Shigar, Pakistan, 23 May 2005 - The inauguration of the restoration of Shigar Fort in Baltistan, Pakistan, scheduled for the 30th of May, has been postponed due to weather.
The Fort, which has been converted into a small residence with guest rooms, presents a new model for the restoration of endangered cultural monuments in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim World.
Featuring guest rooms that highlight the heritage of the region, the project is meant to bring cultural and economic objectives together in a way that sustains the operations and maintenance of the Fort while providing a catalyst for economic improvement in the area. The project is also part of the infrastructure for a new form of cultural tourism that combines accommodation at an international standard with intimate, first-hand experience of the unique natural and cultural heritage of the area.
The project is one of a series of social, cultural and economic development initiatives carried out by the Aga Khan Development Network in the Northern Areas of Pakistan since the early 1980s.
The restoration of the Shigar Fort/Palace and its conversion into the "Shigar Fort Residence," by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, builds on a process that began with the restoration of Baltit Fort (inaugurated in 1996) and the historic village of Karimabad, both in the Hunza Valley. While it builds on these earlier efforts, it also represents a pioneering approach that stresses adaptive re-use. In addition to restoration efforts, the Trust has also focused on reviving traditional skills, generating new employment opportunities and providing training in the jobs needed for a changing economy.
The Shigar project is part of a broader cultural development programme that has included the restoration of two mosques and rehabilitation of the settlements of Chinpa, Halpapa and Khlingrong. Water and sanitation services to the village have been upgraded
In the Khaplu area, the Trust has also undertaken restoration of the astana (historic tomb) of Syed Mir Muhammad, in Khanqha Settlement, and is beginning restoration of Khaplu Fort.
Baltit Fort, the Trust’s first project, was completed in 1996. The Hunza Valley settlements of Karimabad and Ganish, and projects in Baltistan, were completed in subsequent years.
The work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Pakistan has won a number of awards, including the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Awards and British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Among others, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Award for Excellence 2004 received by the Trust’s Historic Cities Support Programme for the Baltit Fort restoration cited the following: “By demonstrating that historic structures can be saved, restored and recycled for continued use in the community, the Baltit Fort project is a model for the revitalisation of historic structures throughout the northern regions of Pakistan.” In 2000, the Baltit and Karimabad projects received a British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Global award. According to the citation, “These activities are playing a major part in reinvigorating the traditional community spirit and restoring the residents' pride of their heritage. A self-paying waste management project has been set up to safely dispose of human waste and garbage. The restored site now attracts over 20,000 visitors annually, half of which are from outside the country.”
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The Aga Khan Development Network’s (AKDN) activities in Pakistan encompass cultural, economic and social development and include microfinance, agricultural programmes, health, and education, the introduction of clean-water supplies and sanitation facilities, construction of mini hydro-electric plants, the improvement of public open spaces, community-driven village rehabilitation and house renovation. The Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions that seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Active in over 30 countries, the Network's underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is one of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network. It focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the Muslim world. It includes the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Historic Cities Support Programme, the Music Initiative in Central Asia, the Humanities Project, the on-line resource ArchNet, the Museum Projects and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.