Aswan, Egypt, 18 December 2003 - His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims today announced a grant of US$ 320,000 for medical equipment by the Om Habibeh Foundation established by the Aga Khan’s late step-grandmother, Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan.
Following a meeting with the Governor of Aswan, H.E. Samir Hassanin, the Aga Khan announced the grant as part of a series of new development initiatives to benefit the people of Aswan. These included a plan for a social development training centre to have national reach, and programmes in the areas of nursing education, pre-school education and the strengthening of civil society organisations. The new initiatives in Aswan will complement an extensive social and urban development programme underway on the edge of the historic city of Cairo.
“Aswan and the people of Aswan,” said the Aga Khan, “have a place of deep affection in my heart and within my family.”
“The programmes announced today intend to both continue, and also to build significantly on, the work begun by Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah,” he said. “Our objective,” he continued, “ is to strengthen civil society at the grassroots by helping to improve community development organisations and by bringing to bear on critical needs in this area, the panoply of experience and resources of the Aga Khan Development Network.” The Aga Khan went on to state that the Aga Khan Foundation (Egypt) which was in the process being established as a national entity would work in Aswan through the Om Habibeh Foundation which is an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network.
Governor Hassanin expressed sincere gratitude on behalf of the people of Aswan and pledged to extend the Governorate’s full cooperation and support to the new initiatives which he said both responded to immediate and long-term needs, and reinforced the warm and close historic links that bound the Aga Khan, his family, and his community to Aswan and to Egypt.
It is hoped that the Aga Khan University will be invited to provide the planned support for nursing education. The University operates programmes in this field in six countries in Africa and Asia. It also supports training in the healthcare field in Syria and its teaching hospital handles referral services through a presence in the United Arab Emirates. Early childhood education has been an area of expertise for the Aga Khan Education Services for many decades now. Besides facilitating and providing pre-school education on four continents, the Aga Khan Education Services has just announced that it will establish an Early Learning Centre in Dubai to offer broad, holistic, early childhood education on a secular and non-denominational basis at the highest international standards of excellence. The Aga Khan Foundation is active in a number of countries in promoting an "enabling environment" for the emerging non-profit citizen sector, by providing advice and related institutional strengthening services and by helping to forge new models for partnerships involving government, business and citizen organisations to extend, improve and sustain health, education and welfare services for underprivileged populations.
The Om Habibeh Foundation is an Egyptian, not-for-profit organisation of long-standing that has been contributing to, and supporting, a number of institutions in the Aswan area involved in healthcare, education and income generation for disadvantaged communities. The Foundation will draw on the support and technical expertise of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network to advance the newly announced initiatives.
Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah first travelled to Egypt before her marriage in 1944 and returned often after that year. She and her husband, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (the present Aga Khan’s grandfather and predecessor as Imam) spent many happy times at Noor El Salaam by the banks of the Nile at Aswan, where she made a home after her husband's death in 1957. Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah, who died in 2000, aged 94, is buried alongside her husband in the nearby mausoleum in whose design she was closely involved.
The family's historic connections with Egypt go back to the Aga Khan's ancestor, the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al Mui'zz who founded the city of Cairo in the 10th century.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is currently engaged in an extensive range of cultural, social and urban development projects on the edge of the historic city . They encompass: the creation of the 33-hectare Azhar Park that will be the city’s largest green space; community leisure and recreational areas; rehabilitation of the 12th Century Ayyubid Wall; restoration for re-use of selected historic buildings and monuments; and social development projects that include the provision of microfinance and microenterprise support in the Darb al Ahmar district.
The Aga Khan’s visit to Egypt comes at the end of an extensive tour covering Pakistan and the Middle East, including visits to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
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Notes: The AKDN is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies whose mandates range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. Its agencies and institutions, working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Africa and Asia.They collaborate in working towards a common goal - building institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an ongoing basis. Active in over 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, the Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion. The Network's agencies are active in the Gulf and Middle East regions in the areas of urban development, conservation, restoration, education, healthcare, microfinance, higher education, culture and rural development.