A splendid collection of photos of the Aga Khan’s visits to Dubai as Ismailis in UAE prepare for Diamond Jubilee mulaqat

Compiled and prepared by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Editor Barakah.com, Simerg.com and Simergphotos.com)

AlRas_District-Mid1960s-and modern skyline with Burj KhalifaDubai (left) Al Ras District, mid 1960s, and modern skyline with Burj Khalifa. Photos: Wikipedia

“The transformation of the small trading port that was once Dubai into a vibrant metropolis has paralleled its demographic growth and cosmopolitan evolution. The intermingling of cultures that so enlivens this thriving city is one of the strengths on which Dubai has built its renown as a point of global convergence” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Foundation Laying Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, on Saturday, 13 December 2003.


A recent announcement from the Ismaili Leaders International Forum (LIF) has confirmed that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, will be visiting the Jamat of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the latter part of January 2018. This is in continuation of his recent Diamond Jubilee visits to the Jamats in Uganda, Tanzania, Eastern Canada and Pakistan. 

united_arab_emirates_sm_2016United Arab Emirates (shaded white) is a federal absolute monarchy sovereign state bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. The country is a federation of seven emirates, and was established on 2 December 1971. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. In 2013, the UAE’s population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.The UAE Jamat is mainly concentrated in Dubai. Map/Caption: University of Texas/Wikipedia.

We congratulate the UAE Jamat on this exciting announcement, and look forward to providing comprehensive coverage of the visit as we recently did with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s East African, Canadian and Pakistan visits.

It is significant to note that some 35 years ago in 1982, as Mawlana Hazar Imam was celebrating his Silver Jubilee or 25 years of Imamat, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the Ruling Family of Dubai presented a gift of a land to Mawlana Hazar Imam for the purpose of building an Ismaili Centre. The foundation stone of the building  was laid on December 13, 2003 on the occasion the Hazar Imam’s 67th birthday, and the Centre was officially opened on March 26, 2008 during his Golden Jubilee Year.

Appropriately, we begin the coverage by recapturing historical photos from the foundation and opening ceremonies as well as providing highlights of the building itself and the rich inter-community events that take place within its confines.




Aga Khan Dubai Ismaili Centre Foundation CeremonyArchitect Rami El Dahan shows Mawlana Hazar Imam and His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum a model of the proposed Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.

Aga Khan Dubai Ismaili Centre Foundation Ceremony PlaqueHis Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum unveils the Foundation Ceremony commemorative plaque. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.



Philip Jodidio: Recently you finished a new Ismaelite center in Dubai. It is the opposite of the skyscraper architecture that is currently popular there. Did you want to make a statement with it?

His Highness the Aga Khan: The building boom there has purely economic grounds and does not concern religious buildings. What I build should be oriented on human standards. The debate about the highest building in the world has to do with ambition, vanity, and pride, or whatever you want to call it. These motives play no role in our value system.

(Interview excerpt from Philip Jodidio’s book Under the Eaves of Architecture – The Aga Khan: Builder and Patron).



We honour today a great architectural accomplishment…and the remarkable people who have made all of this possible. Those extraordinary people include, of course, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, who has so generously given the land for this Centre. Let me express once again, on behalf of the Ismaili community, our profound appreciation to His Highness and his family – His Highness the Aga Khan, Inauguration of The Ismaili Centre Dubai, Wednesday, March 26, 2008.

2826-Ismaili Centre Dubai Opening Ceremony Aga KhanMawlana Hazar Imam arrives with His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (left) and His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum for the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Dubai. Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.

2824-Ismaili Centre Dubai Opening Ceremony Aga KhanSenior members of the ruling families of the UAE joined Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of the Imam’s family, leaders of the Jamat as well as other dignitaries for the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte. 

2821-Ismaili Centre Dubai Opening Ceremony Aga Khan.jpgMawlana Hazar Imam is joined by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum (left) and His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan for the unveilling of the ceremonial plaque marking the opening of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: The Ismaili/
Aziz Islamshah.

912-Ismaili Centre Dubai Aga Khan Visits Early learning CentreMawlana Hazar Imam and various dignitaries visit the Early Learning Centre at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.

908_Ismaili Centre Dubai Park Aga KhanMawlana Hazar Imam in conversation with Hussain Nasir Lootah, Acting Director General of Dubai Municipality, as they walk through Dubai Park. Photo: The Ismaili/
Gary Otte.

910_Ismaili Centre Dubai Opening Aga Khan Prince Rahim and Princess ZahraMawlana Hazar Imam together with Prince Rahim and Princess Zahra overlooking the entrance hall of the Ismaili Centre Dubai from the balcony above on the opening day on March 26, 2008. Photo: Gary Otte/The Ismaili. 



