Yellowstone National Park

With summer approaching, Simerg recommends Yellowstone and Grand Teton for an exciting and unforgettable family safari

By NURIN MERCHANT

Nurin Merchant with her bunny, Pistachio.

“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 National Park. Photo: Nurin Merchant.
Elks (Yellowstone); moose and grizzly (Grand Teton). Photo: Nurin Merchant.
One of many boardwalks at Yellowstone to experience the Park’s amazing geyser and volcanic activity. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

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!

I invite you to click on A Phenomenal One-of-a-Kind Experience in Yellowstone, the World’s Very First National Park, Through the Lens of Nurin Merchant to view a collection of my photos that I took at the Park when I visited it. The post has links to detailed pieces about my experiences in Salt Lake City, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

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.

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Nurin Merchant with her dad, Malik, at Yellowstone

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.  

The best samosas in Toronto are at the Aga Khan Museum, and I enjoyed them even more with Tottenham’s victory over Manchester City

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

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

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.

Click to watch highlights of incredible UEFA Champions quarter final 2nd leg between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur

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…..

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 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

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…….continued

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.

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NASA’s OPPORTUNITY Rover Mission Studied Martian Surface and Named a Few Targets to Honour Navroz

The following piece has been adapted from the NASA website; see notes [1] and [2] 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. 

Sol 418:

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.

Date posted: March 21, 2019.

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NOTES

[1] https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8413/nasas-opportunity-rover-mission-on-mars-comes-to-end/
[2] https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mer/images-print.cfm?id=1615

Available for Purchase: Very Limited Quantities of “Diving Into Wildlife” Signed by Prince Hussain Aga Khan

Diving into Wildlife by Hussain Aga Khan

Cover Page of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Diving Into Wildlife.

It is with tremendous pleasure that we inform our readers that we have received directly from the offices of Prince Hussain Aga Khan, an additional supply of signed copies of Prince Hussain’s book Diving Into Wildlife. The book comprises a collection of extraordinary underwater sea animal photographs taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in recent years. A collection of seven of his sea animal photos were displayed in Lisbon last July during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. A much larger exhibition is currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya. The Prince and his fiance, Fareen, attended the exhibition recently. 

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SIGNED COPIES ARE MUCH DESIRED

Diving Into Wildlife Hussain Aga Khan Signed Page

A specimen of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s signature in his photo book of sea animals Diving Into Wildlife.

Signed copies are much desired by book lovers and collectors, and, in this particular instance, the signature of Prince Hussain Aga Khan makes his work “Diving Into Wildlife” a truly unique and treasured item for any book collector, or for anyone receiving the book as a gift. 

Viewers of this website will recall that some eight years ago we offered both signed and unsigned copies of Prince Hussain’s book of animal photos entitled Animal Voyage. Prince Hussain had dedicated the book to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933-2003), and the proceeds from the sale of Animal Voyage went to the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment.

Prince Hussain’s “Diving Into Wildlife” is published under the auspices of a newly created organization by the Prince called Focused on Nature (FON, http://www.focusedonnature.org), whose mission is to “assist in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts when and where possible.”

FON will fulfill the mission by providing grants to projects around the world which the FON team has identified and vetted as having immediate impacts in wildlife conservation, protection, preservation, and education. The money that is distributed by FON to deserving organizations is raised by either direct contributions to FON or from the sale of unique and fine objects including limited edition photographs, art, clothing articles and books such as “Diving Into Wildlife.”

Simerg is thus delighted to support the work of FON by offering to our readers the following two versions of Diving Into Wildlife:

SIGNED COPIES

As of the posting of this announcement we have exactly 19 signed copies, and each is being offered at $US125.00 plus $US25.00 to cover expedited shipping and postage. GST/PST or HST as applicable will be added to Canadian orders. This initiative to ask a premium for signed copies and to submit this premium to FON has not been requested by the author or the publisher, but is a personal one. The signed copies are only available for shipping within North America. Each shipment will be trackable via the website of Canada Post.

