The 2015 Travels and Accomplishments of a Global Humanitarian and Spiritual Leader, His Highness the Aga Khan


From the Aga Khan University Convocations in East Africa to the Signing of Agreement to Establish the Seat of the Imamat in Portugal to the Opening of the Aga Khan Park in Canada, to the Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University in the USA & more; as well as a return to East Africa!

Please click on image for enlargement

city_lights_africa_720_annotatedNASA’s night time images of North America (left), and Africa, Europe and South Asia.

Compiled and prepared by Abdulmalik Merchant

On the eve of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 79th birthday, which falls on Sunday, December 13, 2015, Simergphotos is pleased to launch a three part series which will  cover his visits to 10 different countries (and may be more) in 4 continents during 2015. In no specific chronological order, the three installments will highlight his travels and include informative quotes, interviews and photographs illustrating the breadth and scope of the 49th Ismaili Imam’s selfless work for the uplifment of societies at large.




“In the search for Africa’s development, how can any of us forget that throughout human history there has never been greatness without expanded knowledge? And is that not the precise purpose of a great University?

001 Aga Khan 2015 Dar Graduation

In the AKU convocation ceremony held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 24 February 2015, 37 graduates received the Master of Education degree; three received the Master of Medicine degree; and 18 graduates were conferred with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Photo: AKDN/Z.Ramji.

“Like each of you, personally, the University also remembers its heritage on a day like this. That heritage is rooted in the rich history of Islamic intellectual accomplishment – including the work of my own ancestors in ancient Cairo 1000 years ago, when they founded the Azhar University and the Dar-ul-ilm – the House of Knowledge. This story continued over several centuries, as Muslim centers of scholarship and culture involved and inspired people of many traditions and faith communities. A respect for diversity – a welcoming, cosmopolitan ethic – has been a hallmark of this heritage – an increasingly relevant legacy in the emerging “borderless” world.

002 Aga Khan 2015 Kampala Graduation

At the graduation of 49 students from the School of Nursing and Midwifery and eight students from the Institute for Educational Development in Uganda, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, spoke of the “multiplier effect” that they would have in building civil society. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

“It was this heritage that inspired my grandfather, as Imam of the Ismaili Muslim community, to make education a top priority. In fact, he started the first Aga Khan School in Africa over 110 years ago in Bagamoyo, here in Tanzania. And that same legacy was in our minds when we began planning for this new Aga Khan University.

“Our most important accomplishments are not measured by quantity but by quality. It’s not so much that twelve thousand people were educated at AKU, but rather that one person was educated here – and that this individual life-transforming story has happened – now – some twelve thousand times.

001a Aga Khan 2015 Dar Graduation and Charter

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is seen presenting Mawlana Hazar Imam with the newly granted charter of the Aga Khan University, at a ceremony held at the State House on February 23, 2015. The occasion marked the first time that a foreign-based institution of higher learning has been recognised under Tanzanian law in this manner. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

002b Aga Khan 2015 Kampala Graduation Princess Zahra

Princess Zahra, daughter of His Highness the Aga Khan, is presented with flowers upon her arrival in Uganda. Photo: MOFA/Fahad Mugga via The Ismaili.

“A healthy Civil Society is a meritocratic one, where ethics are honored, and excellence is valued. And the great question now confronting us in Africa is how rapidly the institutions of a healthy Civil Society can be established and reinforced.

003 Aga Khan 2015 Nairobi Graduation

 Among the graduands of the Nairobi convocation ceremony were 87 students of the Medical College’s Postgraduate Medical Education programme and the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Twenty-one students were awarded Master of Medicine degrees, alongside 39 Bachelor of Science in Nursing and 27 Diploma in Nursing graduates. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

“Let me put you on notice! This is not a Farewell Ceremony! In fact, an event like this is often called a “Commencement”, since it marks the beginning of so many great new stories. We hope that you will share your stories with us, in the days ahead. And we hope, whenever possible, that you will continue to be a part of the University’s story.” — Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Aga Khan University Convocation, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania , Dar es Salaam, 24 February, 2015




004 Aga Khan 2015 Egypt Blue Mosque

His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the inauguration of the restoration of the Aq Sunqur Mosque.

“The inauguration of the Aq Sunqur Mosque is an extraordinary moment in its own right. And it also marks the culmination of a larger revitalisation that has taken place over many years in historic Cairo

“As Muslims, we are invited to protect and enhance the world in which we live during our lifetimes. We are trustees of God’s creation, hence the word Trust in the name of the agency responsible for this restoration.

“You may know about the enormous dumping ground of debris that had developed over the centuries, and surrounded one of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods. And you will also know of our effort to create a state-of-the-art green space, the Azhar Park – and how that effort soon extended into a great archaeological adventure, uncovering and restoring some of Cairo’s oldest buildings.

006b Aga Khan 2015 Egypt Blue Mosque

His Highness the Aga Khan is seen with the Governor of Cairo, Galal Said, in marking the occasion at the Mosque. Photo: AKTC/Gary Otte.

“The restoration of the Aq Sunqur Mosque was itself executed by a team of 60 to 80 craftsmen and conservators. They had first to remove the temporary supports installed after the 1992 earthquake – and then to implant seismic retrofit measures to protect against future earthquakes. They worked to conserve extensive roofing and facades on the one hand, and delicate marble panels and Iznik ceramic tiles on the other. And if you look at the global map you will see that the Ummah often lives in seismic areas.

005 Aga Khan 2015 Egypt Blue Mosque

Restoration efforts included the conservation of delicate marble panels and Iznik ceramic tiles and large-scale roofing and façade conservation. Photo: AKTC/Gary Otte.

