Photos: Driving Through the Scenic Backcountry Gravel Hwy 742, the Smith-Dorrien Trail, in Kananaskis Country

Malik Merchant subjects his Mazda 6 Sedan through 60 kms of rough gravel road, the Hwy 742 or the Smith-Dorrien Trail, to experience some stunning mountain scenery and wildlife in Alberta’s spectacular Kananaskis region. Please click HERE or on photo below to read his report of a memorable 3 hour trip that ended with the greatest rib-eye steak in his life at the Rustica restaurant in Canmore, with the magnificent Three Sisters Mountains smiling on him. Kananaskis is a very short drive from Calgary, and having made 3 trips to the region in as many days (!) Merchant highly recommends everyone to discover this beautiful section of Alberta that brims with natural beauty, easy to moderate to the most strenuous hiking trails as well as great wildlife!….. Read More

A memorial bench at Sprays Lake Reservoir on Hwy 742, the Smith-Dorrien Trail, that starts at the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. Please click on image for full report and photographs

Date posted: July 27, 2022.



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. Reach the editor, Malik, at

Stunning Photographs from Kananaskis, a Gem in Canada’s Alberta Province

Malik Merchant spontaneously takes off for a drive through the stunning Kananaskis Mountain Range in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. He meets beautiful people, sees awe inspiring lakes and sunsets as well as has close encounters with wildlife. No doubt, the late Aga Khan regarded the appreciation of nature as among the TEN PRINCIPLES one should have for a happier, richer and more meaningful life. Click HERE or on any of the photos below for Malik’s informative and exciting piece.

Wildlife in the Kananaskis. Click on photo for story and beautiful photos.
Lakes, mountains and beautiful sunsets in the Kananaskis. Click on photo for story and more photos.
Wildlife in the Kananaskis. Click on photo for story and beautiful photos.

Date posted: July 5, 2022.


Beautiful Scenes from Calgary: The Top Canadian City to Live In, According to New World Rankings

Malik Merchant has lived in more than 12 cities around the world. When he was suddenly offered an opportunity to relocate to Calgary he did not hesitate. His motto: Seek to be forward looking and be courageous and hopeful. Armed with a camera, just as he did in Toronto and Ottawa, Malik is pleased to share some of his beautiful moments in Calgary, a city that has recently been named as the third best city in the world to live in. Please click CALGARY or on the photo below.

Scenes from Calgary, Malik Merchant, simerg
Downtown Calgary. Please click on photo for complete story.

Date posted: June 26, 2022.


Available for Viewing and Purchase in Calgary: Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Signed Copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” PLUS An Exclusive Collection of Italian Made Scarves Inspired by His Beautiful Photos of Sea Animals

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and SimergphotosBarakah 

Hussain Aga Khan
Prince Hussain

For more than 12 years, Simerg has supported the initiatives of Prince Hussain Aga Khan to his satisfaction. When we first received his signed book “Animal Voyage” in 2009, they were snapped up within a few days. Then, we received his signed and unsigned copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” containing sea animal photos that were also sold out. We are pleased to inform you that we now have in stock very limited quantities of signed copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” for sale in Canada. The signed copy is available at US $125.00 (Note: The current Canadian bank exchange rate will be used for payments in Cdn $).

In addition to Diving Into Wildlife, we have also received for sale an entire collection of Italian made scarves inspired by Prince Hussain’s photography. The beautiful STENNELA produced scarves were conceived by Valérie Maurice and designed by Kirsten Synge, exclusively for the Prince’s organization Focused on Nature (FON). The scarves as well as the signed books may be viewed in Calgary, before making a purchase. As in the past, the entire proceeds from the sales of scarves and books will be submitted to Prince Hussain’s organization FON, which assists in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts.

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Diving Into Wildlife by Hussain Aga Khan Simerg Signed copy
Cover Page of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Diving Into Wildlife.


Hussain Aga Khan with his father and Portuguese President in Lisbon
Prince Hussain presents a photograph to his father, Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan, and Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at The Living Sea photo exhibition in Lisbon in September 2019. Photo: The Ismaili/Jorge Simão.



Focused on Nature Scarves
200 cm x 140 cm ( 85% modal, 15% silk) $US 290.00; Italian made and produced by STENELLA brand for Prince Hussain’s organization FON. Other sizes are also available and priced from $US 90.00. Please contact Malik Merchant at to view – and purchase – the scarves in person in Calgary.