Ismaili Centre Dubai 01.jpgThe Ismaili Centre in Dubai has been described by the media as United Arab Emirate’s best kept architectural secret. The prime plot of land on which it is built was generously given to the Ismaili community by Dubai’s ruling family in 1982 to celebrate His Highness the Aga Khans’s 25 year reign as Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. The foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre took place several years later on December 13, 2003, on the occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 67th birthday, when he was in his 47th year of Imamat. The Ismaili Centre was inaugurated when the 49th Ismaili Imam, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), visited Dubai in 2008 to celebrate his Golden Jubilee (the completion of his 50 years of Imamat). Photo: The Ismaili.

5a4692_Dubai Ismaili Centre Muslim HarjiA view of the main entrance hall of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, which draws architectural inspiration from the Fatimid mosques in Cairo. At the centre of the colourfully patterned marble floor is an ornamental fountain crafted from a solid block of Carrara marble. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji, Montreal. 



“For many centuries, a prominent feature of the Muslim religious landscape has been the variety of spaces of gathering co-existing harmoniously with the masjid, which in itself has accommodated a range of diverse institutional spaces for educational, social and reflective purposes. Historically serving communities of different interpretations and spiritual affiliations, these spaces have retained their cultural nomenclatures and characteristics, from ribat and zawiyya to khanaqa and jamatkhana.

“The congregational space incorporated within the Ismaili Centre belongs to the historic category of jamatkhana, an institutional category that also serves a number of sister Sunni and Shia communities, in their respective contexts, in many parts of the world. Here, it will be space reserved for traditions and practices specific to the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Foundation Ceremony, Ismaili Centre, Dubai, December 13, 2003.


901_6_Ismaili Centre Dubai Congregational HallThe congregational hall of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai features the building’s largest dome. Its octagonal shape is supported by meticulously engineered heavy corbels, which dominate the space. The ambience is set by the enormous brass chandelier from Egypt
Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.

5a46c1_Dubai Ismaili Centre Muslim HarjiAn imposing lamp at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, a place of enlightenment. Photo: Copyright. © Muslim Harji, Montreal. 

P1010564_Dubai Ismaili Centre Muslim HarjiSitting area for friends to mingle or for individuals to simply relax in the calm setting of  the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji, Montreal.

5a46a2_Dubai Ismaili Centre Muslim HarjiOne of the seven domes at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. The domes were built-in brick and wood by Kashmiri masons equipped with increasingly rare traditional construction skills. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji, Montreal. Copyright.



Philip Jodidio: If you were to name a building that had influenced you the most, which would it be?

His Highness the Aga Khan: In response to the question about which buildings have impressed me, I would say the Ahmad-Ibn-Tulun Mosque in Cairo is one example. It is unbelievably plain, yet no building is more impressive.


5a46f0_Dubai Ismaili Centre Muslim HarjiCanadian Nevin Harji, left, in a setting of calmness at the Takhtabosh Courtyard of the Ismaili Centre in Dubai. The patterns, fountains and flower beds at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, draw upon various traditions from across the Islamic world. The building is crowned by a magnificent Ibn Tulun Mosque-like dome. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji, Montreal. 

912-Ismaili Centre Dubai Aga Khan Visits Early learning CentreMawlana Hazar Imam and various dignitaries visit the Early Learning Centre at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.

P1010575-Edit_Dubai Ismaili Centre Muslim Harji



“It is my humble prayer that, when built, the Ismaili Centre in Dubai will be a place for contemplation and search for enlightenment, where people come together to share knowledge and wisdom. It will be a place of peace, of order, of hope and of brotherhood, radiating those thoughts, attitudes and sentiments which unite, and which do not divide, and which uplift the mind and the spirit.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Foundation Laying Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, on Saturday, 13 December 2003.

1797_Dubai Ismaili Centre First Imamat Day
A view of the entrance to Souq-al-Izhaar (Market of Expressions), as the First Imamat Day at the Ismaili Centre Dubai is marked in July 2008 with a celebration. Photo: Prime Vision via the Ismaili
Ismaili Centre Dubai markham_mayor visit
Mayor Frank Scarpitti of Markham, Ontario visiting the Ismaili Centre Dubai on February 9, 2016 together with members of his city council. Photo: Ismaili Council for UAE via The Ismaili.

dubai_cares-Ismaili Centre Dubai Early Education CentreDubai Cares CEO Tariq Al Gurg meets children at the Aga Khan Early Learning Centre during his tour of the Ismaili Centre. Drawing on the vast experience of the Aga Khan Education Services which operates over 300 schools worldwide, the ELC offers early childhood programmes that will are culturally relevant, dual medium (Arabic and English) and pluralistic in approach. Photo: Ismaili Council for the UAE via The Ismaili.

