Another Shalimar

“I Wish I’d Been There”

Some of the recipients of the 1980 Cycle Awards held at Lahore's Shalimar Gardens, with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Logo shown in centre of the image. Images:


by Shamas Nanji

The Aga Khan Awards
In Shalimar Gardens
Imagine you’re there
As it actually happens

In timeless allure
Courtesy of the Mughals
The gardens resemble
Visual ghazals

Keeping the place cool
For floral and fruit decor
Were canals, terraces
And fountains galore

Water for the fountains
Came from quite far
Via the merry river
Made for Shalimar

Imagine, you’re seated
At the ceremony
It’s opening a frontier
Breaking hegemony

The Awards are
Bearing a torch
Giving out light
Urging a search

You see restorations
Courtyard homes
Kampung improvements
But no domes

Water towers
A museum
Medical centre
But no mausoleum

This is architecture
For human scale
Among monoliths
A brand new trail

Life’s being infused
Into built space
So its own past
It can again embrace

With wholesale imports
And traditions in decay
The environment’s
Fallen into disarray

Built spaces
Are in disharmony
In place of orchestra
We’ve got cacophony

Built space is not
Just architecture
It’s where you’ll live
It’s your future

Which is why
You’re here
At imagination’s
New frontier

The Imam quotes
Farid al-Din Attar
Whose thirty birds
Are his tale’s star

Thirty birds
What diversity!
Yet, in themselves
They find unity

As each built space
Gets an Award
Deep in you
They strike a chord

Unlike the malls
In your city
Spaces Muslim
Are a plurality

Ten Awards
In thirty years
You’re in a civilization
That’s changing gears

Others will look back
Centuries from now
At another “Shalimar”
And take a bow



Shamas Nanji

About the Writer: Shamas Nanji is a poet and writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. Shamas holds post-graduate degrees from London and McGill. In 2008, he published his third volume of poetry entitled Meditations on Abraham.

In verse and in prose, Shamas is doing his bit to ameliorate the knowledge deficit in Canada about Muslim civilizations as well as about the Canadian past. Both trajectories endeavor to add to the Canadian imagination, one that has served the land admirably but now needs to enlarge considerably.

A selection of his poetry can be read at the following links in this Web site:

Shamas Nanji: Fana and Baqa
Shamas Nanji: Ballad for Bistami
Shamas Nanji: Jesus & Muhammad


1. For other readings in this series and to contribute please click  » I Wish I’d Been There

2. We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page, or email it to Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

3. Aga Khan Award Logo explanation on this Web site at Literary Reading: Allah in Kufic Script basis of Aga Khan Award for Architecture Logo.

4. To read more about the First Cycle (1978-1980) Aga Khan Award Winners please click AKAA Winners 1980.

3 thoughts on “Another Shalimar

  1. Such an exquisite fusion of the past with the present, the two woven into a beautiful tapestry. And some hauntingly beautiful phrases -‘Visual ghazals’ WOW!

  2. A very imaginative poem dealing very artfully the momentous event at Shalimar, where they said the gardens are smiling again.


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