The author of this piece will gladly arrange to show you, by appointment, the entire collection of the beautiful scarves in person in Calgary. At the same time, you will also be able to make purchase of the scarf of your choice; they range in price from approximately US $ 95.00 to US $ 295.00, depending on material (silk or silk/cotton) and size. Please contact for more details about the objects and to arrange a viewing in Calgary. During the viewing at a mutually arranged location, Malik will respectfully observe the social distancing guidelines in place for COVID-19 as well as any other recommendation(s) you and your family members may be observing at the time. Malik looks forward to your interest in these beautiful objects related to Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s incredible voyage of discovery in wildlife and nature since his childhood.

Date posted: April 22, 2022.


Malik Merchant, publisher and editor of Simerg, Insights from Around the World
Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Simerg (2009) as well as its two sister websites Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). An IT consultant for more than 40 years in the UK, USA and Canada, he now engages in family related projects and is devoted to his websites. His passion for literature and community publications began in his childhood years through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. 2017) and Malek Merchant (d. 2021), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited Ilm magazine with his father. The internet encouraged him to launch his first website, Simerg, in 2009. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he recently relocated to Alberta. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant; she is a vet and practices in Ontario. Malik can be contacted by email at He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.

The AKU Global Convocation: Text and Video of Speeches by Trustee Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus and New Aga Khan University President Sulaiman Shahabuddin

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

1. Video and Text of Speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Trustee, Aga Khan University

“….the hope we feel today is warranted by you, the graduands. By your hunger for knowledge. Your compassion for your patients. Your joy in sparking curiosity in your students. And your zeal to find the facts and share them with your fellow citizens, without fear or favour” — Princess Zahra Aga Khan (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“The graduation of the Class of 2021 is a watershed in the lives of its members and their families. And the installation of President and Vice Chancellor Sulaiman Shahabuddin is a milestone in the history of the Aga Khan University. This is therefore a doubly joyous day – the kind that comes along once in a very great while.

“I will be speaking today on behalf of the University’s Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. I would like to convey the Chancellor’s deep gratitude, and my own, to the Government of Kenya and the Commission for University Education for granting AKU its Charter. I am also delighted to welcome the founding members of the new AKU Kenya University Council, which will provide oversight of the University’s operations in Kenya.  

“Today, I am filled with hope for the future. How could anyone not be, knowing what this day represents?

“President and Vice Chancellor Shahabuddin brings to his position a wealth of experience and a lengthy record of success in both East Africa and Pakistan. His career embodies the themes of opportunity, cross-cultural connection, and commitment to improving quality of life that define AKU and the Aga Khan Development Network. 

“Already, he has begun to build on the strong foundations laid by former President Firoz Rasul. Moreover, he now enjoys the wise counsel of University Council Chairman Moyez Alibhai and of the new Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees Zakir Mahmood. 

“It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome President Shahabuddin to his new role; thank former President Rasul; and congratulate Chairman Alibhai and Chairman Mahmood on their recent appointments. I also wish to thank our retiring Chairman of the Board, Dr. Haile Debas, for his extensive contributions to the University’s development for the past 12 years.

“It is with equally profound pleasure that I welcome each of you, our graduands, to the ranks of the alumni of the Aga Khan University. Your fellow graduates are changing lives from rural clinics and classrooms to the laboratories of world-renowned universities. I know how proud you are to be part of this illustrious tradition, and how proud your families are to be watching you today.  

“This AKU class has worked harder for this moment than any other ever has. The last two years challenged you with lockdowns, quarantines, and isolation. But you found new ways to learn, to connect, and to maintain your motivation amid each new wave of the pandemic. 

“The diplomas and degrees you are about to receive testify to your fortitude and agility. In the years to come, you will always be able to look back and draw strength from your achievements during this momentous period. 

“Convocation is a celebration of individual accomplishment. But it also reminds us of our connections and our dependence on one another. Each of us is a link in a chain that extends backwards and forwards in time, and outward across borders and boundaries. That is especially true at AKU, as this globe-spanning event testifies. 

“With these bonds in mind, I wish to thank all those who have made it possible to send these 664 women and men into the world to educate, enlighten, and care for their fellow human beings. Our faculty and staff have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to our students and to our mission. Our front-line health professionals have displayed exemplary courage in the face of Covid-19 – I cannot thank them enough and on behalf of the Chancellor for their many sacrifices. We are grateful to our alumni, partners, and volunteers. And we are profoundly thankful for the generosity of our donors. 

“I began by speaking of hope. The hope I refer to is not an idle wish. It is the hope one feels when there is strong evidence for optimism. It is the hope our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, has called “probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress.” 