UNSIGNED COPIES

We encourage interested individuals who are not able to acquire a signed copy to consider purchasing the unsigned copy of this beautiful volume by Prince Hussain Aga Khan.

Unsigned copies are sold at US$30.00 plus $25.00 to cover expedited shipping and postage. GST/PST or HST will be added to Canadian orders as applicable. The books are only available for shipping within North America. Each shipment will be trackable via the website of Canada Post.

Request for orders for delivery outside of North America will be considered and will be forwarded to FON for shipment from Europe, provided the book is still available.

HOW TO PURCHASE THE BOOK

Payment Methods:

  1. Paypal: Simergbooks has been verified by Paypal. To purchase a copy, please send a request to Simergbooks@aol.com, and an invoice will be generated from Paypal provided we have the book in stock. In view of the limited quantities payment should then be received within 24 hours after the invoice. Canadian orders will be invoiced in Canadian dollars based on an exchange rate of $US 1.00 = $C 1.30.
  2. Email Transfer (for Canadian orders only): Once we have confirmed that a book is available, we will request you to submit a payment via email transfer. In view of the limited quantities payment should then be received within 24 hours after the invoice.

SIMERG’S EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE

My son was delighted with the excellent photography by Prince Hussain. We as a family will cherish this volume (Animal Voyage) for a long time. Once again, thank you http://www.simerg.com  for making this book available in North America and your outstanding customer service and support. Shamim Rajan, Richmond Hill, Ontario

This is a beautiful piece of work!! The service was excellent. Very quick, safe and efficient turnaround and follow up. I recommend everyone to have a copy. Nazir Alibhai, Markham, Ontario

“Outstanding customer service, superfast delivery, and the book is great addition to any library.” Yaar, Toronto.

Date posted: February 25, 2019.

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Alamut’s Registration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Limbo

[Numerous reports in the Iranian media in November 2014 announced that Iran was planning to offer the castle of Alamut to UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The historical significance of the fortress dates back to 1090 A.C. when the Ismaili dai Hassan Sabbah chose the Alamut region as the headquarters of Ismailis following the Nizari-Musteali split in Fatimid Egypt. But four years after the announcement, Iran Daily reports that numerous factors have prevented the registration of Alamut as a World Heritage Site site.]

Alamut Photo by ALIREZA JAVAHERI WIKIPEDIA 800

A winter view of the unassailable rock of Alamut and the famous castle of Alamut nesting on top of this huge mountain of granite stone. This was the Capital of a Confederation of the Ismaili State founded in 1090 AC, by a great genius of all times, Hasan-i Sabbah which lasted for 171 years against formidable enemies and ultimately surrendered before the Mongols in 1256 AC. The Ismaili State was defended by a string of castles, over one hundred in number and Alamut being the capital of the State. This photo of was taken on December 31, 2011 by Alireza Javaheri. Photo credit: Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

By CULTURAL HERITAGE DESK, IRAN DAILY

Alamut located in the northwestern province of Qazvin as an untapped and historical region deserves to be registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List but various factors have prevented the goal from being reached.

Director General of Qazvin Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department Mohammad Ali Hazrati said that a limited number of foreigners travel to Qazvin Province because it doesn’t have any registered site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

He added efforts are underway to send the dossier of Alamut natural and historical site to UNESCO for world registration.

Hazrati said Alamut with beautiful natural landscape has several ancient structures including Hassan Sabbah Castle and Pich Bon Caravanserai.

A number of regulations should be observed for registration of any site on UNESCO’s List.

“Illegal construction of buildings within the boundary of the historical structures, including Hassan Sabbah Castle, is among the problems faced by Alamut in this respect”, he said.

The Rock of Alamut.

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

The steep trek to Alamut Castle. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji.

He added that a decree was issued for destruction of structures located in Alamut historical texture, but the resistance of local officials as well as some social considerations prevented it from being enforced.

Hazrati said the registration of Alamut on UNESCO’s World Heritage List would help the ancient site to be recognized more internationally, draw a large number of the visitors to the province and boost tourism and employment in the region.

