationalists. A truly path-breaking pluralist dialogue in the United States holds far-reaching potential for transforming the two diasporic communities’ engagement with each other and charting steps that address the concerns of India’s Muslims with integrity. The AKDN’s calibrated engagement with Afghanistan’s Taliban government is instructive in this regard. One can only imagine the profound diplomatic symbolism of an Islamic architectural pluralism that incorporates design from ancient Indian civilization, as ICH’s architect has creatively done with pre-Islamic Persepolis of her native Iran.

Date posted: November 26, 2021.

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Karim H. Karim
Karim H. Karim

About the author:  Karim H. Karim is Chancellor’s Professor and Director of Carleton University’s Centre for the Study of Islam where he held an International Ismaili Studies Conference. He previously served as Co-Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) and Director of Carleton’s School of Journalism & Communication. Dr. Karim has held visiting scholarly appointments at Harvard University, Aga Khan University/Simon Fraser University, and the IIS. He has also been an advisor for the AKU and the Central Asian University and has served as a member of the AKDN’s Higher Education Forum. Professor Karim is an award-winning author, whose globally-cited writings include publications on culture, architectural design and pluralism as well as on Ismaili communitiesinstitutions, and leadership. He and his wife have established The Karim and Rosemin Karim Prize that recognizes research excellence in understudied areas of Ismaili Studies.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Please also visit Simerg’s sister websites  Barakah and Simergphotos.

Ismaili Center Houston Featured Image

Video, Report and Photos: A Preview of the 7th Ismaili Center in the World to Be Built in Houston

What made the project especially rewarding was the close alignment between the client and the architect’s aspirations. What made it very challenging was my knowledge of the high standards that His Highness has set for architecture for many many years — Architect Farshid Moussavi, text transcription from video shown below

Presentation by Farshid Moussavi on the Ismaili Centre Houston, November 15, 2021

Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

After many years of anticipation, designs of the forthcoming Ismaili Center in Houston were presented on Monday, November 15, 2021 by design architect Farshid Moussavi at a special event hosted in Houston, TX, and streamed live around the world on Ismaili TV.

The caption for the brief video shown above on Youtube notes that a full event video will be made available on Ismaili TV. We sincerely hope that the full video is also made available on the Ismaili’s Youtube video channel.

The following text is adapted from the press release issued by His Highness the Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for the USA. (Read original press release HERE).

Ismaili Center to be Houston’s Newest Cultural Asset

Note: All images may be clicked on for enlargements

Ismaili Centre Houston Simerg
At left, aerial view of the empty site of the Ismaili Center Houston, and at right an aerial view of the Ismaili Center and its gardens as it will look when it is completed in three years time. The center’s site is in the heart of the City of Houston across from Buffalo Bayou Park to the left. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via The Ismaili.

The design for the Ismaili Center to be built in Houston’s Buffalo Bayou watershed was presented to the public on November 15, 2021 at a gathering of government and civic officials, community representatives and leaders from civil society organizations. Situated on Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard, the Ismaili Center is commissioned by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

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Ismaili Centres around the world Simerg
Top row (from left): Ismaili Centre London (Opened April 24, 1985), Ismaili Centre Vancouver (August 23, 1985), and Ismaili Centre Lisbon (July 11, 1998); Centre row: Ismaili Centre Dubai (March 26, 2008), Ismaili Centre Dushanbe (October 12, 2009), and Ismaili Centre Toronto (September 12, 2014); Bottom row: The 7th Ismaili Centre Houston (future date). Collage: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

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Dedicated to advancing pluralism, public understanding and civic outreach, the Center in Houston joins its counterparts established in London, (UK), Lisbon (Portugal), Dubai (UAE), Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Vancouver and Toronto (both in Canada). Each of these buildings — designed by architects of international standing and multi-cultural sensitivity — is reflective of their own geographies and contexts. As ambassadorial buildings around the world, they are symbolic of the Ismaili community’s presence, pluralistic outlook and ethos of volunteering. The Ismaili Center Houston, with its openness of both purpose and structure, will seek to express these values. Speaking in Sugar Land, Texas in 2002, Mawlana Hazar Imam observed that “since all that we see and do resonates on the faith, the aesthetics of the environments we build and the quality of the interactions that take place within them reverberate on our spiritual lives.”

The Ismaili Center Houston will be a venue for educational, cultural and social events, to encourage understanding and facilitate the sharing of perspectives across peoples of diverse backgrounds, faiths and traditions. It will aim to build bridges through intellectual exchange by hosting concerts, recitals, plays, performances, exhibitions, conferences, seminars, conversations, book launches and community gatherings. The building will also provide space for quiet contemplation and for prayer, as well as serve as the administrative headquarters of the Ismaili community in the USA.