“That is the hope that I believe unites us today. It is warranted, first, by the history and impact of the Aga Khan University. AKU will mark its 40th anniversary next year. From a seed in the mind of our Chancellor, it has blossomed into an institution that spans three continents and stands at the heart of the AKDN’s unwavering commitment to the countries that it serves. In Kenya, that commitment is vividly symbolized by AKU’s towering new University Centre in Nairobi — a world-class academic facility that is one of the largest investments in higher education in the country’s history.  

“Globally, AKU has educated over 18,000 individuals. It cares for more than 2 million patients every year in internationally accredited hospitals, and was recently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world in public health. It also serves as a trusted advisor to government and is a powerful advocate for pluralism and for women’s empowerment. 

​”During the pandemic, the value of the University’s capacity for cutting-edge inquiry has never been clearer. Its researchers have made important contributions to the fight against Covid-19. And AKU is also contributing to another crucial battle, one that our Chief Guest Peter Kalmus will be talking about shortly – the battle against climate breakdown. Along with the AKDN as a whole, AKU has committed to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2030 — making it one of the first institutions in Pakistan and East Africa to do so.   

“In short, the University’s record is surely one to instill hope. 

“But most of all, the hope we feel today is warranted by you, the graduands. By your hunger for knowledge. Your compassion for your patients. Your joy in sparking curiosity in your students. And your zeal to find the facts and share them with your fellow citizens, without fear or favour. 

“I have no doubt that the hope that fills our hearts, and the pride that swells our chests, will be amply confirmed by your achievements in the years to come. On behalf of the Chancellor, my thanks to all of you.”

Read full speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan at SOURCE.


2. Video and Text of Speech by Chief Guest, Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus

“We need to help each other wake up, and quickly. We need a billion climate activists. We need a huge number of engaged, passionate, courageous climate activists. We need to come together, with courage, conviction, and creativity, to stop the meteor that’s hurtling toward us” — Peter Kalmus (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“Greetings and congratulations! What an honor it is to address you today, on this joyful occasion! Great job to all of you! I ​share your commitment to improving the lives of all beings on this Earth. I want to acknowledge AKU’s work to improve quality of life in the developing world, as well as the leadership that Prince Rahim and the AKDN are demonstrating in addressing climate change and environmental degradation.

“Now, this strikes me as a strange time in our planet’s four-and-half-billion-year history for giving convocation speeches. 

“As a climate scientist, I see a meteor hurtling directly toward our achingly beautiful planet, and I don’t yet see society or world leaders mobilising to stop it. Fossil fuels are heating our planet at a rate of a tenth of a degree Celsius every five years. This may not sound like much, but for an entire planet to heat this quickly is both astounding and terrifying. 

“The disasters we are living through now are just the beginning. At every additional fraction of heating, climate disasters will come faster and hit harder. Like gut punches to our global society, they will increasingly stress infrastructure systems, economic systems, energy systems, food and water systems, political systems and ecosystems. 

“The proximal cause of climate destruction is burning fossil fuels. Before we had a fossil fuel industry, the planet was in energy balance. The same amount of energy came in as sunlight as went back out to space, so it stayed at a constant temperature. Burning gas, coal, and oil has changed that. It continues pushing our planet further and further out of balance, forcing it to heat up. 

“The crisis has been overwhelmingly caused by the Global North, with impacts hitting the Global South soonest and hardest. And powerful vested interests are doing what they can to block action. So, what can we do?

“This is a question I’ve been grappling with for a very long time. 

“Sixteen years ago, I was a physics PhD student in New York City, in love with the universe and its mysteries, overjoyed to finally be part of the noble quest for human knowledge. I was interested in cosmology — the big questions, where we come from, and where we’re going.

“The year 2006 brought two big changes to my life. First, I became a dad, which was expansive. It connected me to the future. And second, I heard a lecture about how the Earth was out of energy balance and heating up. This lecture rattled me. Earth is out of energy balance? This is absolutely monumental news, literally the biggest story on the planet. It was then, and it’s even more so today.

“I started learning about climate change. I tried to get my university to switch to electricity that came from wind power. I could only find one other person on campus who supported my cause – and not for a lack of trying, because back then, hardly anyone cared about climate change. Social norms around climate hadn’t started to shift. 

“Now, social norms are unspoken but very powerful shared beliefs. They’re like society’s subconscious mind. For example, the belief that it’s normal to burn fossil fuels. Sure, it’s destroying our planet — but it’s a normal thing to do. Everyone’s doing it. 