The Former head of Iranian Center for Archeological Research, Hamideh Choobak, said all ancient sites located worldwide are of high value but international recognition would help increase the governments’ responsibility to protect and maintain them.

“Specific funds will also be made available to the sites by the government and international organizations”, she added.

Choobak, who is the head of Alamut Cultural Heritage Site, noted that Alamut deserves to be registered on UNESCO’s List but it is not enough.

She stressed that a number of conditions should be provided to help realize the target.

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

Milky Way Over Alamut

The Milky Way extends across the sky above the mountain fortress of Alamut in this all-sky view from Iran. The light dome at the lower right is from the capital Tehran, over 100 kilometers away to the southwest. The light on the upper right is from Qazvin, the closest major city to Alamut. Photo: Copyright. Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net.

The official said Hassan Sabbah Castle has been registered on the National Heritage List in the year to March 2002, adding some organizations failed to perform their responsibility toward the structure.

She reiterated that related organizations should raise the local people’s awareness about the benefits of the site’s registration on UNESCO’s List and encourage them to cooperate with officials in this respect.

Date posted: February 4, 2019.

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This piece, excluding the photos, was originally published in IRAN DAILYlicensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Please also see our previous post CNN Travel: On the trail of Iran’s ‘Assassins’ in the Alborz Mountains

CNN Travel: On the trail of Iran’s ‘Assassins’ in the Alborz Mountains

By AMAR GROVER, CNN TRAVEL

“Sabbah’s rule from Alamut is shrouded in mystery and enigma…partly because most Ismaili records of the era were destroyed by the Mongols while the writings of their detractors survived. Fused with the half-truths and fanciful tales of European travelers including Marco Polo along with the sensationalist confections of pseudo-scholars, the Ismailis were long cast in lurid light”…MORE ON CNN: A PHOTO TOUR OF ALBORZ MOUNTAINS

Click on image for CNN article and photo gallery

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PIECES ON SIMERG: SPECTACULAR NIGHT TIME PHOTO OF ALAMUT AND ESSAYS ON THE MYTH OF THE ASSASSINS

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

Date posted: February 3, 2019.

The Alhambra: Photos of Spain’s most visited monument by Muslim Harji

With 8,500 thousand people visiting the Alhambra everyday, it is Spain’s most visited monument. Muslim and Nevin Harji made it a point to see Islam’s crown jewel in Spain when they visited Lisbon to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan.

PLEASE CLICK:  SPAIN’S ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES: THE AL HAMBRA PALACE IN GRANADA AND THE GREAT MOSQUE IN CORDOBA THROUGH THE LENS OF MUSLIM HARJI

Please click on image for Muslim Harji’s photo essay,

Date posted: November 4, 2018.
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The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon: Our arrival, and a suggestion for seeing the city on a vintage moto-sidecar

PLEASE CLICK: TAKE A MAJESTIC TOUR OF LISBON ON A VINTAGE MOTO-SIDECAR

Please click on image for article on touring Lisbon.

Date posted: July 5, 2018
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Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam in Lisbon: Prepare & book your trip NOW for the “highest point” of the celebrations

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos, .com)

Nurin Merchant Ismaili Centre Lisbon Golden Jubilee Photos 001

Friends meeting friends at the magnificent Lisbon Ismaili Centre during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan in 2008. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

Note: This post will be updated at regular intervals as more information become available.

Lisbon: The “highest point” of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations

Flights to Lisbon are becoming harder to find on specific travelling dates in early July, and hotels are now quickly filling up as Jamati members respond to the official LIF (Ismaili Leaders International Forum) announcement made on Navroz, March 21, 2018 that, with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s approval, the Jamats around the world would be welcome to join the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon. Some weeks earlier, Nazim Ahmed, the AKDN representative to Portugal and one of the 5 senior officials of the Imamat to Portugal, made a statement to Portugal’s Ministry of External Affairs that the celebrations in Lisbon would be the highest point of the celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee. This set off a flood inquiries about what form the celebration would take, and many even started preparing for the trip then.

