In Pictures: Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Her Work for the Ismaili Imamat

Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

A watercolour painting of Princess Zahra n Aga Khan as a girl by Ismaili artist AzIz Khanbhai. Barakah.com
A watercolour painting of Princess Zahra Aga Khan as a young girl by Ismaili artist AzIz Khanbhai of Vancouver.

INTRODUCTION

A year ago, when Barakah published a photo tribute to Princess Zahra on her 51st birthday, most of the material for the post was gathered from on-line media and specifically from the official websites of the Ismaili Imamat, namely the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and The Ismaili as well as other limited printed material that I had easy access to. My resources of printed issues of the Ismaili magazines published in the UK and Europe, Canada, the USA as well as Africa and Asia had been stowed in boxes for the past few years. Moreover my archives are not as plentiful as those of my beloved parents, Jehangir (d. May 2018) and “Mrs Merchant” (d. January 2021) who have left behind a wealth of literary material which I call “khajana” (treasure).

After my recent relocation to Alberta, and with the invaluable help of Azim Hasmani, a member of the Calgary Ismaili Jamat (community), I was able to unpack and organize 20% of the books belonging to me and my parents. The outcome is this vastly updated photo piece specially prepared to honour Princess Zahra on the auspicious occasion of her 52nd birthday on September 18, 2022.

I went through the table of contents of more than a hundred issues of the Ismaili magazines published in the western world since the early 1990’s and set aside more than 30 that mentioned Princess Zahra.

The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, Gary Otte, Barakah, Photographs, Pictorial history
Cover page of Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover Linen with jacket, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 225 colour illustrations

As I looked through the articles and photographs, the breadth and scope of the work of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, continues to astound me. I had to restrict myself to events where Princess Zahra was present, otherwise the task would have been overwhelming. I have been truly inspired by her dedication and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam as well as her sacrifices for the Jamat in many aspects of our lives. I dare say that the travels, vision and projects of Mawlana Hazar Imam are nothing short of a miracle. I am truly delighted that Gary Otte, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s official photographer for many years, has recently come through with a pictorial biography of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The book is just a glimpse — and a fine one at that — of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s rich life, but volumes will need to be written to present his complete historic life. As a Jamat, we are truly gratified that members of his family are fully immersed in the work of Mawlana Hazar Imam, who is now 85 years old — the oldest Imam in Ismaili history. His reign of 65 years is second after his grandfather who ruled the community for 70 years and celebrated his Platinum Jubilee.

Most of the Ismaili Jamat that is now settled in Canada and other western countries were still in Africa, Asia and the Middle East when Princess Zahra was born on September 18, 1970, almost a year after Mawlana Hazar Imam got married to Begum Salimah in October 1969. We received the news of her birth with immense joy and happiness. While I had mentioned in the original version of this post that the Ismailis’ saw the Princess and her brothers, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain, for the first time during the Silver Jubilee of His Highness, I should now like to correct myself and say that the Jamat in Kenya had their first glimpse 2 years earlier when the family visited the country in 1981. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s younger sister, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, had joined them for the memorable trip that included an exciting wildlife adventure.

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Aga Khan with Family of Kenya Safari 1981
Cover page of Family Safari, a special collection of photographs by Azhar Chaudry of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan’s tour of Kenya in 1981. Inset: Begum Salimah with Princess Zahra (l), Prince Hussain (c) and Prince Rahim (r).

Daily Nation’s chief photographer Azhar Chaudry, published a special souvenir edition of the visit called “Family Safari — H.H. The Aga Khan on Kenya Tour.” In his introduction, Chaudry writes:

…..For this time [1981] His Highness was accompanied not only by Begum Salimah, but also his three charming children — Princess Zahra (10), Prince Rahim (9) and Prince Hussain (7). And during their visit the children captured the hearts of all who saw them at the various functions they attended, always conducting themselves with a poise and dignity that belied their tender age. At many of these functions, they met members of the [Ismaili] community.”

My first personal encounter with the children was during the Silver Jubilee when Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah brought them to the Olympia Hall in London in July 1983.

Princess Zahra A birthday tribute by Barakah, Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Photograph: The Ismaili

ZAHRA, THE RADIANT

The Arabic name Zahra means beautiful, bright, shining and brilliant. It may be noted that we refer to Bibi Fatimah (A.S.), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.), and wife of the first Shia Imam, Hazrat Ali (A.S.), as Zahra, which also means radiant.

The Ismailis have followed Princess Zahra’s life with great interest. She is today fully engaged in the work of her father through the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and other Imamat Institutions.

