The contrast is striking. On one side are blackened domes with vegetal growth sprouting and on the other, lime-mortar finished graceful structures rising in the sky. Visitors to the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park can’t help draw in their breath at the transformation taking place. The 16 century mausoleums are getting a second lease of life.
Correcting the criminal neglect suffered by the tombs during the last two centuries is no easy task.<b> But the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), world’s leading conservation body, has almost succeeded in doing the impossible. The conservation works going on at the south western side of the royal necropolis bear this out. Most of the 30 monuments in this dense zone are nearly restored – along with their elaborate and intricate architecture.</b>
Presspersons, who were taken around what is popularly called ‘seven tombs’ on Tuesday, saw the restoration works being carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of conservation architects, engineers and historians. “The first phase of the project will be completed by 2016 end and the entire mission in the next ten years,” Ratish Nanda, project director, AKTC, exudes confidence.
B.P. Acharya, Principal Secretary, Planning, is happy at the significant progress made during the last 16 months. “By 2018, we want to pose it for UNESCO’s world heritage site tag,” he said.
The AKTC team has rebuilt the entire western wall of the Badi Baoli which collapsed in October 2013. This risky job involved the reconstruction of 600 cubic metres of stone masonry. An alternative drain is created to take out water so as to safeguard against future damage. The decorative stucco plaster work is restored on the Jamshed Quli Qutb Shah’s tomb and so are the missing plinth stones.
During the course of work, engineers stumbled upon the enclosure wall of the Sultan Quli Qutb ul Mulk’s tomb and managed to unearth the nine-feet wall on all four sides. “This clearly indicates the presence of a garden enclosure around the tomb,” Mr. Nanda said.
In most monuments, the AKTC team is finding ‘inappropriate use’ of modern material like cement. Now all this is being chipped off to restore the original features with traditional materials like lime, stone and wood. In many places, peeling out of cement revealed shining Persian tiles. As the work progresses, <b>the budget keeps changing. It may exceed the Rs. 100 crore initially earmarked.</b>
After Humayun’s Tomb, this is the second not-for-profit project taken up by AKTC. But the scale of challenges posed by the 72 monuments in the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park, spread over 108 acres, are immense.
However, one thing is for certain. When the conservation work is over, the hoary monuments are sure to survive for another 500 years.
Keywords: AKTC, the world’s leading conservation body, Has managed to restore most of the 30 monuments
A new campaign launched Saturday aims to spur restoration in Darb Al-Ahmar, Al-Hilmeya, Al-Sayeda Nafisa and Al-Sayeda Zeinab in the holy month of Ramadan
Ahram Online , Saturday 20 Jun 2015
Governor of Cairo Galal Saeed announced Saturday the launch of a new campaign for the development of heritage sites in Old Cairo, governorate spokesperson Khaled Mostafa said.
The initiative will include the Old Cairo districts of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar, Al-Gamaliya, Al-Helmiya, Al-Sayeda Zeinab and Al-Sayed Nafisa, Mostafa told Ahram Online.
He added that they main work will be renovating streets, not whole districts. For instance, in Darb Al-Ahmar the initiative will work on Haram Rabea and part of Khan El-Khalili.
Amongside the renovation process, Mostafa said the governorate will try to find alternate activities for shop owners in the area, to suit its historical significance.
"If a shop owner works on tires we will convince him to change his current job in order to work on something that suits the heritage of the street, such as working on aluminum, glass, copper or even pottery," Mostafa said.
Along with the governorate, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) will also contribute to the development of the area.
AKDN is a private, international, non-denominational development organisation. It offers job training and employment opportunities in Darb Al-Ahmar, according to the AKDN website.
Cairo governorate has recently been making renovations in Khedeval Cairo, the Downtown district built by Egyptian rulers in the 19th century.
"The renovation of Khedivial Cairo will not clash with the renovation of the historical sites, but will add to it, as the more we wait, the more the historical sites deteriorate," said Mostafa.
The campaign will kick off Saturday, but according to Mostafa it is impossible to state when the development of heritage sites in Old Cairo will be completed.
"It is a long process, as we have to study the area very carefully. However, within a month we plan to finish a part in Darb Al-Ahmar, in order to have a general overview of what we can fix or work on more," stated Mostafa.
Many have accused the government of neglecting for decade heritage sites in Old Cairo neighbourhoods.
The districts include parts of Islamic Cairo — listed as a UNESCO world heritage site — and are home to some of Egypt's most prominent Islamic monuments.
The initiative aims to renovate heritage buildings and develop the area's infrastructure by paving streets and sidewalks as well as maintaining the area's street lighting and removing street vendors.
For related news and photos: Opening of the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo:
Cairo Governor Galal Saeed announced the launch of a new campaign for the development and renovation of heritage sites in Old Cairo on Saturday, according to governorate spokesperson Khaled Mostafa.
The campaign will include the Old Cairo districts of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar, Al-Gamaliya, Al-Helmiya, Al-Sayeda Zeinab and Al-Sayed Nafisa, Mostafa told Ahram Online.
International development organization the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), known for its support in the creation of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park, will also contribute to the renovation project alongside the governorate.
The campaign’s main goal will be to renovate streets and not entire districts, according to Mostafa. An example of that is working on Haram Rabea and part of Khan El-Khalili in the district of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar.
The campaign aims to renovate heritage buildings, develop the area’s infrastructure by paving streets and sidewalks and maintain the area’s street lighting.
Mostafa added that in addition to the renovation process, the governorate will also try to find alternate activities for shop owners in the area that suit its historical significance.
“If a shop owner works on tires, we will convince him to change his current job in order to work on something that suits the heritage of the street, such as working on aluminum, glass, copper or even pottery,” Mostafa said.
“It is a long process, as we have to study the area very carefully. However, within a month we plan to finish a part in Darb Al-Ahmar, in order to have a general overview of what we can fix or work on more,” said Mostafa
The Cairo governorate has been recently working on other renovation projects, including the renovation of parts of Downtown Cairo which were built in the 19th century. However, Mostafa said that the project would not clash with the new campaign.
Old Cairo, which contains the remnants of the old capitals that predate Fatimid Cairo, is home to some of the most historically significant sites in Egypt. It includes parts of Islamic Cairo, which contain prominent historical mosques such as Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, and parts of Coptic Cairo, which contain prominent historical churches and ruins of Roman fortifications.
Ismaili Centre suhour showcases role of culture in development
18 July 2015
Dubai, 7 July 2015 — Dignitaries and ambassadors from across the United Arab Emirates gathered at the Ismaili Centre for a suhour and a look at how culture can be a springboard for development. The event was jointly hosted by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Canadian Embassy.
