Timeline 1995: The Aga Khan’s First Visit to Badakhshan, a Historic Day His Ismaili Followers Will Never Forget

“I was at my uncle’s and there were about 15 of us living at his house. I didn’t understand why suddenly all the grownups started to cry and say SHUKR MAWLO, SHUKR MAWLO. Then the news said that humanitarian aides would be sent as soon as possible…Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time.” —  READ MORE @ Barakah: His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration

PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan’s First Visit to Badakhshan, A Historic Day the Ismailis Will Never Forget

Please click on image for story and photos.

Date posted: Sunday, March 12, 2017.

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The Aga Khan: An Icon of Thought, Philosophy and Action – A Tribute by James Wolfensohn

HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

“It is the extraordinary sense of humanity that he has. The great depth of real feeling for real people wherever they find themselves in society. He is a holy man. He is the leader of his faith. He’s a man who represents the very best in Islam.” — READ MORE

PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan Stands Out as an Icon of Action
by James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank (1995-2005)

Photo: Photo: Vivian Rozsa. Copyright. Please click on image for tribute.

Photo: Vivian Rozsa. Copyright. Please click on image for tribute.

The Aga Khan: From an Ismaili Muslim Imam to a Global Citizen and Virtual Head of States by Nizar Motani

His Highness the Aga Khan pictured during His Golden Jubilee visit to Vancouver, Canada, on November 25, 2008. Photo: The Ismaili Canada, Golden Jubilee 1957 - 2007, Canada Visit.

His Highness the Aga Khan pictured during his Golden Jubilee visit to Vancouver, Canada, on November 25, 2008. Photo: The Ismaili Canada, Golden Jubilee 1957 – 2007, Canada Visit. Please click on photo for essay.

Simerg launches its latest new blog, barakah,  with Nizar Motani’s piece in which he portrays the Aga Khan as one of the principal actors on the world stage. A towering international figure, the Aga Khan has been a “Person of the Year”, almost year after year, in the eyes of a vast universe of prestigious private and public organizations.

PLEASE CLICK: THE AGA KHAN – FROM AN ISMAILI MUSLIM IMAM TO A GLOBAL CITIZEN AND VIRTUAL HEAD OF STATES

As the Diamond Jubilee of this remarkably energetic, visionary and revolutionary hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims approaches, this article is intended to further acquaint readers, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, with the Aga Khan’s dizzying range of astonishing accomplishments. It is also very relevant for readers who may not know who this Global Citizen, and a “head of many states”, is!

In this concise essay, Nizar Motani has made a compelling case for the Aga Khan to be the foremost candidate for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize….READ MORE

Date posted: February 18, 2017.

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Silk Road Travelogue: Karimabad, Hunza by Ali Karim with Photos

“This old town was restored and improved by the Aga Khan Foundation to provide clean drinking water, sewage system, and electricity with buried wires to all homes, in exchange for maintaining the exterior of the houses to the same look and feel as in the olden times. That way, the old town is preserved” — READ MORE

silk-roads_hunza_alikarim_2_35sPlease click on photo to read Karim’s piece on Karimabad, Hunza.

Date posted: February 13, 2017.

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Links to Silk Road Series:

Thoughtful Interviews and Inspiring Stories by Ismaili Youth of Meetings with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah

Great Stories and Conversations.png

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor, Simerg

Thousands of readers have been clicking in recent weeks to read earlier pieces published on this website, which was was founded some 8 years ago. The interest in older articles has encouraged us to continue with this second part in an on-going series that is designed to draw our readers’ attention to previously published articles that may have been overlooked or forgotten. Also, over the years our readership has grown, and this is an opportunity for new readers to review and read material from the earlier years. Of course, our Table of Contents is another way to access more than 900 pieces!

Here, we provide links to three thoughtful interviews as well as four extraordinary and inspiring accounts of Ismaili youth who visited Europe during the 1950’s, and had golden opportunities of meeting the 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah.

