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  • The restoration of the Mopti Mosque in Mali, completed in 2006, has been followed by an urban regeneration programme aimed at raising the standard of living for local residents.
    AKDN / Lucas Cuervo Moura
Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Historic cities: Leveraging culture to alleviate poverty

The revitalisation of historic buildings and public spaces not only restores hope to impoverished neighbourhoods, but also provides a socio-economic stimulus. Following the completion of the restoration of the Great Mosque of Mopti in 2006, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) implemented an urban regeneration programme that aimed to raise the standard of living for residents in the Komoguel area. Creating safer water and sanitation infrastructures was central to achieving this improved standard of living.

Several public water points were established to increase access to safe, clean drinking water; an underground sewerage system was built with connections to individual households in the area; a treatment facility for raw sewage was installed; 4,000 square metres of streets were paved with locally manufactured bricks made from recycled polythene bags and sand; and a system for collection of solid waste was introduced.

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Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt – a 500-year-old garbage dump turned green oasis for tens of millions of urban dwellers.
Copyright: 
AKDN / Christian Richters

Mopti is exemplar of the locations in which AKTC works: Cairo, Kabul and Delhi, to name a few. In each of these historic cities, the Trust has endeavoured to create a critical mass of activities that not only focuses on the restoration of monuments, but the creation of public spaces, water and sanitation improvements, education and health initiatives, and microfinance. In Cairo, AKTC’s creation of the 30-hectare Azhar Park – a 500-year-old garbage dump turned green oasis for tens of millions of urban dwellers – catalysed a broader urban revitalisation project in the surrounding neighbourhood of Al-Darb al-Ahmar. In addition to conserving historic monuments and excavating an archaeological site, the project trained and employed local craftsmen, provided youth with vocational education, rehabilitated and constructed houses, paved 5,500 square metres of streets and installed over 3 kilometres of underground sewage systems to ensure safer sanitary conditions and better health.

"The work of revitalising the mosques is gradually being extended to their surrounding neighbourhoods to include all residential accommodation situated in the shadow of the minarets. How wonderfully symbolic it is that the outcome of efforts to restore the mosques should be to improve the quality of life of the people whose lives follow the same rhythm as theirs!"

-- His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the ceremony of inauguration of the Great Mosque of Mopti, Mopti, Mali, 24 April 2008.