In a presentation that he delivered to the guests, Shiraz Allibhai, Deputy Director of the AKTC, shared examples of the Trust’s approach to demonstrate how cultural heritage can serve as a catalyst for social and economic development.
One of these was Al-Azhar Park — a centuries-old dumping ground in Cairo that was transformed by the AKTC into a state-of-the-art green space. The development of this unique cultural asset subsequently led to a rehabilitation of the impoverished neighbourhood of Darb al-Ahmar that adjoins it, and the extension of education, health and microcredit services to the community. Altogether the project transformed the nature of the neighbourhood, the society and the environment.
The Trust’s efforts to promote the value of culture in advancing development, mutual understanding and pluralism is bolstered by the four-decade long relationship between Canada and the Ismaili Muslim community, explained His Excellency Arif Lalani, Canada’s Ambassador to the UAE.
Last year, in cooperation with Art Dubai and the Canadian Embassy, the Ismaili Centre hosted the first international preview of the Aga Khan Museum. As a result of the relationships forged by this initiative, the UAE’s Barjeel Art Foundation will be exhibiting at the Museum, the first Arab contemporary art exhibition ever to be shown in North America.
“Canada and the Ismaili community have a long and valued history,” said the ambassador. “The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, is another example of our shared commitment to the understanding of and celebration of diverse communities and civilisations.”
Following the suhour meal, guests toured the Ismaili Centre. An exhibition of winning projects from the most recent cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was on display, and many lingered at each panel, absorbing the details of projects recognised for their contribution to transforming the lives of the communities within which they were built.
The event continued late into the night, with guests appreciating the warm and festive ambiance and engaging in thoughtful discussion with new friends.
“The Ismaili Centre seeks to drive the exchange of knowledge and ideas in order to create better understanding between cultures and communities,” said Amiruddin Thanawalla, President of the Ismaili Council for the UAE.
The Dubai Jamat also benefited from the event. The exhibition remained on display and Shiraz Allibhai held a separate session for the Jamat the next day.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this thought-provoking presentation,” said Safdar Rashid, a longstanding member of the Dubai Jamat. “We are privileged to have such expertise in our community, and fortunate that people are willing to give their time and share their knowledge.”
Revealed: Humayun’s Tomb is a documentary on the first monumental mausoleum of India. At the same time the narrative takes us on a historical flashback into the incredible world of the great Mughals. It shows us how the Monument has stood as silent witness to Imperial Delhi’s ups and downs.
Running parallel to the historical theme the documentary follows the restoration work undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture that has brought this monument back from near ruin to a condition that is like when it was first built. The documentary uses a series of ‘re-creations’ with actors that take the viewer into key moments of Mughal history, from Humayun’s death as he tumbled down his library staircase, to Akbar the Great’s coronation as a young teenager.
Juxtaposing the historical re-creations are scenes filmed in present day depicting the ‘behind the scenes’ efforts that went into the restoration of the site and the buildings around the monument. Bringing all these sub stories together is the environment the Monument exists in. Built next to the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamudin, Humayun’s Tomb stands within the densest cluster of Islamic buildings of Delhi.
» Learn more about REVEALED: HUMAYUN'S TOMB
» Watch a trailer of the documentary
Premiering on Monday, 27 July at 9:00 PM (India time) on the Discovery Channel.
Summary: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has agreed to restore the park and carry out developmental activities. Earlier Developmental works were done by Quli Qutub Shah Urban Development Authority but its opening was delayed due to various reasons and controversies. The ‘Deccan Park’ which was lying unused for the past 15 years close to the Qutub Shahi Tombs and the historic Golconda Fort will be thrown open for public soon. Developed at a cost of Rs 3 crore the park has a swimming pool, a kitty pool for children, conference hall and a facility for a toy train ride. It is spread over 30 acres which also includes the Eidgah land where Eid prayer is offered every year.
The ‘Deccan Park’ which was lying unused for the past 15 years close to the Qutub Shahi Tombs and the historic Golconda Fort will be thrown open for public soon. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has agreed to restore the park and carry out developmental activities. Earlier Developmental works were done by Quli Qutub Shah Urban Development Authority but its opening was delayed due to various reasons and controversies. Developed at a cost of Rs 3 crore the park has a swimming pool, a kitty pool for children, conference hall and a facility for a toy train ride. It is spread over 30 acres which also includes the Eidgah land where Eid prayer is offered every year. Siasat news
Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has undertaken the restoration and conservation work of Quli Qutub Shahi tombs at a cost of Rs.100 crore and it might take upto 10 years. The tombs in Qutb Shahi Heritage Park will transform into a major archaeological attraction in Telangana. - Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
Nizamuddin Basti Mela organised by Aga Khan Development Network
Visited the Nizamuddin Basti Mela organised by Aga Khan Development Network. The three-day event, which ended yesterday, celebrated the last 700 years heritage of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, one of Delhi’s oldest settlements. A truly enriching experience... Perfect execution of a great concept...
Met old friend Ratish Nanda who has played a vital role in the restoration of around 50 odd monuments in the vicinity with Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Badakhshan Ensemble performs in Paris with support from AKDN and Ismaili community
The halls of the Académie Diplomatique Internationale in Paris were filled with the mystical music of the Pamir mountains during a concert given by the Badakhshan Ensemble last month. The ensemble blended devotional poetry, folk songs and the deep and inspiring sounds of instruments traditional to Central Asia.
Organised by the Ismaili Council for France in conjunction with the Aga Khan Music Initiative, the performance on 7 November captivated members of the Jamat and a number of distinguished guests.
“This initiative is about promoting and celebrating cultural diversity,” says Shamir Samdjee, President of the Ismaili Council for France. “Music can be a vector of peace between peoples of different traditions, and sharing in it is a way to enhance pluralism within society.”
Warm applause greeted the musicians and dancers, whose visit to the country was part of a European tour.
The Badakhshan Ensemble is supported by the Aga Khan Music Initiative, a programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The Music Initiative aims to preserve the musical heritage of Central Asia by seeking out talented artists like those belonging to the Ensemble and promoting their work worldwide, as well as through educational programming.
Founded in 1926, the Académie Diplomatique Internationale is an international organisation focused on modern diplomacy and international affairs. Mawlana Hazar Imam was elected President of the organisation in 2000, and during his presidency, he has focused the Académie’s efforts on diplomatic training and the study of emerging dynamics in international relations and diplomacy.