(Please click on links or photos to read the pieces)

 1. Astrophysicist Arif Babul on Galaxies, God, Science Education and Community Aspirations (20,000 Views)

Arif Babul

Arif Babul

“Imagine you’re sitting in a bubble bath full of big bubbles, and you have a whole bunch of bubbles stacked up against each other. If you took some glitter and sprinkled it over these bubbles, the sparkly little bits of paper would stick to the bubbles’ surface. Inside the bubbles there would be no flakes, but the surfaces of the bubbles would be coated with them. That’s a good description of the way galaxies are distributed throughout our universe – think of the flack of glitter as galaxies.”…Read More

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2. Maria Cook on the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat (10,000 Views)

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which was opened on December 8, 2008.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which was opened on December 8, 2008.

“I asked him [His Highness the Aga Khan] how he kept his focus and energy. He replied that he surrounded himself with people who were very good at what they do and also many dedicated volunteers. He said he was inspired every day by their efforts and devotion to excellence.”….Read More

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3. Architect Bruno Freschi on the Burnaby Ismaili Centre (3,700 Views)

Mr. Freschi with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia

Mr. Freschi with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia

In a personal message to Mr. Bruno Freschi dated 20th October, 1985, His Highness the Aga Khan wrote: “With my deep and sincere gratitude for conceiving, designing and buiding a Jamatkhana and Centre which represent our respect for our past, our belief of today, and our hope for the future.The Ismaili Jamath worldwide, and I, are proud of your remarkable achievement.”….Read More

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4. On Meeting the Noorani Family – My Voyage to Europe by Badrudin Adatia (15,400 Views)

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia.

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia.

“I wanted to take picture of him [His Highness the Aga Khan] with us and I asked his permission. The room was dim, however, and I didn’t have a flash on my camera. Although he was very sick and could not even walk, he told me he would head toward the window where there would be better light. Imagine! I clasped my hands with respect and said, “No Khudavind. I will take the picture just as we are.” …Read More

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5. Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah by Akber Premji  (3,500 Views)

Mr. Akber Premji seated next to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Aga Khan.

Mr. Akber Premji seated next to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Aga Khan.

“….I got an opportunity of a photo with Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat. First, I went and sat on the ground and the Imam did not quite consent to this. Then, I went and stood behind them and this was also not accepted. The Imam directed that I come and sit between him and Mata Salamat. With great reluctance, I squeezed myself in. What an opportunity and a blessing!”….Read More

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6. An Audience with the 48th Ismaili Imam by Ali Rajput (3,600 Views)

Dr. Rajput at Yakimour, with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat

Dr. Rajput at Yakimour, with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat

“My child, you are going to UK, very different to your country of origin, always remember my words of advice and never forget as it is for your own good. Pick up their good principles and make them your own, and leave their vices and bad habits to them alone. The good habits, you should adopt are their truthfulness, punctuality, sense of duty and the bad habits you must reject are, drinking, smoking, gambling and other vices. Your foremost duty is to attend to your educational activities and never forget your religious obligation.”…. Read More

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7. Fond Memories of Salamieh and Yakymour by Abdul Mamdani (2,200 Views)

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah with Abdul Mamdani.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah with Abdul Mamdani.

Now, when in Salamieh, Emir Muhammad Mulheim had taken me to a room in his house where his mother was waiting to see me. I was requested to look at the mother and told that should I be blessed with Mawla’s Didar in Europe, she wanted me to remember her face so she could attain Mawla’s Didar through my eyes. Regrettably, in the Imam’s presence I failed to recall this request. However, Mawla asked me, “And who else did you see?” I was surprised at this question and took a minute or so to think. Then, it came to me and I replied: “Mawla, I saw Prince Muhammad Mulheim’s mother,” and Mawla patted my shoulder and said “Khanavadhan, Khanavadhan”….Read More

Date posted: February 5, 2017.
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Irish Times: Medieval Philosophers Don’t Get Much Attention but Avicenna – the Islamic Thinker Who Proved God Exists – Deserves It, Says Prof Adamson

Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at King’s College London, highlights in his latest book Philosophy in the Islamic World just how influential certain theologians and mystics from this milieu have been. Asked to single out one thinker, he names the Persian polymath Avicenna (980-1037) who invented “probably the most influential and interesting medieval attempt to show that God exists”…. Read More

PLEASE CLICK : Unthinkable — The Islamic Thinker Who ‘Proved’ God Exists

To mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of the most influential of Islam’s philosopher-scientists, UNESCO minted this commemorative medal in 1980. Designed by sculptor-medallist Victor Douek, the obverse depicts a scene showing Avicenna surrounded by his disciples.

To mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of the most influential of Islam’s philosopher-scientists, UNESCO minted this commemorative medal in 1980. Designed by sculptor-medallist Victor Douek, the obverse depicts a scene showing Avicenna surrounded by his disciples. Please click on image for article in Irish Times.

Date posted: February 3, 2017.

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Articles related to Avicenna on this website:

The Meaning of Sinan, the Name of the Second Prince Welcomed by Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa Aga Khan

Report compiled by Abdulmalik Merchant
Poem by Shariffa Keshavjee

In a special talika (written message) read out in Ismaili jamatkhanas on Friday, January 13, 2017, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, informed his world-wide community that Princess Salwa gave birth to a baby boy named Sinan in London, England, on January 2, 2017. The Princess is married to Prince Rahim Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam’s oldest son. The couple was married in a nikah ceremony in September 2013, and their first child Prince Irfan was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 11 April, 2015.

Prince Rahim has an older sister, Princess Zahra, and two brothers younger than him, Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Rahim with Prince Irfan, and Princess Salwa at the 80th birthday celebration. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

Princess Salwa and Prince Rahim, who is holding Prince Irfan, pictured recently during the 80th birthday celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan (right) held in Aiglemont. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

“Prince Sinan’s birth has brought immense joy to our family,” wrote Mawlana Hazar Imam in the talika, and added that “We are most touched by your kind thoughts and prayers over the period leading to Sinan’s birth.” In the talika, he conveyed his affectionate loving blessings to his followers, whom he addresses as his spiritual children.

Hello magazine reported the birth of Prince Sinan as the world’s first royal baby of 2017!

We rejoice with our thousands of readers around the world on the wonderful news of the birth of Prince Sinan, and join with jamats around the world to congratulate Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa as well as their son Prince Irfan, and all the members of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s and Princess Salwa’s families.

We sincerely hope and pray that the birth of Prince Sinan may bring immense barakah to jamats worldwide. We also pray for Prince Sinan’s long life and wellbeing.

The Meaning of Sinan

Sinan is an Arabic name for boys meaning spearhead. It is derived from the root word S-N-N which is used in the Qur’an. Sinan is pronounced [(SI)mple] + [(NA)p + (N)ew] with emphasis on the second syllable. Wikipedia mentions that the name might also be related to the Ancient Greek name Sinon.

In Ismaili history, the name Sinan is associated with the revered personality of Rashid al-din Sinan, one of the greatest and most valiant of the Syrian Isma’ili da’is of the thirteenth century A.C.

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A Child

By Shariffa Keshavjee

A miracle, a gift today a child that comes to us
Our bending is of gladness in the archers hand to us
He loves the arrow that flies, the bow so stable for us
The archer sees the mark upon the path for us
Bends it with his might, the arrow goes far for us

The name of Sinan brings the memory of
Aleppo and Masyaf to us
His philosophy as dai forever imprinted on us
The balance of the zahir and batin as it come to us
A reciprocal social relationship of balance within us
Weaving a tapestry of din-dunia

In this our Diamond Jubilee year, your birth bring to us
Great tidings of gladness and joy within us
Our many faceted diamond is aglow for us.

Date posted: Saturday, January 14, 2017.

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We welcome readers’ feedback. Please click Comment. If you run into difficulties submitting your feedback, please email it to simerg@aol.com.