“Social norms are like the water surrounding a fish. We swim in them, every moment. They create society, they shape its systems and its power structures, but most of the time, we don’t even notice them. They are partly responsible for climate and ecological breakdown, as well as humanity’s breathtaking lack of response. How much we can still save will be largely determined by how quickly we can shift these norms.

“Now, as the years ticked by, I grew ever more alarmed and frustrated about climate inaction. By 2010, burning fossil fuels had become deeply upsetting to me. The connection between fossil fuels and worsening climate impacts was just too clear. So I started reducing my emissions systematically, scientifically, starting with the biggest things first: giving up air travel, biking instead of driving, and slashing my energy use at home, among many other changes. This taught me three valuable lessons. First, for me it was fun to live with less fossil fuel. It engaged my curiosity, led me to new hobbies and caused me to make new friends. Second, I experienced how we all rely on vast impersonal systems for all of our daily needs – food, water, clothes, streets – everything. To be able to get to zero fossil fuel use, all those systems are going to have to change. And third, very few people were actually willing to follow me in these sorts of changes. 

“When I started, I hoped my actions would inspire other people. But I’d say roughly maybe one out of a hundred people are willing to systematically reduce their emissions. So, while I think it’s a great thing to do, it simply isn’t enough on its own. 

“By 2012, I’d become so alarmed that I couldn’t focus on astrophysics any longer, so I switched into climate science. I also started speaking out as much as I could. I was told that scientists aren’t supposed to speak out, but I did it anyway. How could I not speak out, seeing what I see, and knowing what I know?

“We need to help each other wake up, and quickly. We need a billion climate activists. We need to build a global climate movement that’s even stronger than the fossil fuel industry. We need a huge number of engaged, passionate, courageous climate activists. We need to come together, with courage, conviction, and creativity, to stop the meteor that’s hurtling toward us. No one is safe from global heating. There is no hiding from it on this tiny, connected, pale blue dot of a planet. The only safety will come from stopping it, and doing this will require deep changes in how humanity organizes as a society, and how we live upon this Earth. 

“Climate work will be humanity’s main task for the rest of this century: healing the Earth, restoring wild places, adapting to new disasters, and figuring out how to live side by side with each other and all the other species here, who have just as much of a right to be on this planet as we do. There’s infrastructure to build, technologies to invent. There are new legal and moral and even spiritual frameworks to come up with. There is new art to make, new economics to devise, and new stories to tell. We need institutions to devise new disciplines and new ways of thinking, rapidly reduce their emissions, educate the public, and create social change. AKU is already playing a hugely important role in the Global South and must keep going. 

“We also need you, the graduates of the Aga Khan University — among the best and the brightest the world has to offer — to devote your lives to solving the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Contribute to global knowledge and innovation. Demand climate justice. Have the courage to cause good trouble. Be the voice for the voiceless, for all the species that are going extinct and for future generations. 

“Climate disasters will get worse before they get better. But we could stop all of this, if we would make the collective choice to treat climate breakdown as an emergency. Imagine in the future that we’ve turned this corner, that the living Earth is in the process of healing, that our species was on the brink of destruction but came to its senses at the last moment. I foresee that this will bring a tremendous feeling of global solidarity, of cosmic solidarity with life in the universe. My dream is that I will live to experience a time when we are finally on the right path, toward a more mature humanity, a kinder and more grateful humanity, full of joy simply to be here, on this Earth – one strand in the tapestry of life. 

“I know that a much better world is possible. No law of physics prevents it. It’s up to us. It’s the journey of a lifetime, and it beckons to each and every one of you. Go out there and do it.”

Read full speech by Peter Kalmus at SOURCE


3. Video and Text of Speech by Aga Khan University President Sulaiman Shahabuddin

“We continue to believe, as we always have, in the power of knowledge to solve humanity’s biggest problems. And we continue to believe that AKU, as a powerful creator and disseminator of knowledge, can make an extraordinary contribution to improving life in Africa, Asia, and beyond.” — Sulaiman Shahabuddin (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“I am profoundly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President and Vice Chancellor by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. As this medallion reminds me, I have been entrusted with a great responsibility. I am humbled by His Highness’s confidence in me. I pledge to do everything in my power to prove that it has been well placed.

“What a day this is! I am profoundly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President and Vice Chancellor by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. As this medallion reminds me, I have been entrusted with a great responsibility. I am humbled by His Highness’s confidence in me. I pledge to do everything in my power to prove that it has been well placed. 

“I am deeply grateful to you, Princess Zahra, for honoring us with your presence. Your participation speaks to the bright future of our graduands and our University. It adds luster to an already brilliant day. 

