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Syria visit diary
TheIsmaili.org
24 August 2008
  • Sunday, 24 August 2008

    In the afternoon of the first day of his Golden Jubilee visit to Syria, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the President, His Excellency Dr Bashar Al-Assad, in Damascus. Photo: Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA)
    In the afternoon of the first day of his Golden Jubilee visit to Syria, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the President, His Excellency Dr Bashar Al-Assad, in Damascus. Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA)

    Today, Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived at Damascus airport for the start of his Golden Jubilee visit to Syria. He was received at the airport by Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Dardari, the Minister of Tourism, Sadallah Agha Al-Qala, leaders of the Jamat and AKDN institutions in Syria.

    In the evening, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency Dr Bashar Al-Assad.

    Monday, 25 August 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses a media gathering as Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Al-Otri looks on. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses a media gathering as Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Al-Otri looks on. Gary Otte

    This morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the Prime Minister, Muhammad Naji Al-Otri, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Al-Dardari.

    Following the meetings, Hazar Imam and the Prime Minister witnessed the signing of an agreement by the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Adib Mayaleh, to mark the launch of the First MicroFinance Institution (FMFI) in Syria. The FMFI is the first entity of its kind in the country. It will operate as a banking institution, while remaining focused on poverty alleviation and sustainable economic development in line with the mandate of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance.

    Thereafter, President Firoz Rasul of the Aga Khan University (AKU), Dr Maher Al-Husami, Minister of Health and Dr Ghiath Barakat, Minister of Higher Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding to contribute towards further development of the healthcare sector in Syria. The agreement provides a basis for cooperation between AKU and Syria's Ministry of Health in nursing education and hospital quality assurance.

    Finally, an agreement was signed between the Governor of Damascus, Bishr Mazen Al-Sabban, and Mahmud Janmohamed, Managing Director of Tourism Promotion Services – an agency of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. The agreement, which was ratified by the Minister of Tourism, Sadallah Agha Al-Qala, announces the building of a five-star hotel through the preservation and restoration of four heritage buildings in Old Damascus.

    • Also see the AKDN press release on the social and cultural development agreements, the press release about the agreement between AKU and the ministries of Health and Higher Education, as well as related photos.

    Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Prime Minister then shared a few remarks with the media assembled at the event. Hazar Imam spoke of the powerful opportunities that microcredit presents to the poor. “It is a resource which needs to be developed,” he said, “and I hope we will be able to expand the microcredit activities in Syria, to more and more people across the country, particularly in rural environments.”

    Hazar Imam also spoke of the goals shared by AKDN and Syria in building institutional capacity in healthcare and education, noting that “institutions that teach best practices, measured in global terms, are critical for any country in the world.” He highlighted the agreement signed between the Aga Khan University and the Syrian ministries of Health and Higher Education as one that jointly seeks to address this area.

    Remarking that “Islamic cultures have immense power and immense opportunity,” Hazar Imam pointed out that “it is up to us Muslims to illustrate those civilisations, those cultures of the past and present.” One way to do so, he noted is through the revitalisation of cultural assets through the development of the leisure industry.

    “Cultural assets can and should become contributors to cultural dialogue, to cultural understanding, pride in one's heritage and make an economic contribution to the country,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam. “Cultural assets speak for our history, speak for our traditions, speak for our values, speak for our ethics.”

    In the afternoon, Mawlana Hazar Imam held separate meetings with the Minister of Health, Dr Maher Al-Husami, the Minister of Education, Ali Daher Saad and the Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Badr-Eldeen Hassoun.

    In the evening, Mawlana Hazar Imam was guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister at the Palace of Nobles.

    Tuesday, 26 August 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Golden Jubilee Darbar at Salamieh in Syria. Photo: Akbar Hakim
    Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Golden Jubilee Darbar at Salamieh in Syria. Akbar Hakim

    This morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam travelled by helicopter to Salamieh, where the streets had been decorated to receive him.