This compiled piece contains material from the following sources:

[1] http://quranicnames.com/meaning-of-sinan-arabic-name//
[2] http://www.theismaili.org
[3] http://www.wikipedia.org

See also:

“With Our Own Hands” – Nairobi’s Shariffa Keshavjee Reflects on an Astonishingly Beautiful Book About the People, Food and Life in the Pamirs

“In this region no guest is a foreigner and every visitor is warmly welcomed and enjoys amazing hospitality. Food prepared from the heart is a labour of love…As I read and re-read the book, I feel that the earth itself compressed to make a safe haven for these very special people who truly live in harmony with mother earth. Similar to the way the animals live in the Ngorongoro Crater.” — Shariffa Keshavjee

“With Our Own Hands” by Frederik van Oudenhoven and Jamila Haider

Front cover

Front cover “With Our Own Hands,” 686 pages. Foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales.

REVIEWED BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

I have not visited high mountain regions of the Pamirs bordering Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and China, but these lands have always fascinated me .

I was fortunate to have laid hands on this beautiful and monumental book in Kenya. Reading and re-reading this tome connected me with the food and life in the Pamir mountains

It is special thrill to open a new book that contains many well annotated pictures. As I open a crisp fresh leaf of the book, I am delighted to see a familiar leaf, a man shielding himself with a rhubarb leaf. Yes, indeed, how hot and bright the sun must be must be up in the land locked mountains. I only knew rhubarb leaves as poisonous for gerbils!

Countries bordering the Pamirs are not that well known and this book is particularly welcome to expose the lands that straddle Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan where the Karakoram Pass snakes its way into the snow. In this region no guest is a foreigner and every visitor is warmly welcomed and enjoys amazing hospitality. Food prepared from the heart is a labour of love.

Using a wild rhubarb leaf as his parasol, a traveller shields his face against the strong sun of the high Pamir Mountains in Afghanistan. Photo/Caption: With Our Own Hands

Using a wild rhubarb leaf as his parasol, a traveller shields his face against the strong sun of the high Pamir Mountains in Afghanistan. Photo/Caption: With Our Own Hands

Beyond the peaks of the Pamirs are the cold deserts of Central Asia, China and Afghanistan, all part of the old silk road — the route that was the rich centre of trade and culture. Now that air travel is the norm, technology and curiosity bring us closer to our brothers and sisters in the Pamirs.

It was a delight to read Prince Charles’ forward in ” With Our Own Hands.” He has said it all — the hard seminal work of documentation, preservation and most of all making this work available in English, Dari and Tajik.

I loved the wonderful pictures of the beautiful faces of the people in the Pamir region. I was delighted to have met them when I was in Paris, and to hear the songs and watch the graceful dances of the region.

Bedona mulberries. Some of the berries have pink or purple streaks. Photo:

Bedona mulberries. Some of the berries have pink or purple streaks. Photo: “With Our Own Hands.”

The features of the people are such a contrast; the soft features so delicate and fine in the young, the rugged ones in the not so young exposed to the elements. These people show resilience of spirit. Their close connection with the earth on a daily basis is a sense of joy. I can relate this somewhat to us here in Nairobi, where some people are beginning to grow their own vegetables, to avoid pesticides and genetically modified seeds. There is a movement in Kenya taking us back to more organic foods. For the people of the Pamirs, their seeds are sacrosanct, untarnished by greed.

I myself am particularly aware of how fast we are losing many foods that I used to eat, that my grandfather grew on his farm in Muhoroni, near Lake Victoria in the Rift Valley. Now I know why I feel a connection to the Pamirs.

Change is inevitable. My aunt used to make Bursoq, called gulgulia. All over the world similar sweet dishes are a treat — baklava, bursoq, gulab jamuns, the list goes on. How much we share how much in common we have.

In the Pamirs, we have young people, with their hopes and aspirations, their varied languages of English, Russian, Dari, Tajik, Urdu, and Pamiri. One foot steeped in tradition and one in the modern world , a perfect place to balance between the sacred and a world so mesmerised by the material one.

with-our-own-hands-apricots-photos-and-caption

In the changing human environment the people in the Pamirs are balanced between their tradition and outside influence. Perfect time to savour the idea that no visitor is a stranger here in the mountainous terrain. Guests are honoured and feted. They eat food that is in season, a culture lost to us with export of food and refrigeration. We know, however, that the food that is in season is good for us. It was a strong belief of my great-grandfather who worked in our farm in Muhoroni.

