Zanzibar, 18 January 2008 – Zanzibar’s First Lady, Her Excellency Madame Shadya Karume, and Prince Amyn Aga Khan – the younger brother of His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims – took part today in a groundbreaking ceremony for the revitalisation of Zanzibar’s Forodhani Park. The $2.2 million restoration of this World Heritage Site’s largest open space is expected to create 200 new jobs in its construction phase and provide a significant stimulus for the local economy.
“The people of Zanzibar very much welcome the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for the project to rehabilitate the Park so as to find a balance between competing uses, hence maintain the park as an area of beauty as well as economic opportunities,” said First Lady, Her Excellency Madame Shadya Karume. “I am confident that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, given its many years experience in such kinds of work, will be able, in collaboration with the local authorities, to successfully accomplish the work, within the scheduled time.”
“Restoring Forodhani Park is part of AKTC’s long-term objective to revitalise the historic sea front of Stone Town as a major contribution to the social, cultural and economic development of this island,” said Prince Amyn Aga Khan. “Our experience elsewhere has been that catalytic urban projects, such as this one, lead to a wider development, in fact to an area development, with improved economic prospects and an improved quality of life for the inhabitants of the entire area.”
The revitalisation project will upgrade social and recreational amenities in the historic Park. Work will include the restoration of the walkways and improvements to the landscaping of the Park. Infrastructure will be upgraded, including lighting, sewage, drainage and civic amenities. The sea wall fronting the Park will also be rehabilitated. The Park itself is expected to generate economic activity through infrastructure improvements for vendors.
The groundbreaking follows meetings between President Amani Abeid Karume and His Highness the Aga Khan. The restoration is to be undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in cooperation with the Government of Zanzibar. It is expected to take approximately one year.
Situated along the historic waterfront of Stone Town, Forodhani Park is one of the last open spaces in this densely populated World Heritage Site. The Park was once the location of the port and a landing point for the former Sultans of Zanzibar. Sixty years ago, the area was converted to a Park called the “Jubilee Gardens”, which featured a wide range of trees and plants. It has been a central meeting place for civic discourse, leisure and entertainment ever since.
The rehabilitation project was first proposed by the Trust in 2001 as part of a programme for comprehensive seafront rehabilitation in Stone Town. It was intended to be a logical extension of the work already completed in Kelele Square. Following meetings between President Amani Abeid Karume and His Highness the Aga Khan, agreements for the restoration of the Park were signed.
The Trust has been active in Zanzibar since 1989, successfully completing the restoration of the Old Dispensary, now renamed the Stone Town Cultural Centre, and the old Customs House, as well as the rehabilitation of Kelele Square. Eleven buildings in Stone Town – many of them on the point of collapse – were restored. One objective of the programme was to show the feasibility of building and restoration techniques needed to preserve this World Heritage Site. The Trust has also worked with the Government and international partners – such as the Government of Sweden and the Ford Foundation – to provide training workshops on conservation practice and traditional construction methods for craftsmen, building professionals and Government workers.
Other Trust activities include the creation of the Indian Ocean Maritime Museum, which will be situated in the Stone Town Cultural Centre. The museum will showcase the maritime cultures of the Indian Ocean, including the display of naval vessels and other artefacts that illustrate the history of the commercial and cultural contacts between Africa, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
Over the long-term, pending agreement, it is hoped that a larger seafront initiative, encompassing upgrades to the Historic Port Area, can be contemplated.
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The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC)is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Over the last 20 years, cultural revitalisation efforts have been carefully integrated into the broader economic and social programmes of the AKDN – reflecting His Highness the Aga Khan’s belief that development is a complex process that requires multiple inputs.
AKDN’s development work in Zanzibar dates to the signing of a Protocol of Co-operation for Development between the Network and the Government of Zanzibar in 1988. In Zanzibar, the Aga Khan Foundation’s efforts include support to the Rahaleo Health Centre (a public-private partnership), which records over 16,000 patient visits per year. The Foundation continues to operate a number of programmes in education, training and health, including support for community-owned pre-schools on the islands of Unguja and Pemba (Zanzibar), a teachers’ Resource Centre and the training of hundreds of teachers. It is also involved in civil society strengthening activities in Zanzibar through the NGO Resource Centre. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development restored and converted historic seafront buildings into the Zanzibar Serena Inn.