“Most of all, I am excited by the opportunity I have been granted to carry forward the Chancellor’s vision, by AKU’s role as a powerful force for good in the world, and by the tremendous potential of all of you, our graduands. 

“I remember watching my daughter, Anjiya, graduate from AKU’s Medical College. By my side was my wife, Zeenat, herself an alumna of the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Little did I know that I would be standing at this podium a few short years later while they and my son Basim look on. Certainly, when I stepped onto the AKU campus as a 22-year-old purchasing officer and a newly minted MBA, I could not have imagined that one day I would return to the University in my present role. 

“But that just demonstrates the transformations that AKU makes possible.

“Each of you, our graduands, has taken your own unique path to this moment. Some of you are the first in your family to attend university. Others are carrying on a family tradition as the sons and daughters of teachers, nurses, or doctors. For some, our campus was their first home after leaving home. For others, AKU represented a return to academia after years in the workforce. 

“I want to take a moment to acknowledge your individual journeys. The moments of doubt – the first time you got back an exam paper covered in questions and comments and you thought to yourself, “I’ve got work to do!” The moments that galvanized your confidence – that day in the classroom, in the newsroom, in the library or in the clinic when you achieved a new level of insight or excellence. 

“I also want to recognize that you are part of a collective – one that stretches across three continents. As members of the Class of 2021, you have forged lasting relationships, supported one another’s academic development, and built a shared commitment to helping those in need.

“And now you are ready to make your mark on your professions and the world. 

“This is a time of transition for our graduates. It is also a time of transition for AKU. But a change in leadership does not mean a change in the University’s guiding principles.  

“We continue to believe, as we always have, in the power of knowledge to solve humanity’s biggest problems. And we continue to believe that AKU, as a powerful creator and disseminator of knowledge, can make an extraordinary contribution to improving life in Africa, Asia, and beyond.

“As our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan told the Class of 1994, “At its best, the university is linked to the welfare of the society in which it is based. While taking knowledge from all quarters, such a university applies that knowledge to the solution of the pressing problems of the world, both at home and abroad.”

“That is, in fact, what AKU is doing. Allow me to elaborate: 

“In East Africa, AKU and the University of Michigan are using cutting-edge artificial intelligence to identify individuals at risk of future health problems. We are not the only ones who think that project has tremendous potential – it just received more than $6 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

“In Pakistan, AKU reduced newborn death rates by more than 15 percent in eight rural districts that are home to 14 million people. How did we do it? By sharing our knowledge with hundreds of public and private health facilities and thousands of community health workers. 

“AKU researchers are using stem cell science and gene editing to develop new treatments for blood disorders and cancers such as leukaemia. They have analyzed the test scores of 15,000 students to show which factors improve performance in math and science. They are studying indigenous efforts to protect the rights of minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

“As Princess Zahra highlighted a moment ago, we are also working to slash our carbon emissions and become one of the few universities in the world to achieve carbon neutrality. It is an ambitious goal that will require tremendous innovation. But we are committed to achieving it, and to helping other universities to follow in our footsteps.

“In the coming years, we will launch new undergraduate medical and nursing education programmes in East Africa. Build a new University Center and Hospital in Kampala. And open our Faculty of Arts and Sciences in Karachi to prepare young men and women as leaders with a unique education that spans the social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts. 

“As all these examples show and as AKU approaches its 40th anniversary, we remain faithful to our founding vision, while acting boldly to meet new challenges.

“I am grateful to all those who make our success possible. The policymakers who create the enabling environment in which we work, among them our guest of honor, East African Community Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki. Our generous donors, volunteers, alumni, and partners, including our fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network. Nothing has given me more pleasure in my first months in office than getting to know and working with the diverse members of the AKU family. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the University’s biggest contribution to the countries we serve will always be our graduates. 

“Graduands, our alumni – your predecessors – walked the same corridors and courtyards that you have walked, and learned in the same clinics and classrooms. They wore the same green and gold that you wear now. And every day, they are proving just how powerful an AKU education can be.

“They are founding schools and clinics in underserved communities. Winning international recognition for their teaching, research, and leadership. Serving in government and shaping public policy. Launching high-tech startups and writing award-winning poetry. Here at AKU, they are among our most valued leaders, scholars, and practitioners. Their record proves that you can achieve your most audacious ambitions. 

“Today is not an end. Your journeys are just beginning. Now is the time for you to show the world what an AKU graduate can do. Thank you.”

Read full speech by Sulaiman Shahabuddin at SOURCE.

For complete coverage of the 2021 Global Convocation, please click HERE.

Date posted: March 3, 2022.