We want to tell you not to despair about flight and hotel bookings yet, but urge you NOT TO DELAY despite the fact that registration details for the Portugal Darbar have not yet been announced on the official Ismaili community website. The Ismaili, however, has launched a special website that presently informs the Jamat about events that are planned in Lisbon. There are seats available on some of Air Canada’s return flights from Toronto; and TAP, the Portuguese airline flies directly from Boston. Please get in touch with your airlines or travel agents, many of whom are offering complete packages from various cities around North America. Of course if you are in Europe, distances are shorter and many residing there may drive or take the train, as alternatives to flying!

My recent searches at some of the hotel booking sites that I have provided below — and that I have used many times — show that there are rooms available in Lisbon’s downtown at varying prices — from as low as CAD $55.00 per night to a high of CAD $1700.00 per night.

(Note: There may be visa requirements to travel to Portugal from your country, so you have to resolve that before making any kind of booking).

From the Jamat’s perspective, while the Darbar would undoubtedly be the high point of the visit, we want to say that there are plenty of interesting activities such as the Diamond Jubilee Festival that will be staged in Lisbon during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s presence in Lisbon. The official community website, the Ismaili, mentions that the Festival will include concerts featuring world-renowned performers; an international Jamati Talent Showcase; an Art Gallery; a Film Festival; and a general Imamat Day celebration. Also, a carry forward from the Golden Jubilee is the Rays of Light exhibition depicting Mawlana Hazar Imam’s commitment to improve the human condition during his 60 years of Imamat. A Mela (get together space) for friends and family to meet, relax, and share experiences will be the central hub of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

The Portuguese Jamat, as we learn, are very excited about welcoming the world wide Jamat for the “high point of the Diamond Jubilee celebration.”

Reasons to be in Lisbon

Over the weekend of March 24-25, 2018, I attended in Toronto the Canadian Jubilee arts festival and was impressed with stage performances and visual art exhibits. Now, that talent will converge in Lisbon from Ismaili Jamats who held local and national Jubilee events in their respective countries.

National Ismaili Arts Festival Canada

A painting at the Jubilee Arts National Festival held in Toronto on March 24-25. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

Canada Jubilee Arts Festival

An amazing and graceful performance by Azaz Hussain (in wheelchair) and Rehana Meru at the Canada Jubilee Arts National Festival on March 25, 2018. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

Lisbon hosts the third high profile Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre to be built after the London and Burnaby Ismaili Centres. So visiting the Festival and seeing the Ismaili Centre during Hazar Imam’s presence, meeting thousands at the Festival grounds, enjoying Portuguese delicacies at the site and Lisbon restaurants, visiting historic sites in and around Lisbon as well as shopping are some of the wonderful memories that you will take back with you, Darbar aside.

Moreover, the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat is being established in Lisbon, and we would all be very excited to visit its location in the heart of Lisbon.

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The exquisite Henrique Mendonça Palace in Portugal that will house the Seat of Ismaili Imamat. Situated in an extremely exclusive neighbourhood, the Henrique Mendonça palace won the Valmor Prize in 1909, and is part of a panoramic green area of ​​three hectares in the heart of Lisbon.

The city of Lisbon itself is enchanting and has a lot to offer. Not far from Lisbon, approximately 300 kms away, is Portugal’s Algarve, one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world. Spain’s Cordoba is 500 kms from Lisbon. Then, from there it is another 2 hours to the architectural wonder of Alhambra, in Granada.

My Past Memories

Eusebio in action

The Benfica and Portuguese superstar Eusébio in action in the 1960’s. Photo: Fifa

Lisbon has been at the centre of my heart for almost 56 years and it all started with Eusébio (1942-2014), the football player, who was essentially “kidnapped” from Mozambique by the great Portuguese team of the time, Benfica. Soon after joining Benfica he led the team to a 5-3 win over Real Madrid in the finals of the European Cup (now known as the UEFA Champions Cup) on May 2, 1962 in Amsterdam. As an 8 year old, I stayed awake to listen to the live commentary in Lourenço Marques (LM) at my friend Aziz Noorali’s place at the other end of the apartment complex where we stayed. “Golo de Benfica” – yes that was when I first fell in love with Lisboa! Eusébio broke the 3-3 tie, scoring the last 2 goals that made Benfica victorious, and a side to be reckoned with for the next few years with him as its superstar, like today’s Portuguese Ronaldo who  plays for Real Madrid.

