Photo Essay: Stunning Photos of North America’s First Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana as the Second Ismaili Centre in Toronto is Set for an Official Opening Ceremony on September 12, 2014

Editor’s note: Mohib Ebrahim, the founding publisher and editor of Nanowisdoms, recently visited the first North American purpose built high profile Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana located in Burnaby, British Columbia, and came away with a magnificent set of contrasting photos that he took both during day and night times. We celebrate the following official announcement about the formal opening ceremony of the second Ismaili Centre in North America, this time in Toronto, by presenting a selection of the photos that Mohib captured during his memorable visit:

The Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum Opening Ceremonies Set for September 12

The Jamati Institutions of Canada are delighted to confirm that the Opening Ceremonies of the Ismaili Centre Toronto and the Aga Khan Museum will take place in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam on Friday, September 12, 2014. It is anticipated that the Opening Ceremony for the Ismaili Centre will take place in the afternoon on September 12, followed immediately by an Opening Ceremony at the Aga Khan Museum. To mark this historic occasion, we invite Jamati members to view a live showing of the opening ceremony at the Ottawa Headquarters Jamatkhana and the Kingston Jamatkhana. Courtesy: Al-Akhbar Newsletter, Special Ottawa Edition, September 5, 2014. [Note: Jamats around the country will gather at their respective jamatkhanas or specially hired halls to watch the opening ceremony – ed.]

The first Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, which was opened in 1985 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, symbolized the permanent settlement and commitment of the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili community to Canada. It ushered the community to confidently rally behind their Imam’s vision of a united community, and of leading a balanced spiritual and material life as required by Islamic teachings. His Highness called on his followers to live harmoniously with all Canadians and to make Canada their homes, while contributing to its development and progress.

Inshallah, the official opening ceremony of the second new Ismaili Centre in Toronto, located alongside the magnificent new Aga Khan Museum and the Park, will herald the Ismaili Muslims into a new era, and see them rise to even greater heights under their Imam’s meritocratic leadership style. The combination of the three unique projects in Toronto conceived by His Highness will delight millions of Ismailis worldwide as well as Canadians of all backgrounds, faiths and cultures. We thank Ebrahim for this thoughtful photo essay, and are confident it will be well received by our readers worldwide.




With the excitement over the official opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park taking place in Toronto on September 12, 2014, we might be forgiven for forgetting the “other” Canadian Ismaili Centre which opened 29 years ago on the other side of the country.  A building which, in 2005, His Highness the Aga Khan told its architect, Bruno Freschi, “was one of his most favoured” and one that the Aga Khan had “encouraged” Aga Khan Museum designer, Fumihiko Maki, to visit. [1]

However, the focus of this photo-essay is not so much the Burnaby Centre’s architecture, but the garden around it. Just as a key element of the Toronto Ismaili Centre is the magnificent park adjacent to it, a well developed garden was also a key element of the Burnaby Centre’s design. Speaking of the Ismaili Imam’s interest in gardens and parks, the Toronto park’s designer, Lebanese architect Vladimir Djurovic, said: “I think that His Highness is happiest when he is working and discussing the gardens…. [His] passion for gardens is intoxicating.” [2].

Parks Montage

With some two dozen parks and gardens developed by the Aga Khan, depicted in the graphic above, it is hardly surprising that that same intoxicating passion and enthusiasm also came to bear on the Burnaby Centre’s design, given its lush garden. Indeed, the Burnaby Centre’s garden is arguably the most developed of any Ismaili Centre, perhaps rivalling some dedicated gardens.

Speaking at the 1982 Foundation Stone Ceremony for the Burnaby Centre, the Aga Khan, commenting on the garden, said:

“The new building will stand in strongly landscaped surroundings. It will face a courtyard with foundations and a garden. Its scale, its proportions and the use of water will serve to create a serene and contemplative environment.” [3]

However, a garden’s shrubs, bushes and trees can take years or even decades to mature and fully reveal themselves. And so it is only now, almost 30 years later, can we truly appreciate the Aga Khan’s words that building’s surroundings will be “strongly landscaped.” Indeed!

The photo-essay presents both the daytime appearance of the Burnaby Ismaili Centre and garden, whose dense foliage befits the wet West Coast, and its nighttime appearance when, under a full moon and lit by artificial lights sprinkled within, the garden’s colours and hues take on a mesmerising, ethereal quality.


Ismaili Centre Burnaby Early Photo 1

I think for those not from Vancouver, the garden’s development — as compared to its initial state 30 years ago, shown for example in the photos above and immediately below will be eye-opening. Thirty years ago, as mere saplings overwhelmed by the commanding presence of the Centre, shrubs, hedges and trees provided little more than a token greening of the grounds.

Ismaili Centre Burnaby Early Photo

Today, those same plants compete for attention, towering up to the top of the building. Indeed, so dense is the foliage it only permits tantalising glimpses of the building from the road and entrance. While this leisurely, maturing process, in all likelihood, went unnoticed by those from Vancouver and attending the Centre more regularly, I’m sure when viewed anew, with fresh eyes, the change will appear just as startling for them as for others.


DSC02206-h1368s Burnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02083-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02089-h960sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02090-w770sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02210-w674sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02108-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02202-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02129-h770sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02124-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02213-h1164sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02233-w770sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02095-h788sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02167-h846sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02223-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02169-h1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02235-w1203sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02102-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02101-w770sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02131-w1306sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02133-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02218-h1260sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02148-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02162-w1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

DSC02184-h1368sBurnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014

Date posted: Thursday, September 4, 2014.

Copyright: Mohib Ebrahim.


NOTE: All the photographs are released under a Creative Commons 4.0 International License which allows them to be re-used non-commercially, without modification and with credit as follows (including the web-link): “Burnaby Ismaili Centre, by Mohib Ebrahim, © 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).”


[1] Voices: Bruno Freschi, Architect of the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, in Conversation with Simerg

[2] The Road to Toronto (Societal): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan’s passion for parks and gardens

[3] Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Burnaby, Canada) 26 July 1982


Profile of Mohib Ebrahim at Contributors.

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