Featured image at top of post: The Seal of Aga Khan University is a visual representation of the principles which underlie the founding of the University. The circular form of the Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle also symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides. The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light). The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University’s founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty-ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.The outer ring circumscribes a Quranic Ayat rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:

“And hold fast, All together, by the rope
Which God (stretches out for you),
And be not divided among yourselves,
And remember with gratitude
God’s favour on you:
For ye were enemies
And He joined your hearts
In love, so that by His grace
Ye became brethren” — Sura 3, Ayat 103


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.

How a Small Ismaili Village of 20 Houses on the Roof of the World is Affected by Climate Crisis

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergSimergphotos and Barakah

High up in the small town of Bulunkul, one of the most remote areas inhabited by Ismailis (read Pilgrim Journey — the sacred wonders of Pamirs and also How to self-drive the Pamir Highway), the clear view of the Milky Way is unparalleled, and wolves prey on the livestock tended to by semi-nomadic herders like Bulbulov Doniyor. But melting glaciers and increasingly extreme weather patterns are rewriting the rules of play for this village in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan where, in winter, the weather temperature can drop down to -60°C. 

Story continues below

Partial map of Tajikistan to illustrate the location of Bulunkul. Distance from Khorog to Bulunkul, 123 km. Map Credit: Indyguide article How to self-drive the Pamir Highway

Last winter, wolves descended from the mountains and went straight for Doniyor, instead of the sheep. In a three part series supported by the Pulitzer Center, Klas Lundström, a staff writer for the Swedish newspaper Tidningen Global, tells the stories of the people living through the climate crisis. Begin reading the series on the website Inverse by clicking on Part 1: In Tajikistan, a deadly new type of climate crisis has already arrived.

Read the remaining two parts of the three part series by clicking on Part 2: 76 degrees below zero: Living through Tajikistan’s climate apocalypse AND Part 3: At the Roof of the World, solar power is a necessary evil — “We are waiting for another way of life”.

Bulbulov Doniyor. In 2020, Covid-19 struck and the herders’ usual trading routes closed. Photo: Fredrik Lerneryd/Inverse. Please click on photo for Part 1 of article.

Date posted: January 30, 2022.


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.

This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853

19 December in World History: In 1846, Canada’s First Telegraphic Message; In 1961, India’s Invasion of Goa; Plus Samuel Morse and the Aga Khan on the Power of Instant Communication

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

December holds many significant historical memories for me. The month is of particular importance for Ismailis around the world. On December 13, 1936 Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Muslims was born in Geneva, Switzerland. Ismailis celebrated their Imam’s 85th birthday (or Salgirah) last week and presented him with two beautiful porcelain vases. My dad Jehangir, who died in May 2018, was born on exactly the same day in 1928. Were he alive, he would have celebrated his 93rd birthday this year.

Also in December, in 1961 India annexed the Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman and Diu, in what the Portuguese called an invasion, while the Indians called it a liberation. A consequence of this action by India was that all its citizens in Mozambique, a Portuguese colony, were interned for more than 5 months in a camp located a few miles outside Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). My parents, Jehangir and Malek Merchant, were the only Ismailis in Mozambique carrying Indian passports, and were severely affected by this measure. My dad was taken to the camp with 5,000 other Indian citizens. Being a teacher, he was able to conduct special classes for young children and other students during his stay. During the same month, my mother gave birth to my brother Alnoor (pictured below with our parents). She was thus spared from the camp, and was looked after at a hospital for the entire period that my dad was in internment. Then, following their release from internment, Indian nationals were asked to leave the country within 90 days. My parents left for Tanzania (then Tanganyika), where they continued their service to the Imamat and Jamati institutions as religious education teachers and honorary missionaries.

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Alnoor Merchant and Jehangir and Malek
Alnoor, centre, pictured with his parents Jehangir and Malek Merchant, during the Silver Jubilee visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to London, England in July 1983. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Going much further back in history, December 19, 1846 marked the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada, with a line from Toronto to Queenston carrying the first message. A plaque marking this historic day has been placed outside on the entrance wall of St Lawrence Market located in Toronto’s Front Street (see photo, below).

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Plaque commemorating the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada on December 19, 1846, Malik Merchant, Simerg
Plaque commemorating the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada on December 19, 1846, on the front entrance wall of Toronto’s St Lawrence Market; December 18, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

It may be noted however, that the first telegraphic message was sent by its inventor, Samuel Morse, two years earlier in May 24, 1844 which simply read: “What God Wrought?” He credited the message to his friend’s daughter, Annie Ellsworth, who found it in the Bible. It is an expression of awe for God [for inspiring the invention].

