A few years ago, Malik Mirza contributed a great piece on the mausoleums of Pir Sadardin and his son Pir Hasan Kabirdin, who are among the architects of Ismaili Dawa in the Indian sub-continent through the wonderful tradition and teachings of Ginans. Mirza’s wish to visit the mausoleum of Pir Shams, father of Pir Sadardin, was fulfilled recently, and he has contributed a fantastic and informative photo essay on the mausoleum. Click on EXCLUSIVE PHOTO ESSAY: THE MAUSOLEUM OF PIR SHAMS or image below to read the essay.
Malik Merchant, having spent a whole night on July 4-5, 2020, at Aga Khan Park taking photos of the Full Moon, alas, did not have the same opportunity with the New Moon a few days ago. It rose during daytime, and set soon after dusk, and its visibility was extremely low. So 3 days later, he spent a few hours at the Ismaili Centre photographing the Crescent Moon that had reached an illumination of around 12%. Please click HERE or on image below for story and plenty of photos!
July 1, 2017 was 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding. I had planned to be in Ottawa for the greatest Canada Day celebration in the country. However, my 45000 km road trip that began in Vancouver was delayed, and I arrived in Winnipeg on June 30th after having driven 2600 kms (including the detours I had taken to see sites in Alberta and Saskatchewan)! Ottawa was a further 2200 kms away, and the forecast there called for rainy weather.
Winnipeg was basking in sunshine when I woke up! At the hotel, I had learned about Winnipeg’s 11 year old tradition of forming a living Canadian flag in various parts of the city. For the 150th anniversary, the largest living Maple Leaf formation was going to be at the city’s downtown intersection at Portage Avenue and Main Street.
2,500 red T-shirts were handed out at 8:30 AM, and Canadians of all backgrounds were asked to position themselves in the square. Nigerian born Ismaila Alfa, host of Up To Speed on CBC Radio One in Winnipeg, led the sea of reds through a couple of practice sessions to get everything right. Then, he asked the crowd to look up at the camera hosted in a high rise office tower for two photos — the first with a smile and the second one with the cheerful singing of “Canada” . This was a truly memorable moment for me as I have never witnessed anything like this before, and have only attended Canada Day Celebrations in Ottawa! I share the photographs from that happy day 3 years later, while we are all stuck at home watching the 153rd Canada Day virtually due to Covid-19.
As an Ismaili Muslim, my first impressions of Canada were formed in November 1978 when I travelled to Toronto from the UK for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s, His Highness the Aga Khan, first ever visit to his newly settled Ismaili followers. When he repeatedly called on the Ismailis in Canada to “Make Canada your home” I reflected on that message and decided to make Canada my home some 2 years later.
Mawlana Hazar Imam’s profound affinity and respect for Canada has been explained in a very thoughtful piece by Mohib Ebrahim. I urge everyone to read it. I take a number of quotations from Mohib’s article which reflect the Imam’s confidence in Canada as a force of good:
“Canada [is] an international power who takes her responsibilities seriously and whose policies have never in her history been tainted by the cruder forms of colonialism, racialism or isolationism.” — Diplomatic Banquet, Toronto, November 1978.
“Successful experience with democracy, civil society and pluralism are the national genius of Canada of which much of the developing world is in dire need.” — Ottawa, June 2005
“[A]s you continue your search for the best constitutional solution to your future, … let me emphasise that Canada remains for the rest of the world an enviable haven. A haven of peace, and of immense natural beauty and wealth. The wealth I speak of, is not merely its natural resources but the peoples of Canada, steeped in your tradition of tolerance, generosity and compassion in alleviating human suffering and respect for diversity of thought and culture.” — Diplomatic Corps Banquet Toronto, August 1992.
On this 153rd anniversary marking the birth of Canada, my 89 year old beautiful mother Maleksultan and my lovely daughter Nurin join me in wishing all Canadians and everyone living in this great country a very Happy Canada Day.
Ismaili Muslim is appointed as the new Lieutenant Governor of Alberta
We are particularly proud and joyous that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday, June 30, the appointment of Salma Lakhani, a proud Ismaili Muslim, as the new Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Ms. Lakhani will be the first Muslim Lieutenant Governor in Canadian history.
