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Central Asia visit diary
TheIsmaili.org
17 October 2008
  • Tuesday, 28 October 2008

    Arriving in Astana at the start of his Golden Jubilee visit to Kazakhstan, Mawlana Hazar Imam is greeted with a traditional Kazakh welcome as government officials look on. Photo: Gary Otte
    Arriving in Astana at the start of his Golden Jubilee visit to Kazakhstan, Mawlana Hazar Imam is greeted with a traditional Kazakh welcome as government officials look on. Gary Otte

    Commencing a ten-day visit to Central Asia, Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived this evening in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, where he was received at the airport with a traditional Kazakh welcome from senior government officials and AKDN leaders in the region.

    Wednesday, 29 October 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam meets with His Excellency President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Presidential Palace. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam meets with His Excellency President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Presidential Palace. Gary Otte

    This morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam was received by His Excellency President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan at the Presidential Palace in Astana.

    Mawlana Hazar Imam and President Nazarbayev discussed, amongst other things, the regional impact of the current global financial situation.

    In his meetings with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Massimov, Foreign Minister Marat Tahzin and Education Minister Zhanseit Tuimebayev, Hazar Imam covered a range of topics pertaining to ongoing and future initiatives of the Aga Khan Development Network in the wider region. Addressing the press following his meetings, Mawlana Hazar Imam also noted that he had "come to Kazakhstan to monitor the situation relating to the development of the University of Central Asia" and to discuss "matters of cooperation here, in Kazakhstan and in the Central Asian region.”

    Awarding Mawlana Hazar Imam the decoration "Honoured Educator of the Republic of Kazakhstan," the Minister of Education and Science, Dr Zhanseit Tuimebayev recognised Hazar Imam's services to Education.

    Thursday, 30 October 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam, Education Minister Tuimebayev, the Akim Umbetovand of the Almaty Oblast, and Akim Busembinov of the Eskeldinski Rayon review plans at the site of the University of Central Asia's Kazakhstan campus. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam, Education Minister Tuimebayev, the Akim Umbetovand of the Almaty Oblast, and Akim Busembinov of the Eskeldinski Rayon review plans at the site of the University of Central Asia's Kazakhstan campus. Gary Otte

    Mr Serik Umbetov, the Akim (Governor) of the Almaty Oblast, Kazakhstan's largest region, today received Mawlana Hazar Imam against the picturesque mountain backdrop of the regional capital, Taldy Kurgan. Accompanied by Dr Zhanseit Tuimebayev, Kazakhstan's Minister of Education, Hazar Imam flew to this south-eastern Kazakhstan city before travelling by road to the site where the University of Central Asia's (UCA) Kazakhstan campus is to be built, near Tekeli.

    A working visit followed, during which Mawlana Hazar Imam discussed spatial planning and examined campus views from the promontory overlooking Tekeli with architects from the firm of Arata Isozaki Associates. The Akim (Mayor) of the Eskeldinski Rayon, Mr Sultan Busembinov then presented title deeds for land in the Rayon to UCA's Director General, Dr Bohdan Krawchenko, in a brief ceremony witnessed by Mawlana Hazar Imam, Education Minister Tuimebayev and the Akim of the Almaty Oblast, Mr Umbetov.

    Hundreds of Tekeli's residents, led by their Akim, Mr Serikjan Beskempirov, had gathered in the town square to greet Mawlana Hazar Imam and the other dignitaries. After opening an exhibition showing the architectural design and site development plans for the UCA campus, the distinguished guests walked across the square to the Tekeli campus of UCA's School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE).

    Pausing at stands of the town fair organised for the occasion, Mawlana Hazar Imam acknowledged the applause of the assembled citizenry that included students of the School. Amongst those he met were young alpinists developing local mountain tourism, a subject in which the SPCE is offering courses.

    A highlight of Mawlana Hazar Imam's encounters with a wide range of learners was his meeting with the oldest of the School's students, a woman aged 74 taking an IT course. During his tour of SPCE, Hazar Imam impressed upon English teachers the value of the study of English to make Kazakh culture – like that of other societies of the Islamic world – more widely accessible.