Princess Zahra delivers remarks via video link at the official naming ceremony of the New Private Wing at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. PHOTO: AKU / THE ISMAILI Guest gathered at the ceremony to name the Princess Zahra Pavilion at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi on 6 September 2021. THE ISMAILI | 07 September 2021 | GLOBAL Princess Zahra Pavilion offers world-class care and a welcoming oasis Guest gathered at the ceremony to name the Princess Zahra Pavilion at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi on September 6, 2021.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan delivers remarks via video link at the official naming ceremony of the New Private Wing at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi as the Princess Zahra Pavilion on September 6, 2021. The state-of-the-art facility has been offering the highest standards of excellence and care to patients since it first began operating in 2019. Photograph: AKU/The Ismaili.

EDUCATION AND CAREER

Princess Zahra’s schooling was at the Le Rosey School in Switzerland, the same school that Mawlana Hazar Imam attended after World War II. As a teenager, Princess Zahra was interested in astronomy, a fact that became known to the Jamat when Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah were presented with technological gifts for the Princess and her two brothers during their visit to Houston in 1986.

However, Princess Zahra pursued Development Studies at Harvard University, where she graduated in 1994 with an Honours degree. She also completed a four-month program at Massachusetts General Hospital to enhance her understanding of healthcare systems and the delivery of advanced medical care, and an Executive Finance course at the world renowned International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The two great needs for education in the developing world are quality and relevance. Lacking in either, you will never produce a culturally independent society — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, in “homecoming” interview, Harvard Gazette, May 13, 2008

Indeed, this education prepared Princess Zahra for the work that she was going to pursue for her father’s Jamati and Imamat Institutions. Princess Zahra joined the Secretariat of Mawlana Hazar Imam at Aiglemont, France, in 1994.

Today, Princess Zahra Aga Khan is a Member of the Board of Directors of the AKDN. For ten years Princess Zahra was the Director of the Social Welfare Department and of the Health, Education and Planning and Building Service Companies of the AKDN. Princess Zahra serves in various leadership roles within the Aga Khan Development Network, including as Trustee of the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Global Centre for Pluralism located in Ottawa and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat. She also works with Ismaili institutions in the areas of social welfare, women’s activities and youth programs. Outside AKDN and Jamati institutions, Princess Zahra contributes as a Member of the Board of France Galop, the French racing authority, and is President of the Board of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

Barakah is proud to honour Princess Zahra on her 52nd birthday with this post. We wish her good health, happiness, and continued success in all her endeavours.

1970 – 1981: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN IN cHILDHOOD

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, holding Prince Rahim (b. October 12, 1971) and Begum Salimah holding Princess Zahar (b. September 18, 1970). Photograph: Ismaili Forum, UK, Souvenir Issue 1979
Princess
Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Zahra. Photograph: Ismaili Forum, UK, Souvenir Issue 1979
Princess Zahra Aga Khan birthday tribute, Barakah Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra (r), Mawlana Hazar Imam’s sister Princess Yasmin, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussan (l) pictured at an event held during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to the Jamat in Europe. Date unknown. Photograph: Supplement to Ismaili Forum, date of issue not recorded in publication.
Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain, Barakah Simerg, Bahadur Hirji Ilm photo
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Princess Salimah’s three children Princess Zahra (b. September 18, 1970), Prince Hussain (b. April 10, 1974) and Prince Rahim (b. October 12, 1971). Photograph: Bahadur Hirji/Ilm Magazine.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, simerg and barakah, Bahadur Hirji Ilm photo
A portrait of Princess Zahra Aga Khan taken in 1979 when she was 10 years old. Photograph: Bahadur Hirji/Ilm magazine.
Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Zahra in Kenya, 1981. Photograph: Azhar Chaudry/Smiling Safari
Princess Zahra birthday tribute Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured with Prince Rahim (l), Prince Hussain (c), Begum Salimah and Princess Zahra (r) on the commencement of his Silver Jubilee on July 11, 1982 at his headquarters in Aiglemont, France. Photograph: UK Ismaili, Silver Jubilee Year Edition, October 1982.

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1994 (1): Princess Zahra Aga Khan at MIT for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Commencement Speech

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Princess Zahra Aga Khan at MIT’S Killian Court for the commencement speech delivered by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan., on May 27, 1994. Photograph: The Ismaili United Kingdom, July 1994 Number 17.