In presenting the design, Iranian born Farshid Moussavi, an internationally acclaimed architect, who also designed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, observed: “What made this project especially rewarding was the close alignment between the aspirations of the client and architect. What made it especially challenging was my awareness of the rigorous standards that His Highness the Aga Khan has established for architecture! We have tried to work with Islamic design philosophy, and celebrate its singularity and unique qualities as well as the features it has in common with Western design, so that the building, both through its fabric and through the way it is used, would act as a symbol of dialogue.”

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Ismaili Jamtkhana and Center Houston, Simerg
The Ismaili Center Houston will serve as both a Jamatkhana for the Ismaili community to come together for prayers, spiritual search, and contemplation; as well as an ambassadorial cultural center. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via The Ismaili.

The building is designed with a compact footprint, leaving large portions of the site to be used as gardens. Given the frequently hot and humid climate of Houston and the prominence of the site in the city, it is designed with a tripartite form with each of its volumes hosting a soaring eivan (veranda) to enable social and cultural gatherings to occur outdoors throughout the year. The eivans are supported by forty-nine slender columns reminiscent of those used in Persepolis and seventeenth century palaces in Isfahan, Persia. In being open on all sides and visible from all approaches to the site, the eivans will make the Ismaili Center open and inviting in every direction. At night, they will transform it to a beacon of light along Montrose Boulevard and Allen Parkway.

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Ismaili Center Centre Houston Simerg
The forecourt garden with its reflecting pool at the entrance of the building creates a contemplative atmosphere. The new Center will feature beautiful spaces, intricate geometry, and highly crafted work. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via The Ismaili.

The Center’s design, contemporary in its expression, is reflective of a historically rooted, rich architectural heritage. It combines contemporary architectural technology — its light steel structure — with traditional Persian forms and ornament, including ceramic mosaics and screens drawn from Islamicate traditions around the world. Its design for sustainability includes assuring enhanced energy performance and longevity and durability of materials, by encasing exposed steel with concrete for a 100-year lifecycle, and using stone for the building’s exterior walls.

Conceived as a tapestry in stone, the exterior walls will transition from solid areas to porous screens that will provide shade and privacy, and from flat surfaces to deep alcoves to permit shady repose fronting the gardens. The building exterior will therefore be defined by simplicity of form, openness, and an abstract decorative character.

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Ismaili Center Houston
Central atrium and staircase at the Ismaili Center Houston. Each atrium is designed in such a way as to fill the heart of the building with natural light. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via The Ismaili.

The building interior will include three atriums that will act as common, non-exclusive flexible spaces between rooms dedicated to specific events. Each is located adjacent to an eivan to bring in natural light and views of the sky to the heart of the building. The central atrium’s stepped structure clad in ceramic screens, celebrates the heritage of the cupola dating back to 3000 BCE, dominant in both the architecture of the Sasanian period in Persia and the Christian buildings of the Byzantine empire. The west and east atriums will give access to a theater, a large hall and learning spaces.

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Ismaili Center Centre Houston Simerg Imara
From wherever one enters the site, visitors will be welcomed by garden spaces. The Center’s landscaped gardens will provide a sense of serenity and peace, offering a respite from its urban surroundings. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via The Ismaili.

The Center’s landscaped gardens will provide a sense of serenity and peace, offering a respite from its urban surroundings. The gardens will include tree canopies, fountains, shaded footpaths, flowerbeds, lawns and walkways. These will be spaces of solace, providing for the rejuvenation of the mind and the spirit.

In his remarks, Houston Mayor Turner reflected, “The Center will elevate, yet again, Houston on the world map as a global city where people of all backgrounds can come together. This notion of learning about and accepting differences amongst peoples and communities, what we call pluralism, is central to the Aga Khan’s vision for the survival of an increasingly interconnected world. The Ismaili Muslim community in Houston and the United States continues to actualize the values that these Centers aim to promote – friendship, service, and mutual understanding.”

Speaking at the ceremony, President Al-Karim Alidina of the Ismaili Council for the USA acknowledged the role of the various teams: “This project, would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of Farshid Moussavi Architecture, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, AKT II – Structural Engineer and DLR Group the architect and engineers of record. We also look forward to working with the construction manager McCarthy Builders and the numerous local contractors who will build and craft this building over the next three years.”