The Badakhshan Ensemble performing at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale in November 2015.
Wazir Khan Mosque rehabilitation starts in Lahore Pakistan
By Ali Raza for The News. December 22, 2015 – LAHORE: Following the rich heritage value, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has started conservation and rehabilitation of the Wazir Khan Chowk inside the Delhi Gate.
The conservation and rehabilitation will be carried out with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and funding from US Ambassador’s Fund. Wazir Khan Chowk is the courtyard outside the Wazir Khan Mosque, which includes a shrine and mosque of Sufi Saint Said Soaf and the well of Raja Dina Nath.
Wazir Khan Mosque Restoration in Lahore, Pakistan (Image Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture via Archnet)
Officials said the project will be completed in 18 months time at an estimated cost of Rs 112.5 million. They said an MoU had already been signed between the WCLA, US Ambassador & Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan (AKCSP) in this regard and initial work on the project has been started.
Since 2004, the city parks and gardens developed by the AKDN in places such as Cairo, Kabul, Delhi and Bamako have received over 43 million visitors, mostly urban dwellers who have otherwise limited access to green spaces. These parks attract over 5 million visitors every year
Paper-cutting craft, transforming the lives of women of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
This short film on the paper-cutting craft of Saanjhi and how it is transforming the lives of women from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.
The women cut patterns of jaalis, motifs, and patterns from the Mughal-era monuments situated in Nizamuddin, and create products like lamps, screens, tea-lights, bookmarks and notebooks. The 800 years of heritage providing livelihood means to its people now.
The garden king of Kabul: Babur’s legacy lives on in Afghanistan
How the restoration of a warrior emperor’s 16th-century garden is helping to secure Afghanistan’s heritage
The role of cultural heritage is a hot topic. Can it unite a nation shattered by war and civil strife? Can it become a rallying point only if a sense of nationhood already exists? In what sense is it “heritage”, if at all? Even those bent on destroying it are proof that monuments, sculptures and art have heritage power.
The most successful heritage project in a war-torn land is not the restoration of a statue or a building. It is the restoration of a garden in the urban heat of Afghanistan. In Kabul, the recently restored Garden of Babur, the Baghe Babur, has just attracted its three millionth visitor since the beginning of its restoration in 2008. Until then, I and others had viewed the project with misplaced doubt. This year the plan is to achieve world heritage status.
Babur, the garden’s founder, was a remarkable person, the most prolific garden king in history. Born in 1483, he was a descendant of Tamerlane and became the first of the Mogul emperors. He is author of an autobiography which still enchants readers with its love of flowers and landscape, its poetry, its tales of daring and its frank admission of the pleasures of becoming drunk and holding parties to that end, accompanied by cakes of hashish while Babur and his friends mellow out among nature’s beauties. His pen portraits of friends and relations are as sharply drawn as priceless contemporary Mogul miniature paintings, some of which depict Babur himself, involved in a garden’s design. Young Babur grew up near Samarkand in what is now Uzbekistan. In 1504 he captured Kabul, but in 1526 went east to conquer parts of northern India. He died at Agra in 1530 but wished to be buried in Kabul whose climate and landscape he much preferred. In 1544 his widow sent his body back there and he was buried in one of the 10 landscape gardens which he had personally ordered to be built in the city.
In May 1972, when red and white roses still blossomed all over Kabul and bottles of iced fizzy drinks were sold with coloured marbles as corks, I first paid my respects at Babur’s garden tomb. The site had been repeatedly altered and his monument on the top of the terraced hill was not appealing. Most of the garden below had disappeared and his memorial was only an inscribed slab beneath an ugly canopy of later date.
In the civil wars of 1992 the garden was on one of the front lines. Trees were cut down, waterworks were ruined, buildings were burnt by mujahedin and landmines were not removed from the site until 1995. After the Taliban were forced out of Kabul in 2001, the Aga Khan and his Trust for Culture guided plans for a full restoration of Babur’s garden, seeing it as a focal point for a city which badly needed a new start. Funds from Germany, the US and other governments have helped the ambitious project, which has been a triumph and a multinational success to a degree that is not always realised.
Designs for restoring the terraces were drawn up by the admired Indian landscape architect Mohammed Shahir. Archaeological research was led by Ute Franke Vogt of the German Archaeological Institute, who duly found traces of the original line of pools and long-lost terraces. Jolyon Leslie, born in South Africa, led much of the work on site for the Aga Khan’s trust. Marble was brought south from Babur’s native Fergana in Uzbekistan and was carved into shape in Delhi. Most important, the garden has been planted and now maintained by devoted Afghan gardeners. Its leading garden engineer, Abdul Latif Kohistani, has had a crucial role. The aim has been to plant the garden with as many local species and plants known to Babur as possible. More than 5,000 are now on site, including roses, pistachios and the purple-flowered Judas trees which Babur described with love. To find plants, Kohistani set off into the nearby hills and engaged with local plant-growing associations as far afield as Herat. Despite years of war such groups still existed and now, Kohistani presides over 11 gardeners and 13 support staff. Much of his plant-collecting was done with the help of a simple motorcycle, visiting hill sites where he knew he would find what he needed.
Since November the garden and its maintenance have been handed over essentially to Afghan management and the Baghe Babur Trust. Outsiders, aware of Iraq, might be apprehensive about the garden’s future. Babur’s heritage has not been uncontroversial. In India he has been demonised by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) as the alleged desecrator of what it claims was a historic Hindu site on which a Muslim mosque was built. The now ruined mosque, the Babri Masjid — which was torn down in 1992 — has an inscription inside it which names Babur but does not prove that he ordered the building himself. Babur was a conqueror of Kabul, an Uzbek, not a Pashtun or Tadjik. In eastern Uzbekistan, at Andijan, there is already a big statue of Babur, a museum, paintings of his deeds and a fine hillside garden with a replica of his tomb in Kabul. Babur was a Sunni Muslim who also favoured Sufi saints. The Aga Khan, of course, is Isma’ili — a Shia branch of Islam — as suspicious mullahs in Kabul complained in 2002.
In fact, the handover and the garden are working very well. One reason is the role of the committed Afghan gardeners and Kohistani himself, still in charge of more than 5,000 recently planted species. Gardening for food and beauty is deeply rooted in parts of Afghan society. I would gladly welcome some Afghan gardeners to come and work on London’s Garden Bridge if ever that uneasy project gets off the ground.
