Yasmin Aga Khan: A Princess with a Mission

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, portrait, Barakah for piece on Alzheimer's.
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. Photo: Alzheimer’s Association.

(An in person event with Princess Yasmin in attendance)

Member of the Rita Hayworth Gala Steering Committee

“The fight to end Alzheimer’s hasn’t stopped, and neither have we” were the concluding words spoken by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan during the Imagine Benefit Gala that was held at New York’s iconic Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday, November 15, 2021. The Imagine Benefit, built on the legacy of the Rita Hayworth Gala, raised more than US$ 600,000.00. The Rita Hayworth Gala was first launched in New York in 1984. Three years later, Princess Yasmin launched the Gala in Chicago. Together, the Rita Hayworth Galas in the two cities have raised more than US$ 80 million for the Alzheimer’s Association to combat the disease. Alzheimer’s contributed to the death of Princess Yasmin’s mother, Rita Hayworth, at the age of 68.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan and Sadruddin Noorani Rita Hayworth Gala Chicago, Barakah Visual and textual expressions Aga Khan, Alzheimer's Association.
Sadruddin Noorani (back row, 3rd from left) and his wife Rukhsana Noorani (2nd row, 3rd from left) pictured in a group photo with Princess Yasmin Aga Khan taken at the Rita Hayworth Gala event held in Chicago in June 2019. The Rita Hayworth Gala was incepted in Chicago in 1987, three years after the first gala was held in New York in 1984. The gala has raised more than US $80 million to support the work of the Alzheimer’s Association over the past 35 years. Photo: Alzheimer’s Association.

The next Rita Hayworth Gala will be held in Chicago on Saturday April 23, 2022, and I am pleased to say that Prince Yasmin will be present in person.

It has been my honour and privilege to have been involved with the Rita Hayworth Gala for more than 25 years, and I am truly humbled by this opportunity that has come into my life, to be associated directly with the work of a beloved member of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family. I may note that members of Princess Yasmin’s family including Prince Amyn Mohamed, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain have shown their great support by attending the galas on numerous occasions. Indeed, Prince Hussain, who has attended the gala on numerous occasions, was among the patrons of the Rita Hayworth Gala held in New York in 2017. Princess Yasmin closely watches the work of the Imamat being done around the world for the Jamat and the citizens among whom they live, and has expressed her joy of being part of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family.

I am happy to say that I have served in the Alzheimer’s Association both as member on its Steering Committee as well as a benefactor.

Barakah readers can support Princess Yasmin’s noble initiatives by either attending the event in person or by submitting a donation. Tickets for the Rita Hayworth Gala may be reserved through me until April 15, 2022. For other donations of any amount between US$ 50.00 to $2500.00 (or any other amount), please visit the Alzheimer’s Association official page for donations by clicking on THIS IS OUR MOMENT – The 34th Annual RITA HAYWORTH GALA (Note: all donation amounts shown are in US$, and payments will be processed through GiveSmart, an industry leading fundraising platform).

May I also note that there is a separate page for varying sponsorship opportunities. For sponsorship information please click on the green button at the top of THIS PAGE.

For further details and to reserve ticket(s) for the Rita Hayworth Gala to be held on April 23, 2022 at the Chicago Hilton, which will be attended by Princess Yasmin in person, please contact me (Sadruddin Noorani) directly at +1-312-550-5456 (Mobile, Text, Facetime or WhatsApp). However, please note that while I will accept your names for the benefit gala I will not be processing any payments. Payments for tickets to the event, as for donations, will be processed through the industry leading fundraising platform GiveSmart via the Alzheimer’s Association official Rita Hayworth Gala donations page. Please click THIS IS OUR MOMENT.

I look forward to seeing old friends and making new friends at the Rita Hayworth Gala. I think this event will highlight the incredible work of the Alzheimer’s Association and Princess Yasmin’s unique contribution to the cause of Alzheimer’s. It will be an unforgettable event in your life, and an opportunity for you to reflect more about the challenges that Alzheimer’s patients face throughout the world, and how you can become an active force in Princess Yasmin’s fight to end Alzheimer’s.



