Posted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 10:00 am Post subject: Al-Azhar Park and Government of Cairo
Cairo Governorate and Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Public-Private Partnership for Historic Cairo Revitalisation Projects
Cairo, 17 July 2007 – Cairo’s Governor, H.E. Dr. Abdel Azim Wazir, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s General Manager, Mr. Luis Monreal, today signed an historic Public-Private Partnership (PPP) linking Al-Azhar Park, a future “Urban Plaza” project at the northern end of the Park, and ongoing work by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Darb al-Ahmar.
The “Urban Plaza” project will be a mixed-use centre with underground car parking, shops and cultural facilities, including the Museum of Historic Cairo, which is being built by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in cooperation with the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt.
The Museum will house some of the great wealth of art and artefacts of Cairo’s Islamic heritage that are not currently on display. To be built adjacent to the “Urban Plaza” at the north end of Al-Azhar Park and close to the end of the twelfth century Ayyubid Wall, the Museum will give visitors insight into the urban, cultural and architectural history of the heart of Cairo.
To conserve and restore all the artefacts and artworks which will be shown in the museum, the Trust has set up a major conservation laboratory, which is training young technicians in this field. It is also being used to restore important art and architectural elements for the Cairo Museum of Islamic Art, due to open in 2007.
The Public-Private Partnership builds on the US$ 30 million Azhar Park project, which transformed a 500-year-old accumulation of fill and debris on the Darassa site into much-needed leisure and recreational space.
The Park attracted over a million visitors in 2006. The construction of the Park and the restoration of cultural monuments in the neighbouring Darb al-Ahmar, including Umm al Sultan Shabaan mosque and the Kheyrbek complex, have become catalysts for social and economic development in the district. The project also includes rehabilitation of housing, microfinance, health care and training in a number of fields, including restoration, carpentry and computer skills.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Mohamed el Mikawi, CEO
Aga Khan Cultural Services (Egypt)
Tel: +20 22 510 7378/ 3868
Fax: +20 22 512 1054
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the Muslim world. It includes the Award for Architecture, the Historic Cities Programme, the Music Initiative in Central Asia, Museum Support Unit, the on-line resource ArchNet and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). AKDN agencies address a broad spectrum of development issues in the social, economic and cultural spheres. Social development programmes in Egypt include healthcare, education, microfinance, training, housing rehabilitation, cultural restoration and economic development.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational, international development agencies created by His Highness the Aga Khan. The Network is grounded in Islam’s ethics of inclusiveness, compassion, sharing, self-reliance, respect for health and life, cultivation of a sound and enlightened mind, and humanity’s collective responsibility for a sustainable physical, social and cultural environment. AKDN is active in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Iran, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Portugal, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Zanzibar. In India active projects in the fields of education/health/culture/rural development/micro-finance/water and sanitation are ongoing in Kashmir, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Yes Yes… I know that the title of this post resembles the score in the African Cup Final between Egypt and Ghana, but this is MY blog and I’ll ignore that if I want to. No, today I want to talk about Al Azhar Park – Cairo. The entrance is free for children (under 12 I think – I forgot to ask), though if you drive there you should expect to pay LE 5.00 to park your car. For adults you should expect to pay LE 10 each.
How do I start this…? WOW, what a lovely, lovely place. Perfect for a day out with the family, or just a peaceful , even romantic day out for you and your spouse. There are lovely restaurants (see the link for details – WAIT!! …..WAIT! – I’m telling you about it…see the link after……) and there is grass! Yes… GRASS! If you have been to Cairo before you know why I am making a point of this, if you haven’t you can guess why I’m making a point of this.
There is a hint that this ‘garden’ is something a little special as you approach the gates. Unlike most of the buildings and infrastructure in Cairo, this, from the very doorway, stands out…. like someone is actually looking after it.
Running right through the middle of the park is a paved walkway with various water features and fountains. These are perfect picture opportunities and you will have a good laugh at some of the sham-less ways Egyptians pose for photos. Coming from Europe, the UK especially, we are ‘rather reserved somewhat’ when it comes to having our photo taken in public. Other cultures it seems are less inclined to try and show their ‘good side’ and my children (who always assume no-one understands them if they speak in English) will embarrass us by saying loudly “Oh my gosh Mummy look at him posing! He looks so funny!”
If you follow the path down the middle you will be led to all the amenities you want, well sign posted there are toilets which are reasonably clean and tidy (for public toilets) and several eateries and cafe’s. My favourite is the one with the lake and fountain right outside its walls. With an open view you can enjoy a full menu whilst basking in the sun, or if you time it right….. as you watch the sun set. (Please note I was there just in time to catch the sunset in the restuarant – yes that is a restaurant! In a PARK! See what I mean? and that is a lake just after the last table – like a postcard….. well done Cairo!!)
The park is located near our place in Mokattam and is high above the rest of cairo so the views are beautiful. It also means that there is a nice breeze which naturally blows along the open spaces and trees. We decided to bring our own sandwiches and we ate on one of the grassy hill tops, but we did check the restaurants out. The one by the lake is the gem. There is a minimum charge of LE 45.00 per head (about (£5.00) but it’s well worth it, it has the feel of an indoor restaurant (if you know what I mean). I can’t vouch for the food, but it smelled delicious. Not as nice as my wife’s sandwiches though Mmmmm they were the most amazing and tasty sandwiches I have ever eaten (she reads this you know….. better to be safe).
I always tell my daughters if you pull faces one day your face will stay like that
Once you are done eating, you should make your way back along the path but this time veer to the edge of the park and find the cliff edge. Here you will find benches where you can sit and take in the view of the City. It is really something. The old buildings and blocks need some work but if you are like us and you appreciate the character in old things then you will love this view. The Cairo smog makes it a little harder to see the detail all the way down to the horizon, but if you have timed it well you can really get an awe inspiring view.
The day we were there was a Sunday and many people would have been at work so it was not too crowded. My guess though, is that is can get a little crowded on the weekend (Fri & Sat) so may be best to avoid those days if you can. Altogether though I give it 5 stars and I can’t wait for the rest of my family to come and enjoy it. After my rant about the rubbish internet services here – I have found something to pout the balance back in Cairo’s favour. Hyde park is nice, bigger maybe…… but it has nothing on this.
No they are not paying me to say all of this come on, this is Egypt, they would probably ask me to pay them if they knew I’d mentioned it in the blog!
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