Alwaez Merchant with Loureco Marques Friends large 2

The author’s father, Jehangir Merchant (2nd from left) with friends including the late Noordin Ahmed Keshavjee (left), Haider Ali Issa (right) and Tajdin Hussein (centre with glasses, second row)  at the gate of Lourenço Marques Jamatkhana. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Nizar Ahmed Mahmed (d. appx 1960)

A portrait of Ismaili soldier Nizar Ahmed who died when the ship he was sailing in sunk off the coast of Mozambique around the year 1960. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Chaganbhai of Lourenco Marques

Remembering Chaganbhai of Lourenço Marques Jamatkhana. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Lourenco Marques Aga Khan Club Cricket Team

The Lourenço Marques Aga Khan Club cricket team. Jehangir Merchant is in the front row at extreme right and standing behind him is the great Ismaili football player, Satar, who represented the Mozambique national team as a defender on many occasions including in a game against Benfica (and Eusébio). Photo: Late 1950’s, Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Ismaili Ladies Volunteers Lourenço Marques Jamat late 1950's

Ismaili lady volunteers of the Lourenço Marques Jamat, late 1950’s. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

A few years later in the 1970’s the small Ismaili Jamat started leaving Mozambique for settlement in Portugal, and my first glimpse of Lisbon was in 1977 when I travelled there from London. The Keshavjee family hosted me, and Lutafbhai spent hours showing me the city, taking me to its most historical and charming sites. His older brother, the late Madatbhai, took me to other points of interest as well as to a coastal restaurant, where I enjoyed the tiger prawns that I had missed in Tanzania and London since leaving Mozambique.

Alwaez Merchant joining in a student recitation in Lourenco Marques

A recitation by Ismaili students at a Jamati gathering in Lourenço Marques. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

I vividly remember one night during that first trip to Lisbon when more than a dozen family members from the Keshavjee clan took me to a very traditional Portuguese restaurant where I experienced a wide variety of local delicacies. The weight gain from that meal has not been lost to this day! During my subsequent visits, I was welcomed to Lisbon with hugs and kisses, because my parents had served the LM Jamat admirably and with distinction during their 8 year tenure there in the 1950’s! Then, in 2008, I took my daughter with me to Lisbon for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee.

Prince Aly Khan admiring a needlework by an Ismaili Student during his visit to Lourenco Marques

Prince Aly Khan admiring needlework by an Ismaili student during his visit to Lourenço Marques in 1957. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

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Prince Aly Khan bids farewell as he leaves the Lourenço Marques Jamatkhana during his visit in 1957. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

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In May 1958, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the Jamats in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar. Here he is shown a display of needlework and crafts prepared by Ismaili students during his visit to Lourenço Marques. His beloved father, Prince Aly Khan (13 June 1911 – 12 May 1960), had visited the Jamat in 1957, a few months before Mawlana Hazar Imam became the Imam on July 11, 1957. See previous 2 photos. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

His Highness the Aga Khan, in front row in white suit, seen with leaders and teachers of the Lourenço Marques during his 1958 visit to Portuguese East Africa

1958, Lourenço Marques: Mawlana Hazar Imam, then 21 years of age, pictured with leaders and teachers of Lourenço Marques at the front staircase of the Jamatkhana entrance. Mrs. Merchant is in second row at left, and Mr. Merchant is seen immediately behind Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Mawlana Hazar Imam entering a classroom in Lourence Marques

Mawlana Hazar Imam meets with Ismaili students during his visit to Lourenço Marques in May 1958. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Lisbon and Mozambique today

Cristiano_Ronaldo_20120609

Today’s Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, pictured playing against Germany at Euro 2012. Photo: Football.ua [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

What about today’s Mozambique and Portugal Jamats? I am happy to share a warm invitational letter from Aly Faruque in response to an earlier version of this post published on Barakah. He writes:

“As a Portuguese citizen currently residing in Mozambique, I would like to, in the first instance to welcome you to Portugal. We all look forward to receiving our brothers and sisters, and to experience together this incredible moment of history that our Community is celebrating.