Another good reason for the success is the garden’s value as a secure and beautiful urban space. Much of the $250,000 in the garden’s maintenance budget is raised from ticketed events at the garden. There have been festivals of Pashtun dancing, though Babur was no Pashtun. There has even been western drama, a staging in 2005 of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost in translation. This remarkable venture is recorded in a touching book, A Night In The Emperor’s Garden by Qais Akbar Omar and Stephen Landrigan. “Afghans do not do tragedy,” the Afghan actors told their French director, after all their tragedies of the past 40 years. They acted comedy instead and entranced their audiences in Babur’s garden, although the scene in which young men pretend to be Russians had to be rewritten for Afghan sensibilities.
A Night In The Emperor’s Garden was reissued in November last year. The updated edition makes chilling reading: a tale of murder, threats and the enforced exile of actors and actresses who had played Shakespeare to such acclaim in the emperor’s garden but then found themselves caught in a Taliban backlash. The present danger for the garden is not Taliban puritanism but a phenomenon better known in Britain: the absence of effective planning control on new buildings. The garden and its long central axis of water pools and paving are surrounded by a secure wall. Against it, high-rise blocks are going up apace, nestling for safety against this cultural icon.
In their own public gardens, British visitors find invaluable space for exercising their dogs and their keep-fit selves, letting their children run free and for meeting their lovers on neutral ground. Afghans have social needs too, accompanied by their relief that one urban space is secure, lovely and a link with the past. As Jolyon Leslie returned to his heritage work in Afghanistan, his home for about 20 years, he told me: “A nation is not alive unless its culture is alive.” There are other ways to enhance its life besides museums with histories of the world in 100 objects. Around a few restored gardens, a nation’s threatened sense of itself can unite.
The Other Classical Musics: a new concert series co-produced by Wigmore Hall in London & Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) celebrating traditions from Afghanistan to Syria
On Thursday (10 March), the Wigmore Hall in London will launch a new concert series – co-produced by the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) – which is also entitled “The Other Classical Musics”, and which will celebrate the music of the Muslim world.
The Other Classical Musics: a new concert series celebrating non-European classical traditions from Afghanistan to Aleppo
A new concert series will celebrate non-European classical traditions. It’s about time, says Michael Church
By Michael Church for the Independent Published on Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 12:37 pm
The Qur’an may be ambiguous on the question of whether music should be permitted in Islam, but the fact is that music has blossomed in a thousand wonderful ways in Muslim societies, in an unbroken swathe of the globe stretching from Morocco to Indonesia.
And in the first concert, a group of string virtuosi from Afghanistan and north India will present the music of a region of Central Asia where styles and sounds from medieval Persia and the Mughal Empire blended in the 17th and 18th centuries, and are blending anew today.
… The popularisation of the umbrella genre “world music” since the 1980s has been problematic, to say the least.
More seriously, although the term is logically meaningless – all music is “world music” – it has ironically helped to perpetuate the old fallacy that while Europe has “classical” music, everywhere else – with the exception perhaps of north India – has only “folk” music.
The myriad forms and styles of what marketing people call “world music” are lumped together in an undifferentiated mass, reflecting a mind-set which is still essentially colonial. We should simply drop this injurious and misleading term.
Discover, Explore and Learn more via The Independent | Culture | Classical | Features | The Other Classical Musics: a new concert series celebrating non-European classical traditions from Afghanistan to Aleppo
About The Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI)
“I believe in the power of plurality, without which there is no possibility of exchange.”
– His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan
49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims
The Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) is an inter-regional music and arts education program with worldwide performance, outreach, mentoring, and artistic production activities.
The Initiative was launched by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan in 2000 to support talented musicians and music educators working to preserve, transmit, and further develop their musical heritage in contemporary forms.
Music Initiative began its work in Central Asia, subsequently expanding its cultural development activities to include artistic communities and audiences in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
Aga Khan Music Initiative – International Performance and Outreach Activities Map
Discover, Explore and Learn more via the Aga Khan Music Initiative
India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari visits AKTC Restoration Project of Quli Qutb Shahi Tombs Complex in Hydrabad
Hyderabad: Vice President Hamid Ansari along with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governor E S L Narasimhan visited the historic Quli Qutb Shahi Tombs complex here on Sunday (March 6th).
During the one hour spent at the necropolis site, Vice President Ansari appreciated the ongoing restoration works by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).
Mr. Ratish Nanda, CEO, AKTC appraising the Vice President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari along with Governor Sri E.S.L. Narasimhan and other senior government officials on their visit to Qutb Shahi Tombs (Image via Siasat Daily)
Ansari asked the Telangana government and Aga Khan Foundation to explore the possibility of attracting tourists to this spot as these structures do not find required recognition on tourism map, an official release said.
The project for restoration of the over 400-year-old tombs complex started in 2013 after the AKTC signed a memorandum of understanding with Telangana state department of archaeology and museums.
AKTC Project Director Ratish Nanda said there are 75 structures, including 23 mosques spread out over 108 acres.
These monuments are popularly known as seven tombs and are built in Iranian architecture style. The restoration works taken up by AKTC at a cost of Rs 100 crore would be completed in a span of 10 years, he added.
Mr. Ratish Nanda, CEO, AKTC leads the Vice President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari along with Governor Sri E.S.L. Narasimhan and other senior government officials on a site tour of the Qutb Shahi Tombs (Image via Siasat Daily)
Also present were Sri Md.Mahamood Ali, Hon’ble Deputy CM, Sri B. Venkatesham, Secretary Tourism, Sri Mahesh Baghat, IG Security Wing, Mrs. Visalatchy, Director Archaeology, Sri A. Venkateshwar Rao, DCP, West Zone, Aga Khan Foundation, Chairman Dr. Abad Ahmad and other senior officials.
Mr. Ratish Nanda, CEO, AKTC appraising explains architecture and significance of the area to the Vice President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari along with Governor Sri E.S.L. Narasimhan and other senior government officials on their visit to Qutb Shahi Tombs (Image via Siasat Daily)
■The Hindu | Ansari visits Qutub Shahi tombs
■Siasat Daily | Ansari visits Quli Qutb Shahi Tombs Complex Hyderabad
■Siasat Daily | Historical Vist to Seven Tombs
Restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Humayun’s tomb gets a 24-carat gold crown
The Humayun’s Tomb – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of three in Delhi – has finally got a gold crown. A 24-carat gold finial has been installed atop the tomb’s majestic dome.
Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma will unveil it on Tuesday in the presence of senior officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and conservation agency Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). Bhaskar Bhat, the managing director of the gold sponsor, Titan Company Limited, is also a guest.