Special foods are also a sign of celebration. In Ismaili ginans, special foods are mentioned, “ghee thi nitarta bhojan banavie, una una rotla ne Markhan knavravie…” ‘

Prince Charles aptly says ‘ the march of globalisation ‘, has crushed our traditions under foot. This book is a testimony to the perilous present juxtaposed with the resilient knowledge of the past.

Authors Jamila Haider and Frederik van Oudenhoven.

Authors Jamila Haider and Frederik van Oudenhoven.

School Teachers with their own copy of With Our Own Hands

The authors ensured that each of the 1800 communities of the Pamirs received a copy of “With Our Own Hands.”

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The authors ensured that each of the 1800 communities of the Pamirs received a copy of “With Our Own Hands.” In this photo, schoolgirls in the Bartang valley are standing with a copy of the book. The authors have noted that they were received time and time again with the warmest hospitality one could ever imagine. Photo: Facebook page, PamirFoodandLife.

“With Our Own Hands” is a font of knowledge; I learnt so much about mulberries, which grow in my back yard but I did not know they could be dried. I now see them with different eyes. I learnt about the use of apricots, always a rare dish at our table. As siblings we would enjoy cracking the seed so delicately as to obtain a whole nut. We used out brass pestle and mortar.

Water is such a precious commodity that it has angels looking after it. The channels once established widen and give. The people then become so close to their water source. What a beautiful concept for those who turn on the faucet without any reverence.

In the book, I continue to enjoy the sun blessed rugged mountains of the Pamirs, and the beautiful faces of the people. The earth in its longing for human company. As we prepare to celebrate Navroz on March 21, know that we are together in hope, love and celebration. We too are part of the climate change — a colder winter here in Kenya, although our waters do not freeze as does the Panj River. Together our resilience and faith is stronger than the not so clement weather!

Back cover With Our Own Hands

Back cover “With Our Own Hands”

I love the cucumber story in the Wakhan Valley! We too, in Kenya eat the root of the Arrrow Root, (ARVI) and not the leaves. Now as we become multi-cultural, we eat the root and the leaves!!! We make our Qorma with green grams and eat it with chapatis. Yes, culinary art is ever changing and we enjoy foods from far and wide and origins of our foods become seamless. In Kenya the idea of juicing all green vegetables is quite in vogue to fight non-communicable diseases.

As I read and re-read the book, I feel that the earth itself compressed to make a safe haven for these very special people who truly live in harmony with mother earth. Similar to the way the animals live in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Thank you brothers and sisters of the Pamirs for preserving, and practicing your resilient knowledge which is is a repository of timeless knowledge. Thank you Frederick and Jamila for bringing the knowledge to us here in Africa where we too invoke Bismillah at the beginning of each event.

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee/Simerg.

Date posted: January 11, 2017.

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Note: Simerg had obtained limited quantities of “With Our Own Hands” from its Canadian distributors, UBC Press. We quickly sold out, and the book is now out of print. However, the book may be purchased from resellers at Amazon at US$80.00 and up! – ed.

Plov (Pilaf) Rice – King of Meals in Tajikistan – is Now on UNESCO’S Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

It is said that Avicenna, the famed Muslim philosopher, medical expert and scientist, whom Ismailis like to claim as their own, created the first ever recipe for the Pilaf (Pilau, Plov, Palov, Oshi Palav etc.). He was born in Bukhara in modern day Uzbekistan. Now more than a 1000 years later, the much beloved Central Asian dish has been recognized by UNESCO as part of Tajikistan’s and Uzbekistan’s intangible cultural heritage. Read this story and also try out a pilaf recipe from Khorog, Tajikistan, which is provided below.

mh17pamiriismailiwedding1b2f1b

Osh, generically known as plov (pilaf),is a rice dish made with shredded yellow turnip or carrot, and pieces of meat, all fried together in vegetable oil or mutton fat in a special qazan (a wok-shaped cauldron) over an open flame. The meat is cubed, the carrots are chopped finely into long strips, and the rice is colored yellow or orange by the frying carrots and the oil. The dish is eaten communally, often with one’s hands in the traditional way from a single large plate placed at the center of the table. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

Material for this piece  was compiled and adapted
by Abdulmalik Merchant, Editor, Simerg.