On May 27, 1994 Mawlana Hazar Imam addressed a gathering of more than 10,000 as a commencement speaker at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), becoming the first Muslim to give a commencement speech at the world-renowned academic institution. Mawlana Hazar Imam said that “MIT has shown a standard of excellence in education and research that sets a benchmark for universities everywhere.” Referring to his Fatimid ancestors, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“Education has been important to my family for a long time. My forefathers founded Al Azhar University in Cairo some 1,000 years ago, at the time of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Discovery of knowledge was seen by those founders as an embodiment of religious faith, and faith as reinforced by knowledge of workings of the Creator’s physical world. The form of universities has changed over those 1,000 years, but that reciprocity between faith and knowledge remains a source of strength.”

Princess Zahra attended the event with her mother Begum Salimah and brother Prince Hussain.

1994 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan Accompanies Mawlana Hazar Imam to Pakistan for Inauguration of New Phase in Future of Network Institutions

Over ten days in November 1994, Mawlana Hazar Imam attended events marking a new phase in the future of Imamat institutions in Pakistan. The visit was at the official invitation of the Government of Pakistan and Mawlana Hazar Imam was accompanied by Prince Amyn Mohamed and Princess Zahra. The Aga Khan University’s tenth anniversary was celebrated with the University’s Convocation on November 19, 1994.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan looks on as Shaheen Sadruddin Momin from Houston, USA, presents a gift to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in November 1995 in Karachi on behalf of all the donors and volunteers of the Aga Khan University. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, 1995, Issue Two.

During the course of the visit, Princess Zahra attended the Aga Khan University Board of Trustees Meeting, the Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony and also pursued an independent programme of meetings relating to her assignment at Aiglemont, France. The Princess also reviewed with the Women’s, Youth and Sports and Social Welfare portfolios, the work being undertaken with respect to the Jamati constituencies served by them in Pakistan.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in a lively group photo during her visit to Pakistan in November 1995. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, 1995, Issue Two.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Amyn pictured during their visit to Pakistan in November 1995. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, 1995, Issue Two.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Mawlana Hazar Imam at a gathering during their visit to Pakistan in November 1995. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, 1995, Issue 2.

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1995 (1): princess zahra aga khan joins Mawlana Hazar imam’s secretariat and visits Ismaili community institutions around the world

Princess Zahra Aga Khan meets with Ismaili institution officers and members responsible for women's, youth and social welfare portfolios
Princess Zahra Aga Khan meets with officers and members having responsibilities for the women’s, youth and social welfare portfolios of Ismaili institutions in Kenya (left), France (top right) and Tanzania after joining Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat shortly after she graduated from Harvard University with an Honours Degree in Development Studies. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, Issue 1, 1995.
Princess Zahra Afa Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in a discussion with officers of Ismaili institutions in Portugal during her meetings relating to the Women’s, Youth and Social Welfare portfolios after joining Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat. Photograph: The Ismaili UK, March 1, 1995, Number 20.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan visits India to hold discussions pertaining to the Women’s, Youth and Social Welfare portfolios after joining Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat. Photograph: The Ismaili UK, March 1, 1995, Number 20.

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1995 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan in Canada for Jamati Institutional Meetings and THE Partnership Walk

Like her visits to East African countries as well as France and Portugal, Princess Zahra in May 1995 visited the Canadian cities of Toronto, Calgary and Montreal for meetings related to the Women’s, Youth and Social Welfare portfolios of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada. The meetings were complemented by site visits to provide a sense of the physical environment within which the work of the Ismaili institutions, supported by the Ismaili community, was carried out.

In Montreal, Princess Zahra with Mayor Pierre Bourque officially declared open the 1995 Partnership Walk organized by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and joined hundreds of participants attending the Walk.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in a discussion with officers of Ismaili institutions in Canada during her meetings relating to the Women’s, Youth and Social Welfare portfolios after joining Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 1995.
Princess Zahra
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque officially declare open the 1995 Partnership Walk. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 1995.

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1995 (3): Princess Zahra Aga Khan attends Aga Khan Foundation (uk) BALL in London, England

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan speaking on the theme Water for Life at the Aga Khan Foundation (UK) charity Ball held in 1995 at London’s Grosvenor House. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1995.

Prince Zahra graced the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF-UK) Ball at London’s Grosvenor House. “Water for Life” was the theme of the charity function which attracted over 900 guests including representatives of government organizations and numerous donors who contributed to the AKF projects in the developing world. In her speech, she noted that in many parts of the world, the lack of clean water is a life-threatening problem: the search for clean water places a great strain upon communities and families, especially women. Discussing the role of AKDN she said: “The Network has a long history of working with women to face the challenges of economics and cultural domination. Earlier this century my great-grandfather, Aga Khan III, established maternity centres and schools for girls in many parts of India. Investing in women, yields high returns, both for themselves and for the generations to come.”