Aga Khan Trust for Culture India: World Heritage Day‬ celebration with school children at the Humayun’s Tomb
April 18, 2016: Organized by the AKTC’s Nizamuddin Renewal Initiative, over 1500 students from various Delhi schools participated in the #WorldHeritageDay celebrations at Humayun’s Tomb Complex.
UNESCO established 18 April as the International Day for Monuments and Sites in 1983. It aims to raise public awareness about the diversity and vulnerability of the world’s built monuments and heritage sites and the efforts required to protect and conserve them.
Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) with the financial help of US Embassy has started conservation of eastern façade of Masjid Wazir Khan.
Officials said Aga Khan Trust for Culture is providing technical help while US Embassy had provided funding of Rs1,120,096 for the project. Masjid Wazir Khan was built in 1634 AD on the orders of Hakim Ilmuddin, the then Prime Minister of 5th Mughal King Shahjahan.
The mosque is located inside Delhi Gate and is situated in middle of the Walled City of Lahore. The mosque is known as a masterpiece of Mughal architecture due to its style, solid structure, profusion and delicacy of its decorative motifs.
A mammoth undertaking to restore and develop Delhi’s Nizamuddin will end this time next year. How has it transformed one of the most historic and touristy areas of the country?
This could be the closest thing to paradise. Here, the world is all grass and birds, air and sky. Sunflowers sway gently in the afternoon breeze. Tiny manicured gardens are laid out one after the other. Stone benches are placed discreetly behind green hedges—just the place for lovers wanting to hide from prying eyes. There are water pools, an amphitheatre and a long water channel with walkways on either side. In the distance, a kite suns itself on the dome of a small monument.
The edifice looks nothing like the typical Delhi ruin—dilapidated, scarred, defaced with “love” graffiti scrawls. The ceilings and walls inside retain their beautiful original patterns, making the centuries-old building look more like its early self.
When I first visited the Sundar Burj about a decade ago, it had the feeling of a very different, very forgettable place. The monument is in the middle of other ignored ruins at the Sundar Nursery, next to the touristy Humayun’s Tomb in central Delhi’s Nizamuddin area.
This is much more than a place to buy plants; it runs parallel to a part of Mathura Road that stretches from the Nizamuddin police station all the way to the Delhi Zoo. Today, the Sundar Nursery, the Khilji-era Jamaat Khana Masjid and the tomb of the Mughal-era poet Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan are in the final stages of redevelopment. The mosque is in the premises of the Nizamuddin dargah, the famous Sufi shrine that has lent its name to the area. The work is being done by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), named after the philanthropic leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
Sundar Burj in its before and (below) after state. Photo courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Sundar Burj in its before and (below) after state. Photo courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Photo courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Photo courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture
The Switzerland-based charitable institution, part of the Aga Khan Development Network, focuses on revitalizing Muslim communities globally—it has had a presence for many years in this historical quarter of Delhi. It has not only restored monuments, but has also initiated education, health and development programmes in the messy and vibrant Muslim neighbourhood that is the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.
The AKTC is working in collaboration with government agencies as part of the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative. This was the first public-private partnership in monument conservation in India. This time next year, the project will complete a decade—the AKTC’s agreement with the Union government ends in 2017.
The trust’s most noteworthy accomplishment has, perhaps, been the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb, a Unesco World Heritage Site, in 2013. Ten years ago, the monument to the second Mughal emperor had a leaking dome, missing tiles, collapsed walls, damaged stone facades and tonnes of cement slapped on in attempted repair by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The seeds of its redevelopment were sown 20 years ago. In 1997, the AKTC announced plans to restore the gardens at Humayun’s Tomb as a “gift to India on the 50th anniversary of India’s independence”. In 2004, at an award function at the tomb, then prime minister Manmohan Singh requested Prince Aga Khan to continue their work in the country. On 11 July 2007, the AKTC signed a memorandum of understanding with government agencies, including the ASI, the Central public works department (CPWD) and the municipal corporation of Delhi.
There continue to be those who believe ruins should look like ruins, that dilapidated monuments acquire their own individuality. And that by getting rid of all their supposed flaws, we lose an understanding of the role they play today. What would happen to all the stories that only ruins can evoke?
Sam Miller, who has written a book on his long walks in the Capital, is one of them. “Generally, with Delhi ruins I wish there was a greater stress on conservation and less on rebuilding,” he says.
Conservation architect Ratish Nanda, who set up the AKTC’s India operations and has headed them since 2007, disagrees. “The monument is not a painting. It can’t look ruinous and yet be stable. Conservation effort on monuments left in disrepair will always require restoration and even reconstruction of missing or damaged elements.” The AKTC’s objective, he says, is to enhance the life of the buildings by removing modern materials like cement that have been added to them over the decades, and, wherever possible, restore the missing elements with original materials and design. He adds that the lime plaster applied to the surface of monuments will naturally acquire the patina of age within a few years.
Ratish Nanda at the Sundar Burj.
Ratish Nanda at the Sundar Burj.
So far, then, the AKTC has restored more than 40 monuments in the area, including the tomb of poet Mirza Ghalib and the 14th century Hazrat Nizamuddin baoli, or stone step well, where nowadays young men from Old Delhi come for their daily swim. It has worked in partnership with organizations such as the Tata Trusts, Ford Foundation, the ministry of tourism, InterGlobe Foundation and the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
The construction of the Humayun’s Tomb Interpretation Centre, which is now on, is being talked about as Delhi’s first “sunken museum”. It will be an ambitious underground complex that not only connects the Mughal emperor’s tomb to Sundar Nursery but will also help familiarize visitors with the entire Nizamuddin area through exhibition galleries, a library, seminar halls, a crafts centre and café.
“I feel more than a sense of achievement,” says Nanda, who has compiled a two-volume catalogue of Delhi’s monuments and also oversaw the restoration of the tomb of Babur, the first Mughal emperor, in the Afghan capital Kabul. He was talking to me at his solar-panelled office in one corner of Sundar Nursery. “We have demonstrated a model for conservation-based development of historical city centres where the conservation needs of grand heritage buildings and those of communities are both fulfilled as is the city’s need for a major green space,” he says, adding that this is exactly what they have tried to accomplish in Delhi.
Delhi has many historical centres like Nizamuddin. You could focus on Qutab Minar as the focal point in Mehrauli. In Old Delhi, it could be the Jama Masjid, with its surrounding bazaars. In north Delhi, it could be the St James Church. So the renovation of Humayun’s Tomb and the adjoining Nizamuddin area could have important implications for the future of conservation of old buildings in India.
