Heart breaking images from Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s ongoing “The Living Sea: Fragile Beauty” exhibition at the Ismaili Centre Toronto

The image of a snared dolphin that sunk my heart


The photograph by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of two dolphins swimming side by side had the greatest impact on me when I visited his exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

My eyes were immediately drawn to one of the dolphin’s tails, which had a black rope (presumably from fishing equipment) tightly ensnared around it. The rope had been cinched so tight over time that it was now embedded in the dolphin’s skin. My heart sank — such an intelligent yet helpless creature experiencing so much pain and suffering due to mankind’s irresponsibility with its creation.

I would like for the readers to think about something we can all relate to for a moment — pretend that one day you are walking barefoot on a beach, somewhat far from home. Suddenly, OUCH! You feel a sharp pain, and notice that you have accidentally stepped on a piece of glass that has become deeply embedded in the sole of your foot. Somehow, no matter how hard you try, you cannot remove the glass. No one is around to help you, so you are forced to walk all the way home; each step is a painful burden as the glass digs in, deeper and deeper. A few hours later you reach home, fetch a pair of tweezers, and thankfully succeed in removing the shard.

Habituated bottlenose dolphins taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan at a site known as Dolphin Reef near Hurghada, Egypt, November 2020. Note the rope attached and digging deep into the second dolphin's tail
Habituated bottlenose dolphins taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan at a site known as Dolphin Reef near Hurghada, Egypt, November 2020. Note the rope attached and digging deep into the second dolphin’s tail — impossible for a simple diver to remove. Photograph: Nurin Merchant/Simerg

This dolphin has no one to help it. In the scenario you just imagined, just like we use our feet to propel us forward, the dolphin uses its tail. Unlike the scenario though, this dolphin has likely been living with this injury for months, not hours. And one day, it is very probable that he or she will die from this injury.

This photograph highlights the damage that we continue to inflict upon nature and juxtaposes it with nature’s strong will and resiliency. I see it every day in my career as a veterinarian — animals are far more resilient and perseverant than humans, but this is because they have no choice but to survive, but to persevere.

We must be their voice. And we must always remember: nature’s resiliency cannot compete with our destruction. One day, just as this dolphin — an animal recognized by many scientists as a non-human person due to their high level of intelligence and ability to be self-aware — will succumb to its injuries, so will our ecosystems and the species who call it home (ourselves included).

Each and every one of us has a duty to protect, preserve, and conserve Nature and our home, Planet Earth. Without it, there is no us.


Plastic in the Oceans

Ismaili artists Al-Qawi Nanavati pictured at Prince Hussain Aga Khan's exhibition at the Ismaili Centre Toronto
Al-Qawi Nanavati, a graduate student pursuing Printmaking at the University of Iowa pictured at Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty, at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 22, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.


Originally from Mumbai, India, I have long been an artist and am currently pursuing a graduate program in Printmaking at the University of Iowa through an Iowa Arts Fellowship. My recent visit to Toronto happily coincided with the presentation by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of his exhibition The Living Sea: Fragile Beauty at the Aga Khan Museum. I then spent a considerable amount of time viewing the exhibition in the Ismaili Centre Toronto’s social hall and patio. I left the two events feeling inspired and motivated to do whatever I can to assist Prince Hussain in his goals of educating us and raising our awareness about the disturbing state of the oceans and its sea creatures.

The two images shown below captured my attention the most after hearing Prince Hussain speak about his passions and purpose behind the show. The images are mounted on a large panel in the patio of the Ismaili Centre. Titled Plastic Bag and Plastic Waste, they were taken in two different parts of the world, the Philippines and Sardinia, 3 years apart. I thought a lot about these two photographs long after I left the show. They were extremely poignant and show us a mirror into what we are doing to our planet.

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Plastic bags in ocean, Hussain Aga Khan, simerg
Two photographs captured by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of plastic bags in the ocean (top the Philippines, bottom Sardinia) that alarmed Al-Qawi Nanavati when she visited his exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 22, 2023. Photograph: Al-Qawi Nanavati/Simerg.