“When my mother Rita Hayworth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I felt compelled to turn our private pain into a positive force. I founded the Alzheimer’s Association Rita Hayworth Galas so that others would not have to face this disease alone” — Princess Yasmin, quote from Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan portrait, Rita Hayworth Gala New York 1984, Library of Congress, photo by Bernard Gotfryd, Barakah
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Prince Aly Khan (d. 1960) and Ms. Rita Hayworth (d. 1987), and younger sister of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn Mohamed pictured at the first Alzheimer’s fundraiser in New York in December 1984. Photo: Bernard Gotfryd via Library of Congress. Inset photo (top right). A half-length portrait of Princess Yasmin’s parents Prince Aly Khan and Ms. Rita Hayworth dated May 27, 1949. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection

Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

[I take this opportunity to thank Sadruddin Noorani for inspiring me to write this piece. I also express my deep gratitude to Iqbal Motani of Ottawa for his valuable feedback on the draft of the article.]

As very young children growing up in the 1950’s, there was one person in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family we could all relate to: Princess Yasmin, Mawlana Hazar Imam and Prince Amyn’s younger sister. Born to Prince Aly Khan and Ms. Rita Hayworth on December 28, 1949, she was a few years older than me, and about the same age as some of my older colleagues in the Ismaili boys football team.

I was just under 7 years old and living in Maputo (then Lourenço Marques or LM), Mozambique, when one early morning in May 1960 there was a knock on our front door, as my parents were preparing me for school. A member from Mukhisaheb’s family was at the door to give us the devastating news that Prince Aly Khan had died from a motor car accident the previous day, May 12, 1960. 

He was only 48 years old. I have vivid and enduring memory of this day and our thoughts were with Princess Yasmin, who was then only 10 years old. We were saddened and concerned.  

My family cherishes photographs of the dynamic Prince Aly Khan’s visit to LM in 1957, a few months before Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah passed away.

Prince Aly Khan visits Maputo or Lourenco Marques, Mozambique, Barakah piece on Princess Yasmin Aga Khan
Prince Aly Khan visits Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique in 1957, a few months before his father, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, passed away on July 11, 1957 and was succeeded to the Throne of Imamat by Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.
Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan arrive in Arusha Tanganyika in 1951, Barakah
Ms. Rita Hayworth being greeted at Arusha airport by Mukhi Noormohamed Natha Hirji and Kamadia Kamrudin Hasham Jessa during her visit with Prince Aly Khan to Arusha, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) in 1951. Photo: Amin Jaffer Collection, Edmonton, Canada.

The entrance to Princess Yasmin’s home, reflects a powerful memory of her father in the form of a large striking photograph of Prince Aly Khan in a silver frame that is mounted on top of an antique oriental gilt chest.

Princess Yasmin was born to Prince Aly Khan and Ms. Rita Hayworth on December 27, 1949. Their marriage was short lived but happily no dispute arose with regard to custody matters. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in his autobiography, Memoirs of Aga Khan, wrote:

Friends of my own and my lawyers have always maintained that I might have made a trust settlement…Their arguments, though well intentioned, are mistaken. They have not realized that under Islamic law the custody of a female child, until puberty, rests absolutely with her mother.”

During her childhood years, immediately after the divorce, Princess Yasmin spent her time with her mother in the USA. Prince Aly Khan visited her frequently and the Princess speaking about the relationship between her parents said, “She  [Ms. Rita Hayworth] had a fairy tale marriage with my father, Aly Khan — whom women considered to be one of the most attractive men of his time — and, even though they later divorced, they remained close. Dad was warm, elegant, very loving, a wonderful being.” [1]

Aga Khan Family, Barakah
The late 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV at exteme right. Princess Yasmin is being held by her father Prince Aly Khan, and standing next to him at left, are his brother Prince Sadruddin and his son Prince Amyn Mohamed. Photo: (Late) Alijah Zul Khoja Family Collection.

When Prince Aly Khan passed away, Princess Yasmin went to study in Switzerland before returning to the USA two years later. She completed her junior schooling at the North County School in Lake Placid where the school was enrolling boys and girls from diverse backgrounds, a tradition that had begun when the school opened in the 1930’s. Many other schools were segregated by gender, race and religion at that time.