A long time resident of Edmonton, Ms. Lakhani has dedicated her life to helping people in need and those who face obstacles to success in our society. Through her work to advance education, health care, women’s empowerment, human rights, and support for new immigrants, she continues to be a champion of diversity, pluralism, and inclusion.
Born in Uganda, her home country from which her family was expelled in 1972, Ms. Lakhani completed an honours degree in Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Manchester. She moved to Edmonton with her husband, Dr. Zaheer Lakhani, in 1977. The couple has two daughters. I recollect Dr. Zaheer as the Aga Khan Council Chairman for Edmonton during the early 1980’s. He mingled with everyone in the Jamat, and as a leader consulted with Jamati members regularly. He was always supported by his wife Salma during his term.
We congratulate Ms. Lakhani and her family on her appointment, and wish her happiness and success in the role she will play for all Albertans.
As we all celebrate Canada Day, we sincerely hope that this great nation of 37.6 millions people will come out even stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic that we are living through today with the rest of humanity.
Date posted: July 1, 2020.
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.
We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.
Malik Merchant is the editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and the publication his websites. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian based in Ottawa. Malik may be contacted at Simerg@aol.com.
Between Google and Yelp, Jamila’s Kitchen and Grill located on 2733 Barnet Hwy, in Coquitlam, one of the 21 municipalities comprising Metro Vancouver, has over 220 reviews with an average star rating of 4 (out of 5). Canadian media such as the national newspaper Globe and Mail, and greater Vancouver publishers Tricity News and CityNews1130 recently carried heartwarming stories about the restaurant and its owners, Malik Malikzada and his wife Jamila Malikzada. Please click on links that follow to read the articles. Please also see a brief description about the restaurant taken from its website.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
In 2000, the Malikzadas, with the help of Ismaili organization were accepted as refugees in Canada where they now run Jamila’s Kitchen and Grill in Coquitlam, B.C. The eclectic menu features South Asian dishes, which Ms. Malikzada learned to cook while living in Pakistan. Read more in the Globe and Mail
It was always Jamila’s dream to cook food in her own restaurant. Three years ago, she and her husband Malikzada took the plunge….they’re humbled to be able to give back to the community that’s taken them in by offering free food at their Coquitlam restaurant they’ve run for three years to those who can’t afford it. Read more in Tricitynews
CITY NEWS 1130
Whether they can pay or not, the owner of a restaurant in Coquitlam is offering hot meals to anyone who truly needs them. The owner of Jamila’s Kitchen and Grill says the offer is open to everyone, regardless of whether or not they can prove their circumstances. Read more in Citynews1130 (with video)
ABOUT JAMILA’S KITCHEN
Jamila’s Kitchen & Grill is a dream borne from the mind and heart of Jamila, a passionate chef of Afghan descent. Escaping Afghanistan as a family during civil war, she with her family relocated in Karachi, Pakistan and as chef worked in food industry and Aga Khan university hospital’s kitchen for many years and absorbing the culture through its language, art and cuisine.
Upon migrating to Canada Nov 2000, her immigrant experience confirmed to her that the importance of creating and combining ethnic food from Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, Greek and indo-Chinese, she created Jamila’s Kitchen & Gill and merged with Pizza Island & Indian Spice as a hub for diverse cultures to feel always great.
The fusion approaches to food, contribute to creating a sense of universality while maintaining the quality that she has brought with her to this land. Appreciating the growing movement of lifestyles of health and sustainability, Jamila’s Kitchen & Grill merges with Pizza Island & Indian Spice and operating under one ceiling, and consciously integrates local and organic food into the menu; we love to serve our community.
Simerg wants to her from you…..
If you have eaten at Jamila’s Kitchen and Grill, please give your feedback by clicking on Leave a comment. We also welcome a comprehensive review of the restaurant in 500-600 words. If you wish to submit one, please write to Simerg@aol.com.
Date posted: February 28, 2020.
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.
Of course, the “best ever” is our labelling having lived in the city for a long time! If you live in Ottawa/Gatineau or are visiting the region, please drive to Gatineau Park or take the special free shuttle from downtown Ottawa. You shouldn’t miss this glorious show of nature at its most colourful! Weather forecast to Monday, October 21, 2019 — splendid!