The Ismaili Center Houston will offer a new dimension to the cultural life of the city and a place of gathering for the Ismaili community where visitors will be welcome.

Date posted: November 19, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Please also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos.

A Visit to the Rooftop Terrace of the Ismaili Centre Toronto: Views of the Jamatkhana Prayer Hall’s Crystalline Glass Dome

What we dedicate today is what we identify as an Ismaili Centre — a building that is focused around our Jamatkhana, but which also includes many secular spaces…..And soaring above it all is the great crystalline dome that you have observed, through which light from the prayer hall will provide a glowing beacon, symbolising the spirit of enlightenment that will always be at the heart of the Centre’s life.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Opening Ceremony of Ismaili Centre Toronto, September 12, 2014.

Simerg’s Malik Merchant visits the rooftop terrace of the Ismaili Centre, and comes as close as possible to the unique dome of Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana located on 49 Wynford Drive. Click HERE or on image below to see photos of the dome and the area surrounding the Ismaili Centre.

Crystalline glass dome of the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto
Please click on image for photo essay

Date posted: September 28, 2021.

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Must See Video: Bruno Freschi Provides Great Insights Into the Making of the First Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Canada, and Reflects on His Highness the Aga Khan

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

I first met met Bruno Freschi, the architect of the Ismaili Centre Vancouver, in Washington D.C., when Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was awarded the Vincent Scully Prize in January 2005 at the National Building Museum. After meeting him at the door, I politely intruded into a conversation the Aga Khan Council Canada President, Firoz Rasul, was having with Fumihiko Maki, the Japanese architect of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa (December 2008), and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (September 2014), and introduced Bruno to the President. So for the first time two great architects from different ends of the world met each other. We are truly proud of what both have done for the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili community.

Aga Khan at the National Building Museum Washington DC
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Charles Correa, Robert Ivy and Martin Filler in a panel discussion on “Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond”, on January 25, 2008 at the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. Photo: © Nicky Lubis. Special to Simerg.
Bruno Freschi, OC
Bruno Freschi, OC
Aga Khan at National Building Museum seminar
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan pictured during a panel discussion at the seminar “Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond” held at the National Museum Building in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2005. Bruno Freschi in an interview with Simerg noted as follows about Mawlana Hazar Imam: “An excellent design critic and intellectually generous in the pursuit of design ideas”. Photo: © Special to Simerg.

Later that evening before the ceremonies were over — and also later in my interview with him — Bruno told me that he met Mawlana Hazar Imam who thanked him for building the Jamatkhana in Vancouver which he said was one of his most favoured buildings. At the time, Bruno was based in the US capital.

Aga Khan message to Bruno Freschi
His Highness the Aga Khan’s appreciative note to Mr. Bruno Freschi for his “remarkable achievement”. Message written in the architect’s personal volume of the Ismaili Centre Souvenir publication. Image: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.

A few years later when Bruno was back in Vancouver but still travelling, I met him for the second time shortly after launching Simerg in the spring of 2009. My daughter had travelled with me to visit my parents in Vancouver. Bruno happened to be in town and was available one evening for dinner at the famous VJ’s restaurant.

VJs Vancouver Bruno Freschi and the Merchants
(From left, anti-clockwise) Bruno Freschi, Jehangir Merchant (d. May 2018), Nurin Merchant and Malik Merchant at the famous VJs in Vancouver, March 2009.

My dad joined us for a fantastic meal with Bruno, and what an evening it turned out to be. Among other matters, and in a setting of a great ambience, our conversation also centered around the magnificent Jamatkhana building that he had designed. That evening’s conversation along with subsequent text exchanges then became part of Simerg’s though provoking interview with Bruno Freschi, that includes several unique photos.

Jehangir Merchant, Ismaili teacher, writer and missionary at Ismaili Centre Vancouver
Jehangir Merchant pictured in front of the fountain in the beautiful courtyard of the Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana, Vancouver, designed by Bruno Freschi. It was designated as the Darkhana Jamatkhana by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Both Jehangir and his wife, Maleksultan, attended the Darkhana Jamatkhana every single day, and found immense comfort and happiness within the Jamatkhana space and the building’s overall interior and exterior environment. This photo was taken a few months before Alwaez died in May 2018 at the age of 89. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Mohib Ebrahim, Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre
A beautiful night view of the courtyard of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Vancouver, with the fountain in the foreground and the Jamatkhana entrance forming the backdrop. The Jamatkhana was designed by Vancouver’s Bruno Freschi and opened in 1985 by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © Mohib Ebrahim. 2014. For a superb collection of photos of the Ismaili Centre by Mohib, please click HERE
Mrs. Merchant at Ismaili Centre Vancouver with neighbour Nazim Rawji
Mrs. Merchant (d. January 2021) pictured with Nazim Rawji, her former 1960/1970’s neighbour from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, outside the courtyard of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Vancouver during an event marking the 59th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The building was designed by architect Bruno Freschi, and opened in 1985 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: Malik Merchant. July 2016.