UNESCO’s Plov Inscription

Tajikistan’s “Oshi Palav” and Uzbekistan’s “Palov” (versions of the dish commonly called Plov in Central Asia) were both inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity when UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage met at its 11th annual session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference held from 28 November to 2 December 2016.

Both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan had separately applied to UNESCO in 2015 — within a few weeks of each other — to have the plov recognized as part of their nation’s intangible cultural heritage. Readers will be interested to learn that UNESCO has inscribed numerous foods, including beverages such as coffee, as well as festivals such as Nauroz in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Across Central Asia, the deceptively simple plov dish is based around lamb, rice, onions and carrots simmered in broth, and accompanies every meaningful life-cycle event. Food historians have noted that versions of plov are spread across Asia. The Turkish pilav, Persian polow and Indian pilau –- and even Spanish paella — are all related, with versions including dried fruit, paprika, garlic, tomato, beans and spices.

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Preparations for Plov (pilaf)…cleaning and cutting carrots. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

With regard to Tajikistan’s application for inscription of the Palav as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the UNESCO committee noted that the ‘Oshi Palav’ is a traditional dish of communities in Tajikistan and recognized it as a part of their cultural heritage and practice that aims to bring people of different backgrounds together. The dish is prepared to be enjoyed at regular mealtimes as well as social gatherings, celebrations and rituals. Known as the ‘King of Meals’, the Palav is based on a recipe using vegetables, rice, meat and spices but up to 200 varieties of the dish exist.

The importance of the dish to communities in Tajikistan is indicative in sayings such as “No Oshi Palav, no acquaintance” or “If you have eaten Oshi Palav from somebody, you must respect them for 40 years”!

Groups of men or women prepare the dish either in their homes or at tea houses while socializing or playing music and singing. Knowledge and skills associated with the practice is transmitted on an inter-generational basis in families, in addition to cooking schools from master to apprentice. Once an apprentice masters Oshi Palav, the apprentice hosts a dinner for the trainer and guests during which the trainer receives a skull-cap and traditional dress while the apprentice receives a skimmer (a tool for cooking Oshi Palav) symbolizing the apprentice’s independence.

Frederik van Oudenhoven happily displaying “With Our Own Hands” that he co-authored with Jamila Haider. Photo: Facebook page, PamirFoodandLife. The magnificent volume is now out of print, but may be obtained through resellers at Amazon.

Frederik van Oudenhoven happily displaying “With Our Own Hands” that he co-authored with Jamila Haider. Photo: Facebook page, PamirFoodandLife. The magnificent volume is now out of print, but may be obtained through resellers at Amazon.

Readers of this website may recall an award winning book called “With Our Own Hands – A Celebration of Food and Life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan” which we featured and also offered for sale last spring. It quickly sold out and the book is now out of print.  A recipe from the book for the Plov that is prepared in Khorog, Tajikistan, is reproduced below. The Pamiri people living to the south of the Panj River in neighbouring Afghanistan use a slightly different recipe for their Palao, as it is known there, and making a good Palao is considered the most essential culinary skill a woman should possess to be a good wife!

A Note on Rice

“Rice was, and in some places still is, a food reserved still reserved for the most esteemed guests. No matter how many other dishes are prepared for the guests, if there is no rice the meal will still be considered poor…..Like salt, rice could not be produced from the soils of Western Pamirs…Shali was the name of the rice that was most commonly brought, a delicious variety that was exchanged for large quantities of Pamiri wool. It was so valuable that in the Wakhan valley, dropping even a single grain of rice was likened to dropping the relic of a saint.” — excerpt from With Our Own Hands, p. 287.