Its beyond fall colours! This park has so much of the natural world to offer, and should be in everyone’s bucket list. My daughter and I had limited time and made the most effective use of the 15 hours we had which included around 6 hours of driving time from and back to Ottawa. With time management, and inspiration from youth anything is possible! If you are in Ontario and close to the Park, make it this week — even for a day!
On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were strapped into their Apollo spacecraft on top of the vast Saturn V rocket and were propelled into orbit in just over 11 minutes. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface. We have for our readers a magnificent collection of photos from humankind’s single greatest technological achievement…PHOTO ESSAY
“I encourage everyone to travel and visit the forest, for they are amazing…there will be fewer and fewer in the future. That’s what I say to myself when I take every photograph…In my photographs, I let the animals and trees speak for themselves and hope other people will see the beauty I see.”– Prince Hussain Aga Khan
Wondering where to go for your holidays this summer! To follow up on Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s quote, I have a fantastic destination in mind for families as well as youth. My dad and I have just received a heart-warming photo of the first newborn baby bison spotted in Yellowstone this spring. The photo at top of this post was taken by Jim Futter, a long time supporter of the Park. Yellowstone is the only place in the U.S. where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times, so everyone at Yellowstone as well as friends of the park around the world love seeing new calves carry on that legacy. Yellowstone is the world’s very first national park.
I highly recommend Yellowstone and its beautiful neighbour, Grand Teton National Park, as week long family safari destinations that would also include 2-3 days in beautiful Salt Lake City and Park City, which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Parents, children and youth will be amazed, thrilled and excited with the complete natural environment they will experience during their trip — marvellous mountains, an amazing and picturesque salt lake, incredible geysers and volcanic activity, lakes, rivers, wildlife — including wolves, grizzly bears, and herds of bisons — green forests as well as burnt out forests from the fire of 1988, breathtaking canyons and much much more! The trip will also be highly educational, as there is so much one learns by being in Yellowstone.
Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island at dusk. Photo was taken from the Buffalo Point lookout and picnic area. Photo: Nurin Merchant. Copyright.
Yellowstone’s accommodation and restaurants situated next to the Old Faithful Geyser are fantastic, as are resorts just outside Grand Teton. Old Faithful is so named because of its predictable eruptions. You will remember your trip to Yellowstone for your entire lifetime — I say that with confidence, because I have been there and am longing to go back!
Have a fantastic summer — I bet you will, should you follow my recommendation to make Grand Teton and Yellowstone your choice destinations.
Date posted: April 20, 2019. Last updated: April 21, 2019.
About the author: Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Nurin completed her International Baccalaureate (IB) high school program at Colonel By Secondary School before proceeding to the University of Guelph, where she has spent eight years, first completing an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and then pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. A lover of animals and nature since her childhood, Nurin is also an artist whose art work has been featured on this website. Her inspiring mixed media work on canvas entitled “The Nature of Prayer” was featured in The Ismaili Canada magazine during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam. She also plays numerous musical instruments such as the piano and flute. She speaks English, French and Spanish as well as her mother tongue, Katchi.
Beef samosas from the Aga Khan’s Museum’s cafetaria. Note the image is of samosas that I froze after bringing the cooked version home. I simply microwave them for 30 seconds and then place them in a toaster oven (toast mode) for 3 – 4 minutes. They turn out to be as delicious as freshly fried ones. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Do not fail to take a few dozen samosas home with you when you visit the Aga Khan Museum
Yesterday (April 17), the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum tasted better than ever. Let me tell you why. I have been a Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) football fan since the age of 8, thanks to my late dad, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018). We were in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, in 1961, when Spurs won the double. Every Tuesday, my dad would acquire a South African English newspaper to see the results of the weekend’s British football games. He would also use the results to predict matches that would end up as draws the following week, and enter his choices in one of the cheaper football pool such as Zetters. Like everyone else who played the pools, his hope was that from his selections of drawn games, 7 or 8 would be correct. It would make him rich overnight, provided of course there weren’t too many draws on the day. If I recall correctly, he spent a good 2-3 hours analyzing the most recent results to make his predictions. I simply wanted him to win so that he would be able to buy me a good box of coloured pencils for 12-15 escudos — times were tough! I asked him one day what team he supported the most, and his reply was “Spurs”; “and second best papa?” And he replied, “Everton.”
