From Houston Chronicle
In Old Cairo, an ancient rubble dump was transformed into a 72-acre park. In Delhi, the historic gardens and fountains surrounding Humayun’s Tomb, a World Heritage site, are alive once more.
Both projects were undertaken by the Aga Khan Development Network, a 40-year-old nonprofit group of agencies that focus on health, education, culture and rural development.
Photos of these and other historic and culturally significant restoration projects in the Islamic world — including Zanzibar, Tanzania, Sarmakand, Uzbekistan, Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mali and Syria — are part of the Aga Khan’s Historic Cities Programme traveling exhibit, which premieres Friday in Sugar Land, home of the national headquarters for the Aga Khan Council for the USA.
The three-day exhibit includes the history, culture and socio-economic impact of each project.
The Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, for instance, was funded by a $30 million gift to that city from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which operates the Historic Cities program and is part of development network.
Since the park opened in 2006, 1.4 million people have visited, and it is being used to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.
The weekend events are part of Golden Jubilee celebrations commemorating 50 years since Prince Karim became the present Aga Khan at the age of 20. He is the imam of an estimated 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, including 15,000 in the Houston area.
Also on display Sunday afternoon will be Partnership Village, a replica of a typical village where the Aga Khan Foundation USA works, said national vice chairman Ashraf Ramji of Sugar Land.
“Our mantra is to eliminate poverty in the world,” Ramji said. “This will show some of the work we do in education, micro-finance and health services. The idea is to educate people about the foundation’s work and the needs of the global population.”
The village display is a precursor to the Nov. 10 Partnership Walk at downtown Houston’s Sam Houston Park, he said. The walk raises money for some of the poorest areas of Asia and Africa and helps the most vulnerable, especially women and children.
“His Highness says he wants informed donors who know where money is being sent,” Ramji said.
Representatives of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture also will host a forum Sunday afternoon for architects, conservationists and other community leaders to discuss historic restoration and its impact on cultural and economic rehabilitation.
“I think what they have done is incredible,” said Ramona Davis, executive director of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. “The restoration projects are important, but so are the stories that go with them.
“I guess that would be my message, that historic sites also carry stories of the culture with them. It’s another step in the direction, especially in Houston, of recognizing the importance of protecting our historic sites.”
AGA KHAN TRUST FOR CULTURE
In celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the current Aga Khan, two exhibits will be on display this weekend in Sugar Land.
• Historic Cities Programme: Photographs and explanations of restoration projects in the Islamic world, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday at City Hall, 2700 Town Center Blvd. N.
• Partnership Village: A replica of a typical village aided by the Aga Khan Foundation USA, 4-7 p.m. Sunday in Town Square. Entertainment includes music and dancing.