Princess Yasmin pursued her high school at the Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, before graduating from Vermont’s Bennington College in 1972. The college known for its liberal arts program, was also the first college to include visual and performing arts to its curriculum. At the college, she realized that she had a good singing voice, and started to sing classical. After her graduation, Princess Yasmin moved to New York City and trained as a classical singer. She went for her voice lessons and that became a wonderful part of her life. She said in an interview, “I really thought that I could go somewhere with my voice.” She even had an opportunity to study in Germany. [2]

Unfortunately, however Princess Yasmin’s singing aspiration came to a halt owing to her mother’s declining health. Princess Yasmin described the mood changes and the difficulties her mother had in memorizing lines, and that she would often repeat the questions she had asked previously. She was concerned when she watched her mother walk from room to room, and move clothes from one closet to another.

Princess Yasmin was able to relocate her mother from her house in California to an apartment next door to her in New York. She was diagnosed by neurologists at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital with Alzheimer’s in 1981. Ms. Hayworth’s condition became more complicated with the symptoms worsening. She required 24 hour care.

This situation brought the Princess help from members of the new Alzheimer’s Association that had been formed in 1979. She knew that there were many people dealing with what she was dealing with. When the Association approached her to join it and talk about Alzheimer’s she said she found it hard because, “I’m on the shy side and it was very difficult for me to talk about it. It was very painful. It is a very emotionally draining, horrible experience to see your mother dissolve in front of your eyes.” At that time there were barely more than twenty of them at the Association but they were all very motivated because each of them had a loved one stricken with Alzheimer’s. 

Princess Yasmin’s responsibilities as her mother’s caretaker when she was in her early thirties was difficult, but she emphasized that there was satisfaction, for her, personally. She said, “It’s a part of my nature. I’m more of a mother figure, I guess. I’m very mothering, so it was a natural thing. I didn’t have to think twice about it. It was an instinct, it was something I needed to do and I was very satisfied in giving to her.” [2] One difficult day that Princess Yasmin remembers vividly was when both, mother and her beloved daughter were standing in front of a mirror. Her mother asked her, “Who are you?” This was especially difficult to face because they had such a strong bond and relationship.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan at the White House with President Ronald Reagan
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, 4th from left, and other Board Members of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADI) including Rhonie Berlinger look on as Jerome Stone, the founding member OF the Alzheimer’s Association and ADI, presents a plaque to President Ronald Reagan at the White House on December 6, 1988. The President had earlier declared November as the Alzheimer’s month. Both Princess Yasmin and Ms. Berlinger were among the first to join the Alzheimer’s Association. Photo: White House Diaries, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute.
President Ronald Reagan with Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, Barakah
A signed photo of Princess Yasmin Aga Khan with the Late American President Ronald Reagan, in which he acknowledges the work of the Princess. Photo: Princess Yasmin Aga Khan Collection.

One of Princess Yasmin’s great assets at the time was knowing President Reagan, who had once rubbed shoulders with her mother in Hollywood. Princess Yasmin says, “As soon as I approached him, he invited the members of the association and the council to his Oval office of the White House, faithfully every year until the end of his second term. Thanks to this, I was able, with our team, to alert him to the ravages of the disease, and to explain to him how much lobbying, particularly at the federal level, was essential for us. He helped us tremendously by declaring November National Disease Prevention Month. The decision was officially proclaimed in November 1983 by Congress, approved and signed by President Ronald Reagan in person. What upsets me now is to think that he too was a victim of this disease.” [1]

Princess Yasmin was not satisfied being only a spokesperson, she wanted to do something tangible that would not only raise awareness but contribute materially to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. She watched her own mother faced with Alzheimer’s disease and she was compelled to turn her experiences of looking after her beloved mother into a positive force for good so that others would not have to face this disease alone. Having become strongly attached to the work of the Alzheimer’s Association, her hope was to create a spark of inspiration that would bring many voices to fight Alzheimer’s. She did this by launching the Rita Hayworth Gala in memory of her beloved mother, initially in New York in 1984 and later in Chicago.

Realizing the impact of Alzheimer’s on society as a whole, President Ronald Reagan, who was to die of Alzheimer’s later, proclaimed November as Alzheimer’s month in 1988. A month later Princess Yasmin attended an event at the White House where a plaque was presented to President Reagan by Board Members of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association. President Reagan also presented a signed photo to Princess Yasmin, appreciating her work.