    At a lunch hosted in his honour by the Akim of the Almaty Oblast in Taldy Kurgan, Mawlana Hazar Imam was presented with a ceremonial robe of honour, traditional Kazakh headgear and a dombra (stringed musical instrument) before returning to Astana in the late afternoon.

    In the evening, Mawlana Hazar Imam was the guest of honour of the Minister of Education at a private performance of traditional Kazakh and classical Western music.

    Friday, 31 October 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam and the President of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, meet at the President's Office. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam and the President of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, meet at the President's Office. Gary Otte

    Mawlana Hazar Imam departed Kazakhstan today and travelled to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, commencing a six-day visit to the country. He was received by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Tajikistan, His Excellency Asadullo Ghulomov, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Hamrokhon Zarifi, as well as other senior government ministers and representatives of the Aga Khan Development Network.

    Following a formal afternoon meeting with Foreign Minister Zarifi, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the President of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon at the President's Office. The two discussed prevalent trends in the region and recent developments in country. Later in the evening, Mawlana Hazar Imam attended a state banquet hosted by the President in his honour.

    Mawlana Hazar Imam's trip to Tajikistan will include visits to the construction sites of the Ismaili Centre and the Serena Hotel in Dushanbe. In Gorno-Badakshan, Mawlana Hazar Imam will lay the foundation stone for the Khorog Jamatkhana and look in on the adjacent Khorog Park, which is currently being rehabilitated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. He will also visit the University of Central Asia's Vocational Education Centre and is expected to grant Darbars in Porshinev and Ishkashim.

    Saturday, 1 November 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam tours the prayer hall of the soon to be completed Ismaili Centre Dushanbe. He is accompanied by the building's Chief Architect and the Project Manager. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam tours the prayer hall of the soon to be completed Ismaili Centre Dushanbe. He is accompanied by the building's Chief Architect and the Project Manager. Gary Otte

    Early this morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam set out to review the progress of the soon to be completed Ismaili Centre Dushanbe and the Serena Hotel, which is also under construction.

    Situated on Dushanbe's prominent Ismoili Somoni Avenue, the design of the Ismaili Centre resonates with the architectural traditions of Central Asia. Inspired by the mausoleum of Ismoili Somoni, a national hero in Tajikistan, over 2.6 million bricks are being used in the construction of its façade and interior.

    The nine-story Dushanbe Serena Hotel, which is expected to be completed in 2009, will have 95 rooms, including suites and apartments. The hotel will include a banquet hall, meeting and dining facilities, a business centre, and a health club. It will also provide office space to meet the growing demand of organisations based in Dushanbe.

    Thousands of members of the Jamat lined the streets around both venues, anticipating catching a glimpse of Mawlana Hazar Imam. As they flourished Tajikistan's national flag and the Ismaili flag, Mawlana Hazar Imam climbed to the top of a set of stairs at the Ismaili Centre site and waved back at the gathered crowd.

    Later in the day, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with His Excellency Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, the Mayor of Dushanbe.

    In the evening Mawlana Hazar Imam hosted a reception for diplomats and senior government officials. The reception was followed by an Imamat banquet in honour of the President of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon.

    Sunday, 2 November 2008

    Against a picturesque background of snowy Pamir mountain peaks, Mawlana Hazar Imam is welcomed to Gorno-Badakhshan with a traditional offering of non (bread). Photo: Moez Visram
    Against a picturesque background of snowy Pamir mountain peaks, Mawlana Hazar Imam is welcomed to Gorno-Badakhshan with a traditional offering of non (bread). Moez Visram

    Accompanied by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Tajikistan, His Excellency Asadullo Ghulomov, Mawlana Hazar Imam travelled aboard an Aga Khan Development Network helicopter from Dushanbe to Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (province). Upon his arrival, he was received by the Governor of Gorno-Badakhshan, Qodiri Qosim, and the Mayor of Khorog, Mulkamon Nazaraliev, as well as leaders of the Jamat and the Aga Khan Development Network.

    The citizens of Khorog greeted Mawlana Hazar Imam with a colourful Pamiri reception. Members of the Jamat dressed in ceremonial attire stood all-along a red-carpeted path. Hazar Imam was welcomed with a traditional offering of non (bread), and received gifts presented by younger members of the Jamat. As he walked along the carpet, his path was continuously showered with the petals of sweet-scented flowers.