“The AKTC did what has not been done so far, and that is restoring the original appearance of monuments by using similar materials first used to construct them,” says Narayani Gupta, who has written many books on Delhi’s monuments. “They have shown that it is possible to coordinate a project involving historical buildings, gardens and communities and integrate it in a way that they complement each other.”
The Nizamuddin area is clearly demarcated into its East and West localities, separated by Mathura Road. These two colonies are home to many of the city’s writers, artists and academics. Humayun’s Tomb is in Nizamuddin East; many of the balconies there offer a tantalizing glimpse of the monument—indeed, the tomb-facing apartments cost more; rents of Rs.1 lakh a month are not unheard of. Prices in Nizamuddin West are a smidgen cheaper.
The AKTC, however, is focusing on the Nizamuddin Basti. In this jumbled area with its narrow by-lanes and higgledy-piggledy houses, I once rented a studio apartment, opposite the Zamin mosque, which set me back just Rs.5,000 a month. My first-floor window opened on to the basti’s 14th century step well.
Last year, the AKTC convinced my former landlord, a lawyer, to raze his house and move it 3ft to protect the stone well. The new structure was ready last month. All the work on the house, from demolition to construction, was undertaken by the AKTC, with a part of the cost shared by the owner. The step well was restored in 2010—the AKTC had to manually remove tonnes of stone debris and flotsam that had collected in it over 800 years. The small monuments around it are still being repaired.
Farid Ahmed Nizami, the lawyer whose house was demolished and rebuilt.
Farid Ahmed Nizami, the lawyer whose house was demolished and rebuilt.
“My first experience of the conservation work done by the Aga Khan Trust was when I went to Kabul in 2004,” says Rakhshanda Jalil, author of Invisible City: The Hidden Monuments Of Delhi. Jalil talks of the devastation of Babur’s tomb during the prolonged Afghanistan crisis. Beautiful old trees had been chopped for firewood, the marble screen around the tomb was broken and the entire complex, which is perched on a bare hillside, was nothing more than wilderness. “Then, the AKTC transformed it.
“In India, I was fortunate to see a before-after makeover in the Nizamuddin Basti and Sundar Nursery area,” says Jalil, who has been chronicling the city’s old buildings since the early 1990s. “The work by the AKTC is in keeping with the spirit of urban renewal. They believe in local tie-ups, community involvement and, best of all, they seek public-private partnerships. No single NGO or institution—no matter how well-endowed or well-intentioned—can work in isolation. The AKTC is showing the way forward.”
The starting point to understand the AKTC’s work is Humayun’s Tomb. Even in its earlier dilapidated state, it must have inspired a variety of feelings. For it has been the stage for great historical events. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, took shelter here from the British, as did Partition refugees almost a century later. The building not only holds the remains of Humayun but also of Dara Shikoh, the prince regent who could have shaped a different history of India, had his promised throne not been usurped by his brother.
The throne-snatcher, emperor Aurangzeb, had the reputation of being one of India’s most intolerant rulers. While his name was recently removed from a major Delhi boulevard, the work by the AKTC has helped bring to the fore the name of Khan-i-Khanan, who overcame the barriers of faith to write verses in praise of the deity Krishna.
A visit to his tomb in Nizamuddin East doesn’t just offer an idea of how the monument looked originally, it also gives a sense of the background of the people who built it—and of those who are at work there now. The men skilled in excavating the earth are from Murshidabad in West Bengal, the stonemasons from Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh, the sculptors from Dholpur in Rajasthan, the lime plaster workmen from villages near Jaipur in Rajasthan. These craftsmen have been brought in from their villages for the restoration.
Craftsmen at Khan-i-Khanan’s tomb
Craftsmen at Khan-i-Khanan’s tomb
The AKTC’s chief engineer, Rajpal Singh, who offers this information, has overseen the work at all the restored monuments. “This craftsmanship runs in their blood and has been passed down the generations,” says Singh. It is possible that 400 years ago, the ancestors of these men were here at this spot, building Khan-i-Khanan’s tomb.
Today, these craftsmen earn Rs.750-1,100 a day, with an insurance and provident fund scheme as an added benefit. In fact, 75% of the AKTC’s conservation cost is spent on their wages. “Until now, we have generated 500,000 man-days of craftsmen work for conservation across 45 individual monuments,” says Nanda. He did not, however, disclose specific figures.
About 60 stone-carvers at the AKTC have been with the project for over a decade. Stone-carver Attar Singh is one of them. His two sons, as well as his four brothers and their sons, work as stone-carvers with the trust. The AKTC is almost like his extended family.
Chief engineer Rajpal Singh credits his career to his genes. His father, who was with the ASI, had also worked on the great Buddha statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Eighteen years ago, much to the dismay of his family and friends, Rajpal Singh left the security of a permanent government job in the CPWD.
At the Khan-i-Khanan monument, Singh leads me to the tomb chamber. Nothing could have prepared me for the surprise. I had been there a couple of years ago. Back then, the building looked beautiful from the outside but the tomb chamber was dark, musty and smelt of bat shit.
Now, craftsmen have scraped away decades of grime to reach the original surface of these walls. They have restored the patterns that had disappeared after years of abuse; the original designs were cleaned, not retouched. The aesthetics of the incised plaster-work are visible once more. Geometric patterns, symbols and religious calligraphy have re-emerged. The ceiling now displays a clear view of its floral patterns.
[The restored walls of the inner chamber of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan’s tomb. Photo courtesy Aga Khan Trust for Culture]
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R.S. Fonia, the ASI’s joint director general and media spokesperson, compliments the AKTC for its “beautification of parks” but does not comment on “the main structure renovations” that are “traditionally the job of the ASI”.
One thing that this government-run archaeology department can certainly learn from the AKTC is how to bring local communities emotionally closer to their cheek-by-jowl monuments and offer them a sense of ownership. Traditionally, having a heritage structure next to your house can be something of a burden. You are not allowed to add an extra floor to your own house; you are not permitted to tie your goat to the stone wall; you cannot hang your clothes to dry inside the ruins (though people do). The attitude of the basti’s residents, however, is changing. “We used to think of our area as a slum,” says Feroze Qureshi, a meat- shop worker. “But (the social work by) Aga Khan has made us realize that our basti is very special and that it has monuments foreigners are interested in seeing.”
In its development initiatives in what may be perceived as a conservative neighbourhood, the AKTC has focused on women. Zenana Bagh,a garden for women, opened in 2010; self-help groups that allow women to earn by creating craft products were set up—one kiosk, selling such wares, opened last year at Humayun’s Tomb.