Spurs has been in my heart ever since. They haven’t won the English Premiere now for 59 years, and they are not going to win it this year either. Yesterday, though, they broke the hearts of Manchester City players, their highly respected manager and million of fans when in the 3rd minutes of injury time, the goal scored by City’s striker Rahim Sterling was disallowed by VAR (Video Assistance Referee) due to an off-side infringement. Moments earlier, before the VAR review, my heart had sunk to its lowest depth. Now, following VAR review, the referee’s arm went up indicating off-side and the Jumbotron flashed NO GOAL VAR OFFSIDE (watch game highlights, below). I was as excited as every Spurs fan on the face of this earth. On aggregate, the scoreline after the VAR review stood at 4-4 and Spurs eliminated City due to the away goal rule. Spurs will play their semi-finals against Ajax — the club that was made famous by Dutch master Johan Cruyff, who is regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.
I was ecstatic with the Spurs victory. I thought of my dad; a day earlier I had even told my mum about the game and she also remembered that Tottenham “was papa’s favourite team.” DAZN has the rights to show the UEFA games in Canada through an on-line subscription, and it was not televised, so my mum could not watch it.
After that incredible and tense victory, I needed time to recover from a roller-coaster game that saw 5 goals scored inside the first 21 minutes. My point of relaxation, I decided, would be the Aga Khan Museum, which is open until 8 PM every Wednesday. As I set forth from home, I knew what would give me the greatest pleasure — not the fantastic Moon exhibition, but the delicious samosas that are prepared for the Museum’s courtyard cafe by the highly acclaimed on-site Diwan restaurant.
As I reached the cafe counter, I raised myself to discover that the oven trays where the samosas are kept to maintain crispiness were empty. I was disappointed and told the cheerful attendant they should be turning out more of the samosas, at least on Wednesday evenings. I was relieved when he told me he had placed an order for 10 more and they would be ready in 7-10 minutes. “Do you want all 10?” I replied, “Yes, 2 to eat here and the remainder for home.”
Story continues after quote…..
MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM ON HIS FONDNESS FOR SAMOSAS
His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John Macdonald, Ottawa.
….Earlier this evening I was struck by how quickly we are all affected by the culture we live in although it’s not our own. Bahadur Hirji, you all know, was taking pictures and he kept on saying to my wife and me “cheese” – in the end I said to him, at least if you had said “samosas” or “biriani”, I would have recognised that he was conveying a message to me — His Highness the Aga Khan, Los Angeles, November 3, 1986
The wait was worth every minute. I found a comfortable chair alongside the museum’s atrium. I did not turn on my Iphone. I had come to relax and did not want any intrusions. It was time to savour the Spurs victory with the best samosas in Toronto.
Samosas come in numerous varieties — ground beef and chicken as well as vegetarian. The Aga Khan Museum makes the beef and vegetarian kinds which are spiced splendidly. The version it prepares is with a thin pastry covering, not the thick and much heavier pastry that is served in the majority of Indian restaurants and supermarkets around the country. The thin pastry has always been my preferred choice. I often refer to such samosas as Ismaili samosas, like the lentil based Ismaili bhajias, and fried muhogo (cassava), because the East African Ismaili community created its own versions of appetizers and curries (such as kuku paka, the equivalent of a Thai green/yellow/red chicken curry), pilaus and bhirianis which can be found in many restaurants across Canada run by East African Ismailis. In Vancouver, for example, restaurants such as Safari, Kilimanjaro, Simba Grill, James Cafe, Agra (across from James) come to my mind immediately. In Ottawa a trio of Ismaili sibblings, with the support of their parents, have established a magnificent catering unit under the name All Seasons Indian Catering on 2285 St. Laurent Blvd, with an East African emphasis. Of course, in addition to restaurants, many Ismaili ladies make outstanding samosas and some even cater for private parties.
As much as I have loved the fusion food at all these East African Ismaili outlets, the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum are among the finest in taste and quality. The crispiness of the samosa with its thin outer pastry, the spice level of the beef and the fact that the exterior pastry doesn’t have an oily feel to it have made me their fan. Moreover, there has never never a hint that the oil that the samosas are cooked in has been used over and over again. The samosa is slightly smaller in size than what you get in restaurants and the Museum sells them at a $1.00 each, with a 10% discount if you are a member of the museum .