Plov – How it is Prepared in Khorog

(Material and recipe adapted from “With Our Own Hands,” pp. 607-609)

Plov in the Tajik Pamirs is a much loved rice dish for celebrations and offering to guests. Good quality rice that doesn’t absorb too much moisture is an important part of this dish. The plov cooked with ozgensky rice (from the city of Uzgen in the Fergana Valley of Southern Kyrgyzstan) is truly delicious. Orgencky rice is sometimes available in the Khorog market but more common, due to its affordability, is the poorer quality Chinese rice.

plov-in-khorog

Plov is one of the most popular dishes at the bazaar in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan. Khorog, with a population of approximately 32,000, is mostly inhabited by Ismailis. Photo: “With Our Own Hands,” page 607.

INGREDIENTS

4 cups rice; 1 cup chickpeas; 1 small cup vegetable oil; 2 onions; 1-1.5 tbsp. cumin; 6 carrots; 2–3 cups mutton; 8 cups water; 1 head of garlic; and salt to taste.

MAKING THE KHOROG PLOV

  • Soak the chickpeas overnight;
  • wash and drain the rice, chop onions, cut the carrot into strips and the meat into bite sized pieces (meat is often left in the bone);
  • Heat the oil in a kazan (or large cooking pot, something like a wok, see photo) and cook the meat for 20-30 minutes with the lid closed then add the onions and salt towards the end;
  • Add the carrots, chickpeas and sprinkle cumin over the top. DO NOT STIR;
  • Cover the pan and cook for another 7-10 minutes;
  • Add 8 cups of water (less if rice needs less water to cook) and then pour in the rice;
  • Make sure the rice is spread evenly over the other ingredients, but STILL DO NOT STIR;
  • Place the unpeeled head of garlic on top of the rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes;
  • Now heap up the rice towards the centre of the pot (that is, it is still on top of the other ingredients);
  • Make several holes through the (heaped) rice down to the bottom to allow the steam and flavours from the meat and vegetables to circulate through the pan;
  • Keep the garlic head on top of the rice;
  • Put the lid on and seal well, with a cloth if necessary. Simmer for another 20 minutes, without opening the lid; and
  • Finally, mix all the ingredients and serve on a large plate with the garlic, accompanied by a fresh salad of spring onions, tomatoes, green chili and salt.

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Plov in Uzbekistan

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The finest Plov in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

There is a saying in Uzbekistan that guests can only leave their host’s house after palov has been offered. Palov is a traditional dish made and shared throughout rural and urban communities of Uzbekistan. It is prepared with ingredients such as rice, meat, spices and vegetables and in addition to be enjoyed as a regular meal, is served as a gesture of hospitality, to celebrate special occasions like weddings and new year, to help those in need who are underprivileged, or to honour loved ones who have passed away. Palov may also feature at events alongside other rituals taking place such as prayer and performances of traditional music. It is a dish that is cooked by men and women regardless of age or social status. Knowledge and skills associated with the practice are handed down from older to younger generations formally and informally using a master-apprentice model or by demonstration and participation within families, peer groups, community-based establishments, religious organizations and vocational educational institutions. The making and sharing of the traditional dish acts to strengthen social ties, promote values including solidarity and unity and assist in the continuity of local traditions that form a part of the community’s cultural identity.

Date posted: Saturday, January 7, 2017.
Last updated: January 8, 2017 (9:15 EST).

FORTHCOMING (week of January 9, 2017): Shariffa Keshavjee of Nairobi, Kenya, reflects on the highly acclaimed and award winning book “With Our Own Hands.”

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Material for the post was compiled from numerous sources including:

1.Tajikistan inscription details at:
http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/decisions/11.COM/10.B.33
2. Uzbekistan:
http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/palov-culture-and-tradition-01166
3. For complete list of  inscriptions, click http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/lists.
4. Also read “All You Need is Plov — Central Asians vie for ownership of a much-loved dish” by   clicking https://iwpr.net/global-voices/all-you-need-plov.
5. For pilaf’s Avicenna connection, please see http://www.dailysabah.com/food/2016/12/10/uzbek-traditional-rice-now-on-unesco-heritage-list.
6. Please also see our piece The Story of a Beautiful and Intriguing Cookbook from the Pamirs, “With Our Own Hands”

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Date posted: January 4, 2017.

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