“Your words, comments, and memories deeply touched us [referring to my Barakah post], by your humility and availability to share precious and valuable information. The history and the past that you shared from our Countries bring us nostalgia and willingness to remember even further our great memories from the past, as well as when looking at pictures that connect us back to our roots and traditions. This is indeed very heartwarming.

“But our history and tradition did not stop in the second half of the 20th century. Mozambique currently has a vibrant Ismaili community spread across the country, that includes 7 (and growing) Jamatkhanas, and, Portugal, where our community has prospered, is now the home of many brothers and sisters that are well integrated and without any doubt a part of the socio-economic fabric of the Portuguese society.

“In addition, and although Eusebio is still well respected, we are currently living the most glorious years of our football history. Portugal is the current holder of the European Cup and the best player in the world, perhaps of all times, is named Cristiano Ronaldo and started his career in Sporting Clube of Portugal, probably the best school of football talents in the world.

“As for the city of Lisbon, the highlights you mentioned are brilliant and definitely a must-see during a visit to our beautiful country and city. There are other places, those that are not on the itinerary of tour guides, and that could be a more genuine view of the Lisbon vibrant hospitality. Some of these places would be the Mercado de Campo de Ourique, where you can have a gourmet experience in an informal environment, the LX Factory, where you can visit some of the trendiest restaurants in Lisbon, and the Bairro Alto, Principe Real, Chiado and Cais do Sodre neighborhoods, suitable for both day and night experience.

“We look forward to receiving you all.”

Aly would like readers to note that his views about sightseeing and places to visit in Lisbon are personal. Readers who want more information about the city, from his perspective, may contact him at aly.faruque@gmail.com.

Aga Khan Arrives in Portugal

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan arrives in Lisbon on July 19, 2017, ahead of two ceremonies on July 20, when the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa in Portugal honoured the Aga Khan with a doctorate honoris causa and the President of Portugal bestowed upon him the Gra-cruz da ordem de Liberdade. Following him, at left, is Nazim Ahmed, the AKDN representative in Portugal and one of five senior Imamat officials introduced by His Highness the Aga Khan to Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousain in May 2016. Photo: The Ismaili.

Today the city’s (and the country’s) institutions have recognized Hazar Imam’s contribution and have bestowed him with honours. The Ismaili Imamat and the Portugese government signed a historical agreement to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. Long before that, Lisbon already had established the third high profile Ismaili Centre in the world.

July 20 2017 Aga Khan and Portugal President

On July 20, 2017, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa presented His Highness the Aga Khan with the Gra-cruz da ordem de Liberdade in recognition of his service to uplifting lives around the world. Photo: AKDN/Antonio Pedrosa.

Enjoy Lisbon to the fullest!

There are plenty of things to do in and around Lisbon, and I would suggest that anyone travelling to the city experience its history and architecture by taking day tours or simply jumping on Tram 28 to see the best of Lisbon! Hop on and off buses are available! Aly Faruque has also provided unique insights in his letter, above.

Amin Jiná has sent me a link to the exclusive ground transportation that he offers through http://www.amiroad.pt. I normally don’t endorse services that I have not utilized myself but I would be inclined to use his services due to the extremely positive reviews and high ratings he has received at https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g189158-d7134166-Reviews-Amiroad_Luxury_Transports-Lisbon_Lisbon_District_Central_Portugal.html.