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When decoded, this paper tape recording of the historic message transmitted on May 24, 1844 by Samuel F. B. Morse reads, “What hath God wrought?” Morse sent it from the Supreme Court room in the U.S. Capitol in Washington to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore. Photo: US Library of Congress.
This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853
Telegraph stations in the United States, the Canadas & Nova Scotia, 1853. This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853, only nine years after the first message, shown in the previous image. By this time, only one state east of the Mississippi, Florida, was not connected by telegraph. The legend on the left offers the list of message rates from Pittsburgh. By 1861, telegraph lines crossed the American continent; by 1866, the transatlantic cable connected America and Europe. Credit: Chas. B. Barr, Pittsburgh, Pa. Wegner & Buechner lith., 1853. Col. map 59 x 85 cm. Scale ca. 1:4,200,000 Geography and Map Division, via US Library of Congress.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah was a frequent user of the telegraphic services. On December 29, 1948, he sent a telegram conferring Count Jindani with the title of Diwan for his great services. There are numerous other examples of telegraphic messages that the late Imam sent to Ismaili individuals and institutions. A few from Ismaili magazines appear on this website.

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A telegram from Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Ismailis, conferring the title of Diwan on (Count) Gulamhussein Mohamed Naser Jindani.
A telegram from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan conferring the title of Diwan on (Count) Gulamhussein Mohamed Naser Jindani. Photo: Mohamed Jindani Collection, London, UK.

In a brief historical overview on communications technology as they have evolved over the last few hundred years, a piece on the website of Elon University states:

“The printing press was the big innovation in communications until the telegraph was developed. Printing remained the key format for mass messages for years afterward, but the telegraph allowed instant communication over vast distances for the first time in human history. Telegraph usage faded as radio became easy to use and popularized; as radio was being developed, the telephone quickly became the fastest way to communicate person-to-person; after television was perfected and content for it was well developed, it became the dominant form of mass-communication technology; the internet came next, and newspapers, radio, telephones, and television are being rolled into this far-reaching information medium.”

In response to the invention of the telegraph, Charles F. Briggs and Augustus Maverick wrote in their 1858 book “The Story of the Telegraph”:

“Of all the marvelous achievements of modern science the electric telegraph is transcendentally the greatest and most serviceable to mankind … The whole earth will be belted with the electric current, palpitating with human thoughts and emotions … How potent a power, then, is the telegraphic destined to become in the civilization of the world! This binds together by a vital cord all the nations of the earth. It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such an instrument has been created for an exchange of thought between all the nations of the earth.” (emphasis added)

Morse, however, had anticipated much earlier that a communications technology such as the one he had invented could be misused. In a letter to Francis O.J. Smith in 1838, Morse wrote:

“This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed.”

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, delivering Brown University’s Ogden lecture on March 10, 2014.

Looking at the power the internet holds today, how accurate was Morse! And let’s elaborate on this by studying what Mawlana Hazar Imam has said with regard to the innovation of technologies and different disruptive forces that are at play. In his March 10, 2014 Stephen Ogden Lecture at Brown University, he said:

“We often think about technological innovation as a great source of hope for the world. We hear about how the internet can reach out across boundaries, helping us all to stay in touch, and giving us access to information from every imaginable source.

“But it is worth remembering that the same affirmations have greeted new communication technologies for centuries, from the printing press to the telegraph to television and radio. Yet in each case, while many hopes were fulfilled, many were also disappointed. In the final analysis, the key to human cooperation and concord has not depended on advances in the technologies of communication, but rather on how human beings go about using – or abusing – their technological tools.

“Among the risks of our new communications world is its potential contribution to what I would call the growing “centrifugal forces” in our time – the forces of “fragmentation.” These forces, I believe, can threaten the coherence of democratic societies and the effectiveness of democratic institutions.

“Yes, the Information Revolution, for individuals and for communities, can be a great liberating influence. But it also carries some important risks.

“More information at our fingertips can mean more knowledge and understanding. But it can also mean more fleeting attention-spans, more impulsive judgments, and more dependence on superficial snapshots of events. Communicating more often and more easily can bring people closer together, but it can also tempt us to live more of our lives inside smaller information bubbles, in more intense but often more isolated groupings.

“We see more people everywhere these days, standing or sitting or walking alone, absorbed in their hand-held screens. But, I wonder whether, in some larger sense, they are really more “in touch?” Greater “connectivity” does not necessarily mean greater “connection.”