I invite readers to read Simerg’s insightful interview with Bruno, and to also watch a fantastic program hosted by journalist Zahra Premji in Ismaili Canada’s series Summer Reflections. The video, below, must not be missed as it provides Bruno Freschi’s rare and unique glimpses into the making of this absolutely beautiful building which was opened in September 1985. His admiration and respect for Mawlana Hazar Imam is deeply touching.

I have always enjoyed being around Bruno because of his humble qualities and for sharing inspiring insights into the work of the Ismaili Imamat. I was delighted to meet him again at a much different VJ’s some years later just before the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam. He then contributed a thought provoking article The architecture of empathic pluralism: His Highness the Aga Khan, an inspired vision of architecture for Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family. Then, after my dad passed away, I met him once more when my mum was with me at a daytime event at the Ismaili Centre. She was very happy that she had finally met the person who designed the Jamatkhana that both she and my dad had visited every single day for years and years. The Jamatkhana had provided them with spiritual happiness and comfort as well as strength in their daily lives, like it has for thousands and thousands of Ismailis living in Vancouver as well as visitors from around the world.

We thank you Bruno for creating a beautiful space to which we all enter (go in) with anticipation and leave (go out) with an immense amount of happiness and hope. We return to it over and over again. Your insight into the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre will make us think more about the building you painstakingly designed for us, working together side by side with our beloved Imam to see its total and full completion.

The Ismaili Canada Conversation with Bruno Freschi

Note: To skip the pre-show of songs and music, please start the video at approximately the 13 minute mark to watch Zahra Premji’s excellent and extensive interview with Bruno Freschi, the architect of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Vancouver.

To skip songs and watch Ismaili Centre program and interview with Bruno Freschi, please begin at 13 minute mark.

Date posted: August 14, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Photos and Video: A Gift for Eid ul-Fitr – The Birth of 6 Goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto on the Blessed Day of Chandraat

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Editor’s note: Please click Simergphotos for a vastly updated version of this post.

Newly hatched goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

The female goose I had photographed so many times in the weeks before I travelled to Vancouver lay on her eggs for around 28 days. No food, no drinks, no wandering around!

She had to find a perfect spot to protect her nest from animals and human interference, and that she did at a shrub just outside the South East wall of the Ismaili Centre. What a strategy — uncomplicated and safe!

A new family. Proud parents with their newly born goslings outside the Ismaili Centre and the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

The eggs hatched on the morning of Wednesday May 12, as per the security guard who was present at the nesting site when I met him. My plan was to actually go to Edward Gardens for a long walk but instead of travelling straight on Wynford Drive to reach Don Mills Road, I “lost my senses” and ended in the parking lot of the Aga Khan Museum. I couldn’t have been happier, with what I saw and came away with.

I would call it “A Miracle of Life” and it took place at the end of Ramadhan, and on the day of the sighting of the new moon that Ismaili Muslims celebrate as Chandraat as per the wishes of their 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957). He bestowed the night on the Ismailis for the inner peace and happiness it would bring. For me seeing this phenomenon of birth, and looking at the tiny goslings was an incredible and joyous event. I consider it as the most appropriate gift of Eid ul-Fitr. Enjoy the photographs.

The beautiful Aga Khan Museum Building. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Children play on the courtyard of the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
The Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto, an extension of the Ismaili Centre. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The female goose seen by the shrub at the Ismaili Centre where she nested her eggs for a period of around 28 days. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The mother goose on the nest with her new family of six goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Newly hatched goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

VIDEO OF THE NEW FAMILY

To my fellow brothers and sisters in the Ismaili community, I share with you the following message that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, conveyed to us a year ago on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr:

“It is my wish that my Jamat should look to the future with hope and courage, in keeping with its age-old tradition of unity, generosity and mutual support which has at all times enabled it to move forward to a position of enhanced strength and resilience, from generation to generation.

“My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

“I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings to all my Jamat – for happiness, good health, confidence and security in your lives ahead, and for mushkil-asan.”