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View of Alfama from the Miradouro of Santa Luzia in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Wikipedia/Miguel Vieira. This image was originally posted to Flickr by MiguelVieira at https://www.flickr.com/photos/11563230@N04/1224473888. It was reviewed on 27 August 2007 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

Lisbon’s subway system is great (see map, below). With regard to accommodations do not necessarily look for one closest to the Ismaili Centre. There are lovely hotels and charming Airbnb rooms and apartments available in centre city and other historical areas of the city such as Alfama. Taking a cab to the Ismaili Centre or the site of the Darbar from downtown Lisbon (or Baixa) will not take you more than 20 minutes! So be an intrepid traveller – not a boring one! Kids love excitement, remember that, if you are travelling with children and youth. And of course staying in the more traditional and popular areas of the city will allow you to walk to nearby restaurants for great coffees and pastries, and make sightseeing and shopping exciting as well as easier.

Hotel Booking Websites

I have made bookings over the past several years through all the websites listed below, with a very high level (95%) of satisfaction. Where a hotel has not met the expected star level or service as indicated at the site where the reservation was made, their customer service representatives have been extremely considerate in fixing the problem or applying credits for subsequent stays. I have also stayed at many Airbnb accommodations over the past 2 years that have been positively reviewed and I don’t have anything to complain about. With the oncoming rush many new properties will be listed that do not yet carry reviews. If they look good in photos and the person you communicate with is responsive, go for it. Here are the sites I have made bookings through. Note that many properties offer cancellations!

Tip: Use filters (eg. price range, dates of stay, star rating, location from city centre or major attractions etc.) to narrow down search

  • http://www.booking.com (excellent, and one good thing is that it offers cancellations on many bookings or pay at property)
  • http://www.hotels.com (again, an excellent website)
  • http://www.trivago.ca (scans partner hotel booking sites for best rates, and lists the top few)
  • http://www.priceline.com (you can name your own price and, if lucky, be rewarded or get up to 60% off express deals; no refunds once booked on special deals)
  • http://www.hotwire.com (offers very competitive rates that once booked are not refundable)
  • http://www.tripadvisor.com (an amazing site that also provides reliable reviews of everything travel related — things to do, hotels, restaurants etc.)
  • http://www.expedia.com (excellent and offers special discounts for registered users)
  • http://www.airbnb.com (private hosts who offer their rooms/apartments for short term or long term stays)
  • NOTE: The author has used all the sites listed above without any major issues; concerns raised, eg. incorrect property description/star rating, have been addressed satisfactorily!

Other Lisbon Notes

  • Sources indicate that the 1998 Expo World Fair site, PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES (Park of Nations), is where the Diamond Jubilee events will be taking place;
  • The site is appx. 9-10 kms and a 15-20 minute drive from the Ismaili Centre (Nº1, Av. Lusíada, 1600-001 Lisboa, Portugal);
  • Appx. distance to the Ismaili Centre from downtown Lisbon (or Baixa) is 9 km, 20 minutes by car; and from downtown to PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES, 10-12 kms, 26-30 minutes;
  • For a beginners guide to downtown Lisbon, please click: https://www.pousadasofportugal.com/a-beginners-guide-to-lisbons-downtown-district/;
  • Write to aly.faruque@gmail.com for a more genuine and authentic view of Lisbon’s vibrant hospitality normally not found on guided tour itinerary;
  • Visit Amin Jiná’s http://www.amiroad.pt, highly rated on tripadvisor, for exclusive tours and ground transportation;
  • Avenide de Liberdade is one of the main streets through Lisbon and well known for designer shops. It is a good base for a hotel to have access to all parts of the city;
  • The Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning “hot fountains” or “baths”;
  • Details and registration procedures will be communicated to the Jamat globally on the official website of the Ismaili community, https://the.ismaili/ (NOTE: no Darbar registration information yet;  info for Jubilee Arts Festival in Lisbon is now posted)

ENJOY Lisbon and Portugal. Make your plans, don’t delay!

Date posted: March 29, 2018.

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Note: This is an updated version of a piece that was first published at http://www.barakah.com. Both the pieces now contain almost identical information.

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