Aleppo, Syria, 28 August 2008 - His Highness the Aga Khan today inaugurated the medieval citadel overlooking Syria's ancient city of Aleppo.
The ceremony marked the completion of cultural revitalisation work on the citadels of Aleppo, Salah ad-Din and Masyaf that once formed a system of fortresses in central-western Syria. The restoration work was carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in partnership with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums.
It was attended by His Excellency Mohamed Naji Otri, Prime Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic, the Governor of Aleppo, Dr Tamer Hejjeh and the Aga Khan’s younger brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, as well as numerous government officials, faith leaders and partners in cultural restoration.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Aga Khan emphasised the importance of reviving the history of civilisations of the global Muslim Community, the Ummah, saying, "We don’t do enough to illustrate to the peoples of our world the greatness of the Islamic civilisations of cultures of the past."
He also explained the purpose of the project, "The background to this initiative is very simple. It is to illustrate to the peoples of our world, the history of the civilisations of the Ummah," he said. "Because they don’t know our history, they don’t know our literature, they don’t know our philosophy, they don’t know the physical environment in which our countries have lived, they view the Ummah in terminology which is completely wrong."
The Aga Khan also acknowledged that Syria, with its wealth of architectural and cultural treasures takes a unique position in the history of Islam. “My interest in working in Syria is to take the various lead countries of the Ummah and say, let’s start, let’s move together, let’s revive our cultures so that modernity is not only seen in the terminology of the west, but in the intelligent use of our past,” he said.