But there are critics also. A shopkeeper on Ghalib Road complained that “because of these Aga Khan people, a lot of our women appear on the streets without the hijab and some have even gotten jobs.”
This progress might be an even greater achievement for the AKTC than the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb. “We have shown that the private sector can fulfil government objectives,” says Nanda. “Our biggest success will be a time when we are not needed any longer in the basti.”
Although the AKTC may exit Delhi next year, there are no plans to quit India anytime soon. In January 2013, it signed up for another 10-year conservation project at the Qutb Shahi tombs in Hyderabad, Telangana. Nanda’s hope is that the AKTC will be granted an extension of at least two years in the Capital to complete work on the last remaining projects—the Union culture ministry’s response was still awaited at the time of going to press. Meanwhile, Nanda is pondering another interesting question: “Does Delhi want us to do more stuff?”
Mayank Austen Soofi
Culture and tourism are primary drivers of local economies. Both creates jobs locally in a sustainable way. We need focused training, development funds for local heritage sites, marketing budgets and basic facilities such as toilets, cafes, visitors’ centres and green transportation. Delhi has over 1,099 listed heritage monuments, all waiting to be rediscovered. The Aga Khan Foundation’s work in this area is an example of integrated development.
Annual cultural festivals and daily shows at the backdrop of a heritage monument will allow tourists an opportunity to stay at night, boosting food and transport sector. Much of the income can be used in preserving the heritage.
Entertainment districts traditionally contribute to a city’s economy. Broadway offers $9-11 billion and West End £5-7 billion through its restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, bars and concerts. The Jaipur Literature Festival contributes over Rs 25 crore to its local economy.
Government needs to build sustainable projects, including theatres, museums, rehearsal spaces, galleries, digital labs in a public partnership.
Brazil has created a multitude of cultural centres, funded by the tax-payers and the city governments. The UK’s lottery fund is another example of creating a funding mechanism as is the US’ tax incentive policy to support the arts through private investment and endowments. Intervention through the arts generates wealth in a sustained manner, allowing people and communities to grow.
Three years is not much time in which to learn about a society as diverse, complex, and fascinating as Pakistan. However, for foreign diplomats, it is a fairly long tour. As I leave, I wanted to share with the Express Tribune readers what I hope will be an interesting and unique perspective on this great country; on some of the things that we, in the American government, have done with our Pakistani partners; and, of some of the things I have most appreciated during my time here.
I have lived in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan off and on since 1999, and I have always been impressed by the symmetry, the beauty, and the science of Mughal architecture. Lahore and Punjab boast so many examples of 16th and 17th century architectural excellence that it is like a giant museum, open for the edification of all comers. Walled City Authority, the Agha Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, and the Punjab Department of Archaeology are doing an exceptional job of restoring and interpreting these treasures. In the future, I hope that more Americans and westerners will come here and have the chance to see what I have seen.
4. Admiring Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage
Given Pakistan’s many architectural treasures, I’m pleased that the United States is doing its part to support their restoration and interpretation. We have completed 11 cultural preservation activities in Punjab alone, ranging from the shrine of Hazrat Sakhi Sarwar near Dera Ghazi Khan to the Lahore Fort’s Alamgiri Gate, to the Sunehri Masjid in Lahore. Currently, we are supporting the restoration of the Wazir Khan Mosque façade and Chowk in Lahore’s walled city. I had the chance to visit the site with our partners at the Agha Khan Cultural Service Pakistan.
Meet Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan, who was also the ‘bhakta’ poet Rahim Das
Clearly a man of many parts, it is difficult to reconcile the bhakta Rahim Das – the Servant of Rahim (one of the 99 names name for Allah) – and the aesthete-courtier-military strategist seen in many gilded Mughal-era paintings. Yet, such a man existed. He lies buried in a vast and crumbling mausoleum on Mathura Road (once part of the Mughal Grand Trunk Road) at the mouth of Nizamuddin East in Delhi, in a grand edifice built by Rahim for his wife, making it the first Mughal tomb of its kind built for a lady.
Its proximity to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, the thirteenth-century Sufi saint, makes it part of a cluster of over 100 monuments, mostly mausoleums and mosques, that together comprise the densest ensemble of medieval monuments anywhere in India. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), having successfully undertaken repair and renovation work on Humayun’s Tomb and several other monuments in its vicinity, has now turned its attention to Rahim’s Tomb as part of its Nizamuddin Urban Renewal initiative. While the conservation work being undertaken by the AKTC, in collaboration with the Inter Globe Foundation, is of great architectural significance laying out as it is a blueprint for conservation projects elsewhere in India, the intention to revisit Rahim’s legacy is equally laudable.
How India Can Better Preserve Its Cultural Heritage
An interview with Ratish Nanda, a prominent conservation architect in India.
New York City, with a history of just about 300 years, has more than 29,000 protected heritage buildings. India, on the other hand, has designated only about 15,000 structures under that category, despite being over 2,700 times bigger in size and its history dating back to more than 2,000 BC. What’s worse, dozens of these structures are not even traceable today due to urbanization and neglect. This can, and must, change, says Ratish Nanda, a conservation architect whose organization has saved several monuments in the country from disappearing.
There are at least three keys to conservation, Nanda, who heads the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a Switzerland-based non-profit group, told The Diplomat in an interview in his office within the complex of one of Delhi’s most celebrated monuments, Humayun’s Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose conservation his organization completed in 2013. Built in 1570, it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal. (For images of Humayun’s Tomb, and other sites restored by Nanda’s group, check out this recent photo essay).
“For conservation to succeed, the civil society and corporates must partner with the government. There is no other option,” said Nanda, who believes that people in India generally care little about their cultural heritage. This is evident in the fact that the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, a non-profit group to “make the citizens aware of the importance of their cultural and historical environment and help them to develop a harmonious relationship with it,” has only 7,000 members. Its British counterpart has 2 million members.
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The Aga Khan Trust, which has been involved in the conservation of cultural heritage in India for more than 15 years through a unique private-public partnership, is seeking to change that. “We have partnerships with the government, local communities, donors and foreign embassies,” Nanda said.
The second key, Nanda added, is “conservation and development can and should go hand in hand.”
The biggest challenge in conservation is to win the trust of local communities so that they cooperate. Local resistance can be overcome by including their wellbeing in the conservation plan — for example, by building inclusive facilities for those living around heritage sites, Nanda explained. He added that his organization has built toilets and constructed and repaired sewage systems in and around the monuments under its project.