    Upon his arrival, he visited the Mausoleum of his beloved father, Prince Aly Khan, to pay his respects. Thereafter, Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived at the fields of the Agricultural School of Salamieh, where the first of two Golden Jubilee Darbars in Syria was held.

    Members of the Jamat had started arriving at midnight, patiently awaiting the arrival of their beloved Imam. Set in the open air, the Darbar was attended by over one hundred thousand people from Syria and abroad. Thousands of volunteers had worked for weeks on end, to prepare the site.

    In the evening, Mawlana Hazar Imam hosted a dinner in Damascus at which the Prime Minister was the Chief Guest. Prior to the dinner, Hazar Imam hosted a reception for government officials, diplomats and other guests.

    Wednesday, 27 August 2008

    At the institutional dinner, Mawlana Hazar Imam expresses his happiness while addressing the Syrian Jamati leadership. Photo: Akbar Hakim
    At the institutional dinner, Mawlana Hazar Imam expresses his happiness while addressing the Syrian Jamati leadership. Akbar Hakim

    Mawlana Hazar Imam had another early start today, as he travelled to Al-Khawabi for the second Golden Jubilee Darbar.

    Situated near Syria's west coast, Al-Khawabi is a mountainous region with a history of Ismaili presence that goes back centuries. Thousands of the Imam's murids and others travelled from across the region for this Darbar.

    After returning to Damascus by helicopter, Mawlana Hazar Imam was guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the Jamati Institutions of Syria. During the evening, a group of young children from the Jamat presented a dance set to an Arabic poem in praise of Hazar Imam. The leadership also presented a gift to Mawlana Hazar Imam, as a gesture of the Jamat's gratitude for the visit.

    Thursday, 28 August 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam smiles during his speech at a ceremony marking the completion of cultural revitalisation work carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in partnership with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam smiles during his speech at a ceremony marking the completion of cultural revitalisation work carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in partnership with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums. Gary Otte

    This morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam met again with the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency Dr Bashar Al-Assad. Later, he visited the site being proposed for an Aga Khan Academy in Damascus, as well as the site of a future hotel that the AKDN's Tourism Promotion Services plans to develop in Old Damascus.

    In the afternoon, Mawlana Hazar Imam, accompanied by Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Al-Otri, departed Damascus to travel to Aleppo. Leaders of the Jamat and AKDN gathered at Damascus airport to bid Hazar Imam farewell from the capital city.

    In Aleppo, Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Prime Minister attended a ceremony at the Aleppo Citadel to mark the completion of cultural revitalisation work on the citadels of Aleppo, Salah ad-Din and Masyaf, which was carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in partnership with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums.

    Mawlana Hazar Imam also announced the creation of an urban park in Aleppo. The Park at Bab Qinnesrine, to be built on waste ground owned by the Aleppo Municipality, will create a vast new public green space for the people of Aleppo. In addition to announcing the park, Mawlana Hazar Imam witnessed the signing of an agreement for AKDN's Tourism Promotion Services to develop a hotel in Aleppo.

    Friday, 29 August 2008

    President Nasser Al-Maghout of the Ismaili Council for Syria bids farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam at the conclusion of his Golden Jubilee visit to Syria. Photo: Gary Otte
    President Nasser Al-Maghout of the Ismaili Council for Syria bids farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam at the conclusion of his Golden Jubilee visit to Syria. Gary Otte

    Following several meetings in the morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam departed Syria from Aleppo airport in the early afternoon.

    At the airport, Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Al-Otri bade the Imam farewell on behalf of the Government. Leaders of the Jamat and the AKDN in Syria were also present as Mawlana Hazar Imam's Golden Jubilee visit to Syria drew to a close.

    Later that evening, the Jamat of Syria celebrated the Golden Jubilee visit to their country with a feast in every Jamatkhana, and celebrations at various locations.


    Additional photos are available in the photo gallery.

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