Prince Hussain has caption notes accompanying the two photographs. For the first photo, taken in May 2017 in the Philippines, the Prince writes: “This was the most depressing thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

For the bottom photo, taken in August 2020 in Sardinia, Prince Hussain laments: “Unfortunately few, if any, effective solutions exist to rid our oceans of this ongoing problem. Most would be difficult to bring to scale. As long as mankind isn’t ready to give up plastic or capable of producing reliable alternatives, our marine environment (and others!) will suffer.”

Date posted: May 28, 2023.
Last updated: May 29, 2023 (reformatting.)


Calgarians and Albertans: Experience the Majestic Oceans and its Sea Animals at Glenbow at the Edison – Free Visit from May 11-21, 2023


Albertans can count themselves lucky for being blessed with incredible nature and the scenic beauty of the Rocky Mountains. For example, the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Along the entire route, there are mountains, canyons, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests and hiking trails and wildlife. The natural spaces in the province are utilized by its residents as well as visitors from around the world throughout the year. During the past 4 months, I was amazed to meet visitors from as far as Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Japan, the Netherlands and Brazil, among many other countries, enjoying our winter activities.

A stingray. Photograph: Hussain Aga Khan/Focused on Nature, Living Sea Exhibition, Glenbow Museum Calgary
A stingray. Photograph: Hussain Aga Khan/Focused on Nature.

As lovers of nature, and to experience nature of a different kind, Albertans travel to the oceans to swim and snorkel in warm waters as well as for relaxation. The oceans are filled with over one million species of living creatures — from the tiniest Zooplankton, to the nudibranch to the blue-ringed octopus, to the dolphin, to the shark and the whale. But how many of us, while playing and enjoying the ocean, will dive into its depths to experience the marvels of the underwater world?

Well, we have a wonderful opportunity here in Calgary as the Glenbow presents a captivating exhibition of sea animal photographs captured by Prince Hussain Aga Khan, whose love for wildlife began when he was only 5 years old. This early childhood interest has grown into a passion for diving into the oceans and mingling with sea creatures of all kinds. Over the last decade he has taken thousands of pictures and a selection of his photographs have been published in books such as Diving Into Wildlife and the most recent one The Living Sea which is also the theme of the Glenbow exhibition. Hussain’s photographs have also appeared on National Geographic blogs.

Aside from taking photographs, Prince Hussain has become an activist on the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas. Through his organization Focused on Nature (FON), the Prince shares his passion and personal mission of conservation and the urgent need for more research and actionable initiatives on global issues negatively impacting the environment.

Glenbow’s exhibition from May 11-21, 2023, will feature a collection of his stunning photographs in large scale format. The exhibition is free and an opportunity that none of us should miss. It will be inspirational for everyone, and perhaps a turning point in many peoples lives when they see how the ocean is in danger of losing many of its species. It might even spur the youth to consider careers in oceanography. In any case, children as well as adults will be awed by Prince Hussain’s stunning underwater photographs.

Once again, this incredibly curated exhibition, The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty, is being held at the Glenbow at the Edison from May 11-21, 2023. It is FREE to attend. Please click Glenbow: The Living Sea to register.

Date posted: May 5, 2023.



From a young age, Prince Hussain Aga Khan developed a keen interest in conservation, tropical fish, reptiles and amphibians – and began scuba diving at 14. He started travelling to the tropics frequently after high school and began taking photographs of fauna and flora on a trip to the Brazilian Amazon in 1996.

Multiple photographic expeditions, often organized jointly with scientists or professional photographers, have led him to constitute extraordinary archives, covering various geographic areas and types of habitats. He has also captured many marine and terrestrial species.

His international exhibitions aim to inspire admiration for wildlife and the desire to protect it. Collections of Prince Hussain’s photographs have also been published in four books: Animal Voyage (2004), Diving into Wildlife (2015), Fragile Beauty (2022) and The Living Sea (2022). Proceeds from the sale of his books are donated, via Focused on Nature, to shark, cetacean or sea turtle conservation.