Samosas are generally served with a slice of lemon that you squeeze over onto the meat after taking the initial bite. Many restaurants provide different types of chutneys such as amli (tamarind) chutney, a spicy chutney made from green chilies and coriander or even a white coconut chutney. But I am not a believer in these extra chutneys when a food item tastes delicious on its own. Two drinks that I enjoy the most with samosas are a cup of hot chai or a a can of coke. The chai sold at the Museum is a tea bagged version, which is never as satisfying as a chai that is prepared with tea leaves or tea bags combined with cinnamon sticks, elchi (cardamom pods), cloves as well as other spices, that are all boiled for a few minutes in water and milk. I make it a point to occasionally take a dozen samosas from the Museum for my afternoon tea. I freeze them, and whenever I am in the mood for samosas, I warm a couple in the microwave for 20 seconds before placing them in a toaster oven for about 3-4 minutes (in toaster setting — just as you would toast bread). Really, the result is outstanding and the previously frozen samosas come out as crispy and tasty as the freshly cooked ones.
I am generally a fast paced eater but yesterday I spent over an hour finishing two samosas and a cup of chai latte. That’s how relaxed I felt at the museum’s magnificent confines. It has a peaceful atmosphere, a fact that was noted by two new visitors to the museum as they walked by me. My mum who admonishes me for eating rapidly would have been pleased. I felt relaxed. I was savouring the samosas and I considered the time spent at the Museum as one of the finer moments in my life — with that Spurs victory. Thank you Aga Khan Museum for the best samosas in town and its founder, His Highness the Aga Khan, for building a museum that not only has incredible exhibits and programs but also provides a truly peaceful and healing environment when you need it the most.
To the Museum staff at the cafe and the chef at Diwan I say: “Thank you for making delicious samosas. I hope to see you over again and again, and definitely when Tottenham qualify for the finals after victory over Ajax of Amsterdam.”
I urge Torontonians and everyone visiting the city to see the Aga Khan Museum. It is fantastic and caters to every age group. The Moon exhibition (until August 18, 2019) is magnificent and highly educational, and every member of your family will love it. Then treat yourself to the samosas and take some home with you.
Date posted: April 18, 2019. Last updated: April 20, 2019.
The following piece has been adapted from the NASA website; see notes  and  for links
One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s OPPORTUNITY rover mission came to an end in February 2019 after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.
The OPPORTUNITY rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive OPPORTUNITY in February 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.
“It is because of trailblazing missions such as OPPORTUNITY that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.” And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of OPPORTUNITY, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”
Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), the rover vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.
This image taken by the panoramic camera aboard the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows the rover’s empty lander, the Challenger Memorial Station, at Meridiani Planum, Mars. The image was acquired on the rover’s 24 sol, or Martian day. Time. This mosaic image consists of 12 color images acquired with the camera’s red, green and blue filters. The color balance has been set to approximate the colors that a human eye would see. Opportunity is celebrating its seventh anniversary on the Red Planet, having landed on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 24, Pacific Time), for what was to be a 90-day mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
During one of its drives on the surface, the rover examined soil targets that were designated as “Mobarak” in honor of Persian New Year for a period of 3 sols between March 25 – March 27, 2005. (The term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or “sol”, is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds).
OPPORTUNITY had its head down in a trough trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. Two days later, the rover studied two other targets, “Norooz” and “Mayberooz,” again studying the soil properties.
It may be of interest to note that several craters on the moon are named after famous Muslim scientists including Fatimid astronomers Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) and Ibn Yunus, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and the Alamut scholar Nasir al-Din al-Tusi.
Excerpts from NASA
Sol-by-sol summaries: Sols 415 to 417 (March 25-27, 2005):
Zeroing in on a soil target called “Mobarak” in honor of Persian New Year, Opportunity has had its head down in a trough for three sols trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. During an observation like this, it uses all of its in-situ instruments taking microscopic images, alpha particle X-ray spectrometer readings and Moessbauer spectrometer readings.
After Opportunity had looked at the soil in the trough, it was time to examine the soil at the top of the ripple. The rover planners perfectly executed a 7-meter (23-foot) drive that placed the rover right at the top of the ripple. Opportunity deployed its arm once again and inspected the soil.
Sols 419 and 420:
Here, Opportunity has the chance to look at two targets, “Norooz” and “Mayberooz,” again studying the soil properties.