Aside from being engaged with the work of the Alzheimer’s Association, Princess Yasmin found time to ensure her physical and mental well-being. She has tried to keep up with her work outs everyday, and enjoys skiing in winter and playing golf during summer. As a golfer, she is said to have made a hole in one at Park Meadows Country Club, close to her home in Park City, Utah, where she has lived since 1994. Like her late parents, Princess Yasmin has a great love of cars. [3, 4]

In matters affecting the residents of Park City, she was among more than 2,000 signatories last autumn who objected to an ambitious project by Dakota Pacific to re-imagine a site at Kimball Junction that had been once slated to be a Tech Park. [5] The re-zoning would have allowed the county to replace the tech park concept with a mixed-use neighborhood containing more than one-thousand residential units, commercial and office space, as well as a hotel spread over 1.7 million square feet. In separate emails to councillors Roger Armstrong and Malena Stevens of Summit County dated October 25, 2021, Princess Yasmin wrote:

“I am a very long-time resident of Park City dating back to 1994 and first came here in 1986. I implore you not to vote for the massive Dakota Pacific Development in the Tech Center area. This project is not consistent with the approved land use. Please do not clutter our already overflowing community. By voting yes, you will destroy the beauty of our Park City way of life. Find another area. Respectfully, Yasmin Aga Khan.” [6]

The local website Park Rag then carried a headline on December 20, 2021, “The Dakota Pacific Project is dead for now. Great Job Park City”. The news report concluded by stating that “No longer is Summit County giving a prized parcel away to a developer. We have the opportunity to make something better”.

In her personal life, Princess Yasmin was married twice, first from 1985 to 1987 to Basil Embiricos with whom she had a son, Andrew, who died in 2011; and from 1989-1993 to Christopher Jefferis. Both her marriages ended in divorce.

However, Princess Yasmin’s real determination throughout the past 40 years has been to bring an end to the suffering of victims of Alzheimer’s disease. To this end, as already mentioned earlier, she launched the Rita Hayworth Gala in New York in 1984, with the backing of Alzheimer’s Association, which is dedicated to research for the preventions, causes, cures and treatments of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and to provide support to people with the disease and their families.

The positive outcome for the work that the Association carried out over the years was noted by Princess Yasmin eighteen years later as she received the Utah Chapter’s 2002 ALEXA Award for a Lifetime of Exceptional Achievement. She said, “Today, there is support from the Alzheimer’s Association and research has produced some promising drugs”.

Indeed, the public awareness of Alzheimer’s had also grown over the years with hundreds of chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association and thousands of support groups in all 50 states. In 2002, it was estimated that 4 million Americans were affected by Alzheimer’s disease, out of which 28,000 were in Utah, the state where Princess Yasmin had made her home. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.8 million Americans 65 and older were living with the disease, as of 2020. As more and more of the baby boomer generation reaches that age, the number of Americans with the disease will increase to a projected 7.1 million people by 2025, and 13 million by the middle of this century unless a cure or prevention is found. In Canada, it is estimated that 500,000 people live with dementia. Today worldwide there are over 55 million living with dementia, a number that is expected to reach 78 million in 2030, and 139 million in 2050. Much of the increase will be in developing countries.

Princess Yasmin has been truly appreciative of the cities where the Rita Hayworth Galas have been held as well as the people who attend them, and those who donate and the committee members who are involved. The money raised goes to research. Because of the care that was involved in looking after her mother, Princess Yasmin shares a strong bond with other Alzheimer’s caregivers, and is an additional motivation to carry on with the benefit galas.

The last gala event was held at New York’s iconic Jazz, a beautiful room at the Lincoln Center on Monday November 15, 2021. The gala has been known for some years as the Imagine Benefit, but built on the legacy of the Rita Hayworth Gala. Princess Yasmin has been Imagine Benefit’s founder and general chair. The next gala that will be held in Chicago on Saturday April 23, 2022, will continue to be called the Rita Hayworth Gala (please see story by Sadruddin Noorani, top of this page).

The evening of song and storytelling at Jazz raised more than US$ 600,000.00 to fund critical Alzheimer’s Association care, support and research programs. It once again brought awareness to Alzheimer’s, a disease that now affects more than 6 million Americans and more than 11 million caregivers. [7] Thus far the Rita Hayworth Galas have raised more than US$ 80 million.