My daughter Nurin joins me in conveying all readers of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos Eid Mubarak with best wishes and prayers for good health; long lives and success in all walks of life.

Date posted: May 13, 2021.
Last updated: May 14, 2021 (link to updated version of post, click HERE)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Close to my Heart On a Perfect Valentine’s Day: The Aga Khan Park, the Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome and the Aga Khan Museum

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Aga Khan Museum
A view of the Aga Khan Museum’s main entrance bloc on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

I couldn’t have asked for a better and happier February 14, 2021. I woke up very early to complete an exclusive photo piece of Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to Pemba on November 18, 1957. Looking out of the atrium windows across my living room facing North-West, I knew the sun was rising on the South-East side. It was -9°C and there was absolutely no wind. I had been cooped up inside for the past few days and wanted some fresh air. I brewed Colombian Supremo Coffee that I had purchased earlier during the week at St. Lawrence Market, filled a huge steel mug that keeps beverages boiling hot for about an hour, and headed to “What a Bagel” bakery on York Mills and Leslie, which was spewing out fresh hot bagels the minute I arrived there. “Give me a really hot one,” I said, and asked the ever-smiling server to make me a vegetarian sandwich. “Not toasted,” I reminded her, as many who come to the shop insist on having their order toasted, even if they are fresh from the oven.

I jumped into my car, turned it on with a low heat setting and enjoyed the bagel and coffee. What next? A visit to my Valentine, and I am sure that makes my readers curious. A meeting, maybe, at the Aga Khan Park?

Aga Khan Park Flags of Canada, ontario province, city of toronto and ismaili imamat simerg
So still was the wind at Aga Khan Park on February 14, 2021, that the flags of the Ismaili Imamat, the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and Canada were unmoved! It was a beautiful day to savour at the Park in -5°C Celsius. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Ismaili Centre
Ismaili Centre main entrance with the Jamatkhana dome at left under blue skies on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Who might that “lucky” Valentine be? In the absence of my lovely daughter who is several hundred kilometres away and my beloved mother who passed away only three weeks ago, I turned to my constant companions for several months — the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome, the Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park where I have experienced so much happiness and inspiration. I adore being there. Can one make non-human object(s) around you as your Valentine for February 14th? Not by the definition of Valentine’s, but I contrived one just for myself!

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © John MacDonald, Ottawa
His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © John W. MacDonald, Ottawa.

I cannot thank anyone but Mawlana Hazar Imam for his vision in conceiving and building three extraordinary spaces for the enjoyment of people in Toronto and everyone around the world. I am one of the lucky ones, who gets to visit the grounds as and when I like. February 14, 2021 was a very special day. There was beautiful light snow on the ground, the sky was blue and sunny, it wasn’t cold and the flags stood still in the absence of any windshield factor!

I FaceTimed my daughter Nurin to show her the beautiful environment that surrounded me. My face, she could see, had lit up.

Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome.
The dome of the Toronto Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana captured under sunny blue skies on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2021. The glass niche in the centre of the circular wall faces the direction of Kaba where all Muslims face for prayers. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Aga Khan Museum Valentine's Day
A man walks by one of the snow covered ponds at the Aga Khan Park, with the Aga Khan museum in full view under sunny blue skies. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Aga Khan Park Aga Khan Museum Ismaili Jamatkhana Valentine's Day 2021 Simerg
A family with children walk on the Aga Khan Park trail under sunny blue skies on February 14, 2021. The dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana at left reflects a rare white cloud in the sky, and the Aga Khan Museum building can be seen further away. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg,
cn tower aga khan park simerg downtown toronto
A close up view of the CN Tower from the south east end of the Aga Khan Park on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Big Heech Aga Khan Museum
The Big Heech Sculpture located in front of the Aga Khan Museum’s main entrance bloc. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Jamatkhana dome Simerg Valentine's Day Photo
A view of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana dome from the grounds of Aga Khan Park. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Ismaili Jamatkhana dome Simerg
An amazing reflection of a rare cloud on the dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana on an otherwise clear blue sky on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

After spending a good measure of my morning at the Aga Khan Park, I returned home to continue working on the Pemba photo essay for the remainder of the day, while many others would be enjoying their Valentine’s day with their partners in creative settings necessitated by Covid-19.

Date posted: February 14, 2021.

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This post is also repeated on Simerg’s sister photo website with larger photos and other minor changes. Please click On a Perfect Valentine’s Day, the Aga Khan Park, the Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome and the Aga Khan Museum Came Even Closer to My Heart

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.