“But it is not enough only to conserve an architectural treasure. Restoration projects can also serve as springboards – as trampolines – for broad social and economic development and poverty reduction. In that process, they can help create both the human constituency needed to sustain a project – and the flow of funding needed to maintain it.

“The overall impact on the quality of life in this community has been palpable. Disposable family income in Darb al-Ahmar, for example, increased by 27% between 2003 and 2009 – one third faster that in the whole of Old Cairo. Literacy rates climbed by one-fourth. And the impact will continue to ripple out beyond this community. For example, hundreds of young Egyptians have been trained in restoration by some of the world’s best experts; and they have gone on to create autonomous teams which can take on restoration projects anywhere in Egypt.

006c Aga Khan 2015 Egypt PM

Mawlana Hazar Imam accompanied by Mr. Luis Monreal, the General Manager of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab of Egypt on 2 May 2015.  Photo: Government of Egypt via the Ismaili.

“Through revitalisation of the sort we celebrate today, we hope to preserve an extraordinary panorama of Islamic history, from the Fatimid Caliphs to the present. At a time when fractures in the unity of the Ummah are so highly visible, I see such projects as particularly hopeful. They are important symbols for the identity of all Muslims, sources of pride for the entire Ummah.”

006 Aga Khan 2015 Egypt Blue Mosque

In a meeting with the Governor of Aswan, Mostafa Yousry Attalah, on 1st May 2015, His Highness the Aga Khan discussed AKDN programmesin the area. The programmes are designed to improve the quality of lives through employment opportunities for young men and women, enhanced nursing care and a series of interventions including microfinance, early childhood development and agriculture support in remote, rural communities. Photo: Governorate of Aswan via the Ismaili.

“And finally I would like you to know that a young Muslim walking here in the 22nd century will be able to feel the pull of his or her own history, even in a radically transformed world.

“And let us be reminded, too, that in undertaking this work, we are not only attending to our own Islamic heritage, but also preserving an essential part of the patrimony of all humankind.

“I can say to you today that the potential power of Islamic cultures is such that the Ummah is capable of achieving global recognition for its amazing heritage of unique spaces and buildings.”




The Agreement is divided into 5 chapters dealing with (1) General Provision; (2) The Seat of Imamat; (3) Prerogatives of the Imam and the Members of the Seat; (4) Cooperation; and (5) Final Provisions, and consists of  21 articles. The Agreement, reflecting the mutual trust and esteem which has traditionally characterised the relationship between the Republic of Portugal and Mawlana Hazar Imam, affirms the recognition of the legal personality of the Ismaili Imamat.

During the signing on June 3, 2015, His Highness the Aga Khan hailed the agreement as a historic milestone in the Imamat’s history and said:

“Today is a unique and important occasion, where for the first time in our history we will have the opportunity to work with a partner with whom we share so many values, so many hopes and so many desires.

007 Aga Khan 2015 Portugal Seat of Imamat

Clockwise from top: In his remarks, Mawlana Hazar Imam thanked the government for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent Seat in Portugal; Mawlana Hazar Imam and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete sign the landmark agreement establishing a formal Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal; Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said that Portugal was honoured by the Imamat’s decision to establish its Seat in his country. Photos: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.


  • This Agreement establishes the privileges, immunities and facilities extended by the Portuguese Republic to the Ismaili Imamat, the Imam, the Senior Officials and the Staff Members, as well as to its Seat and assets, with a view to ensuring the performance of their official functions in Portugal and facilitating the same internationally.
  • The Portuguese Republic acknowledges the legal personality and capacity of the Ismaili Imamat to act in international relations and welcomes the decision of the Imam to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal.

007b Aga Khan 2015 Portugal Seat of Imamat

Mawlana Hazar Imam making remarks following the signing of the historic agreement. Photo AKDN/Natacha Cardoso

For the purposes of this Agreement, the following terms shall have the meaning set forth below:

  • “Ismaili Imamat”, a legal entity, means the institution or office of the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims established in accordance with the applicable customary law;
  • “Imam” means the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, embodying the Ismaili Imamat at any given time in history, designated in accordance with the said customary law;
  • “Seat” means the global head office of the Ismaili Imamat, as further defined in the present Agreement

Continued following video….



To watch short 3 minute video, please click on image below or on Signing of the Agreement Establishing the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal

His Highness the Aga Khan signing the historic document establishing the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. Please click on image to view the video.His Highness the Aga Khan signing the historic document establishing the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. Please click on image to view the video.


….Excerpts continued

The function of the Seat is to serve as the global head office of the Ismaili Imamat with a view to:

  • Facilitating the spiritual and secular guidance of the Imam to the Ismaili Community globally;
  • Promoting the quality of life of the Ismaili Community globally and more generally of the people of the countries where the Ismaili Imamat or its Dependent Institutions are active;
  • Enhancing international relations and co-operation with States, International Organisations and other entities.
  • The Portuguese Republic acknowledges the legal personality and capacity of the Ismaili Imamat to act in international relations and welcomes the decision of the Imam to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal.
  • The Ismaili Imamat shall actively support the efforts of the Portuguese Republic to improve the quality of life of all those living in Portugal, particularly through the development in Portugal of world-class research projects in the said area, but more generally on subjects of common interest to the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat.
  • In view of the above, the Ismaili Imamat shall cause its highest level Dependent Institutions to create a special window devoted to achieving the objectives set out above in cooperation with the relevant Ministries or other entities of the Portuguese Government.

(To read text of full agreement, please click “Seat of the Ismaili Imamat” — Text of the Historic Agreement)

Date posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015.
Last updated: December 23, 2015.

See Part II at A Memorable Photo Essay: The Travels and Accomplishments of His Highness the Aga Khan in 2015: (II) Canada, India and Greece.


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