Stunning photos: Banff National Park’s beautiful animals and nature in the thick of a Canadian winter


If you are in Alberta, and are waiting for warmer weather to see Banff National Park’s emerald coloured lakes, green forests and wildlife, make no mistake that the Park offers extraordinary scenery in winter. Its snow covered mountains and frozen lakes will baffle your eyes and, with the exception of bears who will be in hibernation for a few more weeks, you will also encounter an amazing variety of wildlife. Malik Merchant’s short excursion to Banff and Lake Louise offered him a rare opportunity to witness how Albertans, Canadians and people from all over the world come to Banff to enjoy its extraordinary mountains, ski resorts, sulphur springs, canyons and trails….as well as coffee shops, restaurants and art galleries! Please click HERE or on the photo below for Merchant’s story and photographs on Simergphotos.

A coyote off Banff’s Tunnel Mountain Road. Please click on image for story and more photos.

Featured photos at top of post: A CP freight train passes through Morant’s curve on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), 6 kms from Lake Louise. The lookout point is a very popular spot for visitors as it offers a stunning view of trains coming around the bend, with the Bow River flowing along the side and mountains in the background. It is a dream spot for train lovers! The frequency of the trains is unreliable, though.

Date posted: March 14, 2023.


Photo Essay: Alberta’s Beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park and the Stunning Kananaskis Country

Please click Waterton Lakes National Park and Kananaskis Country

Nurin Merchant pens down a photo essay to reflect on her summer visit to Alberta in 2022. With spring soon approaching and summer to follow, Nurin strongly recommends that Albertans and visitors to the province should consider visiting Waterton Lakes National Park and the Kananaskis country to experience their extraordinary natural beauty, the stunning Rocky Mountains and superb wildlife. Please click PHOTO ESSAY or on the photograph below to view a small collection of photographs from more than 1,200 that she took with her dad over a period of 6 days in Alberta.

Waterton Lake. Please click on image for photo essay.

Featured photo at top of post: Forget Me Not Pond, Kananaskis Country.

Date posted: February 26, 2023.


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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Morant’s Curve: One of the World’s Premiere Train Lookout Points in Banff National Park’s Bow Valley Parkway

Malik Merchant returns to Banff National Park after 15 long years, and this time at the start of 2023 in the thick of winter. His photographs will bring you closer to one of Canada’s top destinations and you will be awed with what you learn and see about Morant’s Curve as well as a rare endangered snail that only lives in Banff’s sulphur springs….and, of course, we have other Rocky Mountain photographs too! You must read and share this beautiful post. CLICK FOR MORE! Or click on photos, below.

Can you spot the endangered snail? Click on image for more photographs from the Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff’. Photograph: Malik Merchant.


Morant's Curve, Malik Merchant Simerg Photos.
Morant’s Curve, Bow Valley Parkway, Hwy 1A, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Please click on photo for more beautiful photographs. Photograph: Malik Merchant.

Date posted: January 14, 2023.



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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Stunning Starry Night and Milky Way Photos Taken by Ron Richey at Jasper National Park, Canada

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT


Pyramid Mountain, October 18, 2022.

I fell in love with Pyramid Lake and the Pyramid Mountain behind it the moment I saw it on October 17, 2022. I kept going to it every day I was in Jasper, but nothing could be as breathtaking than being at the site on a dark clear night during Jasper’s annual Dark Sky Event. On October 18, I stood next to Ron Richey as he focused his lens into the sky and photographed the Milky Way and all the millions of stars above the Lake. I am pleased to share his photographs on Simergphotos. Do not miss this incredible awe-inspiring view of our universe by Ron, an avid photographer and a passionate lover of nature. And remember he took the photos in Jasper, the 2nd largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. So, you can imagine!

Milky Way, Pyramid Lake, Ron Richey, Simergphotos.
Our Milky Way, stretching 1000,000 light years across and 13.6 billion years of age. Please click on photo for Ron Richey’s stunning photographs.

Date posted: November 1, 2022.
Last updated: November 6, 2022 (as a repost.)


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 mmerchant@simerg.com

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 mmerchant@simerg.com 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 mmerchant@simerg.com 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 mmerchant@simerg.com. He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.