Three, conservation should involve “multi-disciplinary efforts,” he continued, indicating that the traditional engineering-archaeological approach won’t help much. “We have 30 different disciplines in the office. We have historians, architects, engineers, finance experts, designers, artists, planners, photographers, and so on,” he said.
“We are successful because of the lessons we have learnt in 30 countries,” Nanda added, referring to the work of the Aga Khan Trust, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, a family of institutions created by Aga Khan IV, the 49th and current Imam of Nizari Ismailism, a denomination of Shia Islam consisting of an estimated 25 million adherents around the world. France-based Aga Khan is one of the world’s 10 richest royals, according to Forbes magazine.
Some of India’s heritage sites are “gold mines,” Nanda said, and added that investing in conservation efforts can lead to huge economic gains.
“Conservation can fulfill many government objectives,” he said, citing revenue from tourism as one of them. “The number of visitors to Humayun’s Tomb has gone up by 1,000 percent after we completed the work, and we think it can further go up.”
Unemployment is a major concern for all governments, and conservation can help deal with it, at least to some extent, added Nanda. “Through conservation we have generated more than 500,000 man-days of work, so it’s employment creation,” he said, referring to the project to conserve Humayun’s Tomb.
The Aga Khan Trust has trained 2,700 youth in the project in various skills. Some of them are now heritage guides, Nanda said.
“We have also created women self-help groups, involving about 200 women who are making and selling handicraft items. These are women who had never earned even a penny in their lives earlier. And these are conservative women who are not allowed to work outside,” the architect said, referring to women living in Nizamuddin Basti, which is next to the Humayun’s Tomb and boasts the Nizamuddin Dargah, the mausoleum of the 13th century Sufi saint of Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who was much revered by the rulers of Delhi.
Conservation can also promote communal harmony, Nanda added.
India has witnessed numerous incidents of communal violence since the Partition of India and Pakistan during India’s independence from British rule in 1947.
Conservation leads to a better understanding of the other, Nanda explained. Those who are not Muslim enjoy qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music, and love Muslim food, he said, giving an example. “Had it not been for these cultural sites, many wouldn’t want to come to Nizamuddin Basti at all, thinking it’s a Muslim area.”
Aga Khan’s Ismaili denomination is considered a heretical sect by some Muslim communities, but Nanda’s organization, which focuses on preserving Muslim heritage around the world, has managed to gain cooperation from diverse Muslim communities.
Monuments, if well preserved, can also instill pride in the people and the nation, he added.
Conservation, he stressed, means “bringing a building to its original state, whatever the original builder constructed, and the building should last for the next 10 generations and be in a better state [than] that we inherited it in.”
Glimpses of historical treasures hidden within the bustle of a modern city.
Delhi has witnessed the birth and fall of several rulers, including the great Mughals, for hundreds of years before and during British rule. Though one of the most populated cities in India now, Delhi remains punctuated with historical imprints in the form of about 1,200 heritage sites. But the cash-strapped Archaeological Survey of India, a government agency mandated to look after cultural monuments, has barely managed to conserve fewer than 200 of those architectural treasures, leaving the rest to decay naturally or be claimed by the city’s homeless as their dwelling places.
Amid the budget shortage and resistance from squatters, there emerged a savior. Ratish Nanda, a conservation architect and the chief executive of a non-governmental organization, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, has helped prevent several ancient monuments from dying a natural death, through unique private-public partnership projects his group has undertaken. Nanda was once physically attacked by some squatters in Delhi, who saw him as a threat.
He remains determined to save the city’s heritage. A group of photography enthusiasts visited one of his ongoing projects in the Nizamuddin district in central Delhi to capture the impact and the challenges of his work.
Government of Afghanistan and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to rehabilitate Kabul’s historic heritage
Brussels, Belgium, 5 October 2016 – A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the conservation and rehabilitation of Kabul’s key historic areas was signed today on the sidelines of the Conference on Afghanistan in Brussels.
The agreement between the government of Afghanistan, represented by the Ministry of Urban Development, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) – an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) - encompasses a multi-year partnership for urban planning activities and the implementation of a number of projects that will protect and enhance heritage assets of the capital city. This public/private cooperation aims to further develop aspects of heritage management principles outlined in the Government of Afghanistan’s Urban National Priority Program (UNPP).
EGYPT’s Ministry of Antiquities signed a memorandum of understanding with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) last week that is intended to broaden institutional engagements through joint ventures and exchange programmes in the field of museums and archaeology, reports Nevine El-Aref.
The memorandum, signed in Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park, aims at mapping out areas of common interest for potential collaboration. According to the memorandum, both sides are to launch a series of joint initiatives that will engage a constituency composed of museum and conservation specialists, scholars and the general public.
Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Mustafa Amin said that the memorandum aimed to develop joint ventures in the fields of conservation, museum programmes, archaeological research and exhibitions.
Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, director-general of Historic Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly that among the most important articles of the memorandum was collaboration between the Ministry of Antiquities and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, in exchanging professional staff and works of art on a loan basis for temporary exhibitions as well as scientific research projects.
He also said that the Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) had been launched at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. The programme, dedicated to the study of Islamic art and architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design and conservation, prepares students for careers in research, design and teaching, and aims to enhance the understanding of Islamic architecture worldwide.
Luis Monreal, general director of the AKTC, said that there were other facets of cooperation between the foundation and the Antiquities Ministry, including the restoration of several buildings in Egypt. He said that a technical committee was to be established through the composition of a steering group to monitor the implementation of the memorandum of understanding and to identify further avenues of collaboration.
Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) in collaboration with Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) has completed the conservation and rehabilitation work of northern facade of Wazir Khan Mosque.
A colourful ceremony was held here Thursday in which a plaque was unveiled by Norwegian Ambassador Mr Tore Nedrebo and WCLA DG Kamran Lashari. AKCSP CEO Salman Beg, members of the Wazir Khan Mosque Committee, as well as representatives of the conservation team that worked on the various phases of the project from July 2014 – June 2016 were also present at the ceremony.
The WCLA officials said the project was completed with the generous financial support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Aga Khan Trust for Culture and facilitated by the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA). They said built in 1634-35 by Hakim Ilmuddin during the regime of Shah Jehan, the Wazir Khan Mosque complex was a primary central element of the Walled City and included the mosque itself, the Chowk (an introductory urban space) a row of shops (hujras) integrated in the entrance system meant specifically for calligraphers and bookbinders, and additional shops on the eastern and northern façades built into the body of the monument.
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