“Information travels more quickly, in greater quantities these days. But the incalculable multiplication of information can also mean more error, more exaggeration, more misinformation, more disinformation, more propaganda. The world may be right there on our laptops, but the truth about the world may be further and further away.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam then discusses some of the conflicts that are taking place in the world today, and asks, “How can we respond to such tendencies?” He says:

“The response, I would emphasise today is a thoughtful, renewed commitment to the concept of pluralism and to the closely related potential of civil society. A pluralist commitment is rooted in the essential unity of the human race. Does the Holy Qur’an not say that mankind is descended from “a single soul?” In an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it is essential that we live by a “cosmopolitan ethic,” one that addresses the age-old need to balance the particular and the universal, to honour both human rights and social duties, to advance personal freedom and to accept human responsibility.”

Please read Mawlana Hazar Imam’s complete speech by clicking HERE, in which he recommends ways to overcome the challenges of miscommunication and misinformation we are dealing with.

Date posted: December 18, 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.

The Heavenly Ismaili Jamatkhana at Night; and Changing Face of Nature at Morningside and Aga Khan Parks

Hopefully, you did not miss photos of the rich autumn colours at Aga Khan Park, when autumn foliage peaked around November 5, 2021. If you missed the post, please click HERE.

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About a week later, as trees started losing their leaves, Malik Merchant happened to be at the grounds of Aga Khan Park at night, and captured the beauty of the heavenly Ismaili Jamatkhana dome through lit-up trees, moments before the lights in the prayer hall went out. See the beautiful photos HERE.


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The face of nature changed once again, as more and more trees shed their leaves and lost much of the autumn foliage. For one last time Malik Merchant visited Morningside Park, and also made his customary pilgrimage to the Aga Khan Park. His story and spectacular photos are HERE.

Date posted: November 18, 2021.


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.

Autumn Photos: Blazing Red Maples at Aga Khan Park

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor Barakah, Simergand Simergphotos)

What truly instilled in me a love for nature? I had taken it for granted in Africa! But on a New Moon Night (Chandraat or Chaand Raat; Bengali, Urdu etc.) in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the 3rd week of November 1979, I looked up at the sky with the Wasatch Mountain range around me. There I spotted the beautiful crescent on a clear evening!

Chandraat as Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, 48th Hereditary Imam of Ismaili Muslims, said is a night that will generate immense happiness and peace. In anxious moments of arriving in a new city to work as a trainee computer programmer, the sighting of the New Moon is exactly what I needed. I have loved nature ever since that day.

Yesterday, November 5, in Canada and in many other parts of the world, Ismailis marked the Night of the New Moon with special prayers of Salwaat and the prayers of Bibi Fatimah — the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) and wife of the first Shia Imam Hazrat Ali (A.S.) from whom Ismaili Imams are directly descended. Thousands of Ismailis around the world attended their respective Jamatkhanas while many others prayed at home due to Covid-19 procedures in place. I spent hours during the day time taking photos — I was even more excited and energized, because of the significance of the day.

Please click HERE or on image below to view a small collection from hundreds of nature photographs I took, mostly with my Olympus OM-D EM10, between November 3 and 5, 2021 in Toronto’s forests and parks.

Blazing Aga Khan Park
Please click on image for story Blazing Aga Khan Park and photos from Parks and Forests in Toronto.

Date posted: November 6, 2021.


Simergphotos Presents Nature Photos Inspired by the Writings of Aga Khan III

Malik Merchant recently set out to capture pertinent pictures that would be reflective of the writings of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, on the glories of nature and the purpose of life. From the joys of watching beautiful moon and sun rises to the struggles that living things have to endure to sustain themselves as well as to multiply, Malik was lucky enough to experience moments he was seeking out for his new piece in Simergphotos.

A painting of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah by N.B. Dewji that appeared in a voluminous journal called Rahe Rast, published in 1948-49 under the supervision of Dar es Salaam’s iconic religious education teacher Karim Master. Please read Rahe Rast article.

The photo post has been prepared to mark the 144th birth anniversary of the longest reigning Imam in Ismaili history, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III. Born on November 2, 1877 in Karachi, he became the 48th Ismaili Imam in August 1885 at the age of 7. He passed away on July 11, 1957 after a reign of 71 years, the longest in Ismaili history, handing the Hereditary Imamat that originated with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Shia Imam, to his grandson Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan IV. Prince Karim is now in his 65th year of Imamat. Please click SIMERPHOTOS or on any of the two images on this page for a beautiful collection of nature photos as well as quotes on nature and the realities of life by Aga Khan III.

Please click on image for NATURE PHOTOS reflecting the wisdom of Aga Khan III.

Date posted: November 1, 2021.