Al-Khimyah, written and directed by Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan, explores the work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in the historic city of Cairo, Egypt.
The film shines a spotlight on the 30-hectare Al-Azhar Park — converted from a mound of rubble — and the stories of local residents of the adjacent Darb al-Ahmar neighbourhood. Since opening in 2005 after 20 years of careful excavation and design, Al-Azhar Park has provided much-needed leisure and recreational space to the inhabitants of the city, and is today often referred to as “Cairo’s green lung.”
Located in the heart of Egypt’s capital, the urban oasis has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Landscaping features include walkways, fountains, lawns, and gardens overlooking a lake in the traditional chahar bagh style. Hundreds of young men and women have found work in the park, in horticulture and park maintenance: The park features over 300 different plant species — many native to Egypt — grown in a special nursery, and an orchard provides shade from the sun.
The park has also proven to be a powerful catalyst for urban renewal, evolving beyond the green space itself to include the restoration of monuments and public spaces, and socioeconomic initiatives including housing rehabilitation, microfinance, crafts apprenticeships, and healthcare.
The film is Prince Aly’s account of a city whose foundations were laid over a thousand years ago, which has seen a 500-year-old rubbish dump rebuilt into a lush green oasis, and a poor inner-city district transformed into a thriving community.