By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
July 6, 2018: The Aga Khan’s arrival in Lisbon
Ismailis from around the world continue to pour into Lisbon for the final celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, which began on July 11, 2017 with a beautiful Homage Ceremony in Aiglemont, France. The festive mood of tens of thousands of Ismailis who are now in Lisbon was particularly felt yesterday, Thursday July 6, 2018, with the arrival of Mawlana Hazar Imam into the city.
During his Diamond Jubilee Year Mawlana Hazar Imam has so far visited ten countries where he has undertaken religious work with Ismailis and attended events related to his Imamat institutions including the Aga Khan Development Network. During his Jubilee journeys he has travelled at least 140,000 kms. His age of 81 makes him the oldest living Imam in Ismaili history.
Mawlana Hazar Imam was greeted at Lisbon airport by Government officials and Ismaili leaders. Ismailis were informed ahead of time to be at Jardim Amalia Rodriques Park by 3:30 P.M. to welcome the Imam. The small park lies atop the Eduardo VII Park, which has sweeping views of the city and River Tagus. I declared my own personal arrival at the site at 12:35 P.M with the following Tweet:
“I’m at Jardim Amália Rodrigues and Ismailis are arriving by the bus loads. It’s 12:35 pm. Lisbon time….”
When I reached there, the road was dotted with Ismailis throughout the approximate 400 metre length of the park. Hundreds arrived in buses, others walked from the close by metro stations while many got dropped by Tuk Tuk tour vehicles that had taken them for sightseeing tours of Lisbon. By the time Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade arrived at the Park some 3.5 hours later the attendance had grown to between 3,500 — 4,000 (an estimate that was given to me by two different police officers). Ismailis cheered and sang as they waited for their Imam to arrive. The noise was particular loud as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s plane, bearing his crest and flag flew over the Park.
I encountered Ismailis from every corner of the world, and one of my first meetings was with an elderly lady from Central Asia, who conveyed greetings and congratulations to me as well as gave me uplifting prayers. Truly, she was a noble soul. A small but enthusiastic group of Ismailis from New Zealand carried a banner defining their country’s presence. Almost everyone carried Portuguese and the Ismaili Imamat flags, which bear some similarity because of the common colours of green and red.
The crowd was very disciplined, and the officials on duty including the police only intervened when individuals exceeded safety limits. Of course, the most telling and exciting moments were when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade arrived and moved slowly along the route. With his window open, he waved to his eager and happy murids. I had recorded in one of my earlier tweets:
“Watching all this is quite beautiful. The setting with a view of Lisbon and river Tagus is awesome. The crowd makes it all the more exciting. We are here because of Hazar Imam. This gathering is part of the pilgrimage to our spiritual parent.”
I stood on the opposite side of the road, in order to witness the crowd’s mood and reaction and said in a tweet:
“I will …… experience everyone’s feelings. I may not see Hazar Imam but tens of thousands of eyes will see him. It’s beautiful to be here.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam’s presence, even for a short few moments, filled the entire crowd with intense happiness. Once the motorcade had passed, there were celebrations on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park. Women sung and played rasuda to Avjo avjo Pyara Karim Shah. Selfies were being taken by groups from around the world. I also saw joy in the faces of individuals and groups who I met during my walk to the the department store El Corte Inglés and the São Sebastião metro station, from which I took the train to Park of the Nations (Parque das Nações), the heart of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.
When I arrived at Parque das Nações I realized how many Ismailis I would be seeing and meeting over the coming days, all united by their love and affection for Mawlana Hazar Imam.
July 6: Photos from Parque das Nações, heart of the Diamond Jubilee events
Date posted: July 7, 2018.
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This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.