    In the evening, the Governor of Gorno-Badakhshan hosted a dinner in honour of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The city streets and mountain-side signs welcoming Hazar Imam were lit up, and members of the Jamat lined the road leading to the event. The evening's entertainment included traditional Pamiri singing, dancing, and musical performances.

    It was evident that the joy and excitement of the Golden Jubilee had gripped the entire city.

    Monday, 3 November 2008

    Joined by the First Deputy Prime Minister and the Governor of Gorno-Badakhshan, Mawlana Hazar Imam lays the foundation for the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog. Photo: Gary Otte
    Joined by the First Deputy Prime Minister and the Governor of Gorno-Badakhshan, Mawlana Hazar Imam lays the foundation for the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog. Gary Otte

    This morning, in the presence of First Deputy Prime Minister Asadullo Ghulomov and Governor Qodiri Qosim of Gorno-Badakhshan, Mawlana Hazar Imam laid the foundation-stone for the first “Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Tajik-Badakhshan.” Thousands of members of the Jamat gathered at the site to witness what Mawlana Hazar Imam described as an “historic event.”

    “I can think of few events in this year which will have given me the happiness which this one today will bring me,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam. Situating the new Centre in the tradition of Muslim piety, Hazar Imam noted that it “will be a symbol of confluence between the spiritual and the secular in Islam.”

    Mawlana Hazar Imam also expressed a desire to continue to work in partnership with the authorities towards the development of Khorog. “Step by step, we will make Khorog the Jewel of the Pamir,” said Hazar Imam, describing his vision for the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan.

    • Also see Mawlana Hazar Imam's speech at the Foundation Laying Ceremony of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Khorog.

    After the ceremony, government dignitaries and AKDN leaders accompanied Mawlana Hazar Imam on a tour of the adjacent Khorog Park, a rehabilitation project of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

    In the afternoon, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the University of Central Asia's Vocational Training Centre in Khorog. He studied work done by students pursing carpentry, stone cladding and plaster construction. One hundred eight students are currently enrolled at the Training Centre, which was inaugurated in May 2008. Hazar Imam encouraged students to continue their education in these various fields which would surely see rewards in a world of increasing competition.

    Afterwards, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited UCA's main campus in Dasht, where he reviewed and discussed construction plans for the future development of the campus. The tour included a helicopter ride that provided a broader vantage point from which to view the site.

    Tuesday, 4 November 2008

    Members of the Jamat gathered at Ishkashim, on both sides of the Pyanj river, in anticipation of Mawlana Hazar Imam's first Golden Jubilee Darbar in Tajikistan. Photo: Moez Visram
    Members of the Jamat gathered at Ishkashim, on both sides of the Pyanj river, in anticipation of Mawlana Hazar Imam's first Golden Jubilee Darbar in Tajikistan. Moez Visram

    During the night and into the early hours of the morning, murids braved near freezing temperatures to gather and wait. As darkness gave way to bright blue skies, Mawlana Hazar Imam's helicopter landed and the early morning chill faded.

    Thousands of murids had gathered at Ishkashim, on both banks of the Pyanj river, for the first of two Golden Jubilee Darbars granted by Mawlana Hazar Imam to the Jamat of Tajikistan. The Darbar was held in the open air of Gorno-Badakhshan, against the majestic backdrop of the Pamir mountains.

    Following the Darbar, the Jamat waved at Mawlana Hazar Imam as his helicopter departed, before returning their homes.

    Later in the day, Mawlana Hazar Imam held a joint meeting with provincial leaders from both sides of the Pyanj river: Governor Qodiri Qosim of Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan and Governor Munshi Abdul Majeed of Afghan Badakhshan.

    Wednesday, 5 November 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses the Jamat during the Golden Jubilee Darbar in Porshinev. Photo: Akbar Hakim
    Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses the Jamat during the Golden Jubilee Darbar in Porshinev. Akbar Hakim

    Today, Mawlana Hazar Imam granted a second Golden Jubilee Darbar to the Jamat of Gorno-Badakhshan at Porshinev.