In an inspiring moment at Imagine Benefit, Princess Yasmin said: “the fight to end Alzheimer’s hasn’t stopped, and neither have we.”

The impact of Alzheimer’s Association is being felt around the world.

In 1984, Princess Yasmin and a small band of pioneers and experts came together to discuss the formation of an international organisation for Alzheimer’s disease. Representatives from existing Alzheimer’s associations in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada joined with observers from Belgium, France and Germany and founded Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).

Starting in the 1990s, ADI strived to expand its membership around the world, focusing on developing and engaging new associations, particularly in low and middle income countries. Now 35 years later, ADI has grown from the original 4 members to be the worldwide federation of over 100 Alzheimer associations, and has become the global voice on dementia. September 21 has been designated as World Alzheimer’s Day. ADI works to advocate for better policy at international and regional levels, while supporting and developing the capacity of Alzheimer’s associations around the world. ADI’s annual conferences for the past several years have been well attended, and in 2020 Princess Yasmin as its president since 1985 wrote the following welcome letter:

Dear friends,

As President of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), I am delighted to have this opportunity to welcome you to the 34th Virtual International Conference of ADI.

ADI’s decision to move their conference to a virtual platform was not an easy one, but one which opens up great opportunities to reach a wider global audience who would not ordinarily be able to attend and right at a time when togetherness is so important to us all.

The WHO’s Global plan of action on the public health response to dementia was adopted in 2017 and offers a roadmap for governments to develop effective policies on dementia, that are so crucial to the millions of people impacted by the condition. All governments must make dementia a global health priority by developing national dementia plans and including dementia into their COVID-19 response plans. The pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of people living with dementia — and also carers — to social isolation. In many cases people have been left to shoulder the burden of difficult decisions around whether or not to send their loved ones to hospital.

This conference is about hope and it will indeed provide a ray of hope for those affected by dementia, an issue which is close to my heart. It is now more important than ever that we come together as a community. My best wishes for a great conference.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan
President, Alzheimer’s Disease International
(for complete 2020 program/conference booklet including Princess Yasmin’s letter which you will find on page 5 click HERE).

In the final analysis and reflecting on her own life and her mission, Princess Yasmin said: “I just believe that when you are a princess, who has always had the means to lead a very privileged existence, you must give back to society in one form or another. My daily life would seem very empty and sad if I spent my nights at parties and my days knitting! Because I have a feeling that I have a mission to accomplish, an inner voice is guiding me to find by all means the cause of this terrible disease in order to succeed in relieving those who suffer from it, as well as their entourage.” [8]

Date posted: April 1, 2022.
Last updated: April 2, 2022.




Barakah invites readers to learn more about the work of Alzheimer’s Association which is leading the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. The Association’s vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia®. Please visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900. Readers will find the page Facts and Figures very helpful in learning about the latest on Alzheimer’s. For a one page pictorial representation of Alzheimer’s at your fingertips, please click Infographics.

Once again, as a reminder, you may contact Sadruddin Noorani to reserve your ticket(s) to attend the Rita Hayworth Gala on April 23, 2022 at Hilton Chicago. Sadruddin can be reached directly at +1-312-550-5456. Payment for tickets, as with other donations to the Rita Hayworth Gala, may be submitted on the Alzheimer’s Association official donation page THIS IS OUR MOMENT – The 34th Annual RITA HAYWORTH GALA. Payments will be processed through GiveSmart, an industry leading fundraising platform. Princess Yasmin is the founder & 2022 Gala Co-Chair, and will be in attendance at the Gala honouring her mother.


[1] Interview: Paris Match, July 26, 2009, English translation by Google
[2] Interview: New York Times, February 23, 1997
[3] Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 2004
[4] Interview, Long Island Exchange, June 18, 2007
[5) KPCW, November 5, 2021
[6) Summit County Documents
[7] Alzheimer’s Association report
[8] Paris Match, July 26, 2009, English translation by Iqbal/Djalila Motani, Ottawa


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to the editor, Malik, at mmerchant@barakah.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.


Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Also visit Barakah’s two sister websites, Simerg and Simergphotos.

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