Dubai Ismaili Centre Visit by the Portuguese.jpgHis Excellency Joaquim Moreira de Lemos, Portugal Ambassador to the UAE, and his wife Paula Moreira de Lemos visit the Dubai Ismaili Centre. Photo: Ismaili Council for UAE via The Ismaili.

dsc_6190_Ismaili Centre Dubai_Tajik performanceTajik musicians perform traditional music from their country at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai on December 22, 2016 at a celebration marking  the diversity of Tajik art and culture through art, music, culture, and authentic foods. The audience included diplomatic, business and professional leaders. Photo: Ismaili Council for UAE via The Ismaili.

Dubai Ismaili Centre Visit by Rwanda and Tajikistan.jpgAmbassador Bahodur M. Sharifi and Consul General Bahodu Safarzoda of Tajikistan, and Acting Consul General of Rwanda Yasmin Dalila at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: Ismaili Council for UAE via The Ismaili.

2354-Ismaili Centre Dubai Photo ExhibitionHis Highness Sheikh Majid and Noor Ali Rashid pause at a photograph of the late Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan during the inauguration on April 22, 2009 at the Ismaili Centre Dubai of an exhibition of photographs taken by acclaimed Royal Photographer of the United Arab Emirates, Noor Ali Rashid. Photo: Ismaili Council of Emirates/Farhad R Ally/Akbar Hakim via The Ismaili.

Ismaili Centre Speaker Suhoor SeriesMore than 200 guests gathered for an event on education that was part of the Dubai Ismaili Centre’s annual Suhoor Speakers Series during the holy month of Ramadan. The event on June 16, 2016 showcased the long-term solutions that leading development agencies such as Dubai Cares and the Aga Khan Foundation are bringing to communities in need in Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Photo: Ismaili Centre Dubai via The Ismaili.

Dubai Ismaili Centre Visit by Turkey.jpgTurkish Ambassador Can Dizdar and Consul General Erdem Ozan at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai. Photo: Ismaili Council for UAE via The Ismaili.

Ismaili Centre Dubai Gospel PerformanceIn collaboration with the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, U.S. Consul General Paul Malik partnered with the Ismaili Center for a musically enchanting evening by the American “Oasis Gospel Choir” on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Paul Malik remarked that “the performace was to showcase a small part of American culture and spiritual traditions through music and song, because I thought it would mesh well with our and the Ismaili Center’s desires to celebrate diversity, tolerance, and coexistence.” Photo: US Embassy, Arab Emirates.



“I would like to congratulate everyone who is participating in and helping out in these games, as well as those who participated in and helped to organise the events leading up to them for their collective effort to promote fitness and camaraderie through sports.

“In the current times, I can think of no better way than this and of no better place than Dubai to promote the notion of bringing young minds from diverse backgrounds and different environments together in the spirit of friendship and peace.

“I know the efforts that all you young and able athletes made to come here. I salute your resolve and I pray that you may carry that spirit of friendship and peace with you when you return to your homes.” – Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Opening of the Jubilee Games in Dubai, July 23, 2016.

zr1_7389s_Prince Rahim Jubilee GamesPrince Rahim Aga Khan greets athletes from Tajikistan at the Jubilee Games. Photo: The Ismaili/JG/Aly Ramji.

11-b0a8a3500_Prince Rahim Ismaili Jubilee Games Dubai pervaiz_akhtarPrince Rahim Aga Khan and His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan light the central Fanous of the Opening Ceremony to officially mark the beginning of the 2016 Jubilee Games. Seen applauding on the stage are Amiruddin Thanawala, President of the Ismaili Council for UAE (left) and Mahmood Eboo, the Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders International Forum. Photo: The Ismaili.



Aga Khan arrival for Aga Khan Award for ArchitectureMawlana Hazar Imam is received by Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid, Minister of State for Tolerance upon his arrival in Dubai on November 4, 2016 for the presentation ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Photo: The Ismaili.

akaa2016-Aga Khan at Al Jahili Fort in Al AinAt centre of photo, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai with Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo:  Copyright © Simergphotos.

2016-11-06_akaa2016-ria_0313_rafiq_hakim Aga Khan at Award CeremonyRecipients of the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture pictured with His Highness the Aga Khan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Date posted: January 15, 2018.


Recommended reading(s) in preparation for mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam:


Abdulmalik Merchant portraitAbdulmalik Merchant (aka Malik), has worked in the IT industry since  graduating in computing from London’s North London Polytechnic in 1976. He is the editor and publisher of the literary website Simerg, which he founded in 2009, as well as its two sister websites Simergphotos (2013) and Barakah (2016). In the UK, he was a member of the Literature and Publications Department of the Ismailia Association, and co-edited the Ismaili community’s flagship Ilm magazine with his father, Alwaez Jehangir.

We welcome your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com.

Note: This blog, Barakah, is a special project of http://www.Simerg.com and has been undertaken to celebrate 60 years of the Imamat or the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan.


  1. The Dubai Jamatkhana is beautiful as are all the other Ismaili Centres around the world. Each is designed differently!
    Congratulations to the Dubai Jamat and I am sure you’re working hard to prepare for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit. Shukhar.


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