    Many murids had travelled from neighbouring villages and some had camped through the night. By dawn, a gathering of over 100 000 awaited Mawlana Hazar Imam's arrival.

    During the Darbar, the Jamat presented Mawlana Hazar Imam with a traditional harp – a symbol of the ancient musical traditions of Central Asia. Afterwards, Hazar Imam departed Porshinev and travelled to Dushanbe.

    In the afternoon, Mawlana Hazar Imam and President Emomali Rahmon held a final meeting in the airport VIP terminal, before Hazar Imam's departure from Tajikistan. The President presented Mawlana Hazar Imam with a gift of ceremonial Tajik garments. Then, in an unprecedented gesture of friendship, the President accompanied Mawlana Hazar Imam to his aircraft and personally bid him farewell.

    From Dushanbe, Mawlana Hazar Imam travelled to the Kyrgyz Republic for the third leg of his Golden Jubilee visit to Central Asia. Arriving in the evening at Manas International Airport near the capital city of Bishkek, Mawlana Hazar Imam was greeted with a traditional Kyrgyz welcome.

    The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ednan Karabaev, received Mawlana Hazar Imam on behalf of the government. Senior government officials and AKDN leaders were also present to welcome Hazar Imam.

    Mawlana Hazar Imam then met with the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, His Excellency Igor Chudinov, who hosted him at dinner.

    Thursday, 6 November 2008

    Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prime Minister Chudinov and other UCA and government officials receive a warm welcome from students at the University's town campus in Naryn. Photo: Gary Otte
    Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prime Minister Chudinov and other UCA and government officials receive a warm welcome from students at the University's town campus in Naryn. Gary Otte

    This morning, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the Kyrgyz Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ednan Karabaev. Following their meeting, Mawlana Hazar Imam travelled to Manas International Airport where he was joined by Prime Minister Igor Chudinov. The Prime Minister then accompanied Hazar Imam on a flight to Naryn, the town in which the Kyrgyz campus of the University of Central Asia (UCA) is situated.

    In the shadow of the Tian Shan mountain peaks overlooking Naryn, Kyrgyz horsemen galloped across the runway, as the aircraft carrying Mawlana Hazar Imam and Prime Minister Chudinov touched down. The Governor of Naryn Oblast, Omurbek Suvanaliev and the Mayor of Naryn, Almaz Kulmatov were on hand to welcome them.

    Hundreds of students of UCA's School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) waved Kyrgyz and Ismaili flags, as the dignitaries strode across the green that the University has gifted to the town. After reviewing the construction site of the town campus building, Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Prime Minister met teachers and students of the SPCE's English in the Villages Programme.

    Following lunch, architects, UCA management staff and civic officials accompanied the Prime Minister and Mawlana Hazar Imam to viewing points along the proposed main campus site overlooking a dramatic rock face across the Naryn River.

    Later in the day, Mawlana Hazar Imam returned to Bishkek, where he called on the Speaker of Kyrgyz Parliament, Aitibay Tagayev, at the Parliament building.

    Friday, 7 November 2008

    The AKDN Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, Nurjehan Mawani, bids farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam at Manas International Airport. Photo: Gary Otte
    The AKDN Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, Nurjehan Mawani, bids farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam at Manas International Airport. Gary Otte

    On the final day of his visit to the Kyrgyz Republic, Mawlana Hazar Imam undertook a busy agenda of activities prior to his mid-morning departure.

    Hazar Imam reviewed full-scale models of the facilities that will make up the three future campuses of the University of Central Asia. The models included replicas of undergraduate and graduate dormitory rooms, faculty offices and classrooms.

    Afterwards, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the Mayor of Bishkek, Nariman Tuleyev. Their meeting was held in a yurt – a dwelling structure that was traditionally used by nomadic peoples in the steppes of Central Asia.

    At Manas International Airport, as Mawlana Hazar Imam prepared to depart Kyrgyzstan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ednan Karabaev and AKDN leaders were present to bid him farewell. Hazar Imam's departure from the country marked the end of his Golden Jubilee visit to Central Asia.


    Additional photos are available in the Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan galleries. This article is also available in Russian.