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan with Ismaili community leaders, Aga Khan Foundation (UK) members and volunteers at the charity Ball held in 1995 at London’s Grosvenor House. She is accompanied by the then Aga Khan Ismaili Council for the UK President, Shafik Sachedina (left). Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1995.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan meets with distinguished guests who attended the Aga Khan Foundation (UK) charity Ball held in 1995 at London’s Grosvenor House. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 1995.

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1995 (4): Princess Zahra Aga Khan attends the 1995 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Ceremony in Indonesia

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured with members of the Master Jury and staff of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 1995.

Princess Zahra accompanied Mawlana Hazar Imam for the 6th cycle of the Aga Khan Award Ceremony held on November 25, 1995 in Solo, Indonesia, where twelve winners were announced following final deliberations that took place in June 1995.

“The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is the most important international award which surveys the state of the art of architecture — Colin Amery, The Fiancial Times, November 27, 2995

This is architecture defined as the most fundamental building blocks for a saner life — Peter Popham, The Independent, November 20, ,1995.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Ali, Princess of Surakarta, greets Princess Zahra as she and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrive at Jakarta’s Halim Airport for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture presentation ceremony in November 1995. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1996.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Princess Zahra witness the signing of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture commemorative stamps issued in Indonesia in November 1995. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1996.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, receiving guests attending the Aga Khan Award for Architecture presentation ceremony held in November 1995 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1996.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Princess Zahra at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture seminar the day following the Award Ceremony held in November 1995. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1996.

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1996: Princess Zahra Aga Khan Visits Canada FOR Book Launch

One of the Aga Khan Development Network’s aims is a return to the Islamic tradition of structuring society around the equality of women. The empowerment of women is a crucial step in engendering the self-confidence to demonstrate that the highest reaches of female education and professionalism are compatible with social morality — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, November 1996, Ottawa

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan speaking at the Aga Khan Foundation Book Launch event held in Ottawa in September 1996. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1996

In early September 1996, Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) was graced by the presence of Princess Zahra, who came to Ottawa to launch a new book, “Speaking Out: Women’s Economic Empowerment in South Asia,” co-published by AKFC and UNIFEM. The event was attended by High Commissioners and diplomatic representatives from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tanzania and Uganda, among others. The book was the result of a research project initiated by AKFC and carried out by a team of women researchers from South Asia.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan with Hugette Labelle, President of Canadian International Development Agency, and Ameer Esmail, Chairman of AKFC National Committe, at the book launch held in Ottawa in November 1996. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1996.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in conversation with (Late) Nazeer Aziz Ladhani, then CEO of AKFC, and M.P. Jean Augustine, at the book launch ceremony held in Ottawa in November 1996. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1996.

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1997 (1): Princess Zahra Aga Khan Attends International Ismaili Women’s Forum in Toronto

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan has refreshments during a break at the agenda filled International Ismaili Women’s Forum held at Eaton Hall in the Greater Toronto region in May 1997. Photograph: Amin Hemraj/Moez Visram via The Ismaili Canada, December 1997.

Eaton Hall, an elegant conference facility in the woodlands of Greater Toronto, was the venue for the International Ismaili Women’s Forum held in May 1997, with the theme Economic Empowerment of Ismaili Women. The 3-day event was sponsored by the International Social Development and Sports Foundation and hosted by the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada.

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1997 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan – a Memorable Photo with Mata Salamat, Om Habibeh Aga Khan (d. July 1, 2000)

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan with Mata Salamat at her civil marriage ceremony in June 1997. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 1997.

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1997 (3): Princess Zahra Aga Khan Inaugurates Karimabad Fitness Centre in Pakistan

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan inaugurates the Karimabad Fitness Centre in Karachi in September 1997. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1998.

In September 1997, Princess Zahra formally inaugurated the Karimabad Fitness Centre in Karachi. Located at the site of the former Karimabad Jamatkhana on Karimabad Housing Colony, the fitness centre was constructed in collaboration with the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan. The goal of the Fitness centre and other similar centres is to provide members of the Jamat and in particular the elderly and women with low cost facilities where they can regularly engage in physical exercise for good health. Much to the delight of the residents of the Karimabad Housing Colony, the Princess proceeded to tour the facilities after formally declaring the Fitness Centre open.

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1998 (1): Princess Zahra Attends Houston Partnership Walk

“Women and Development: A World of Opportunity” was the theme of Houston’s first ever Partnership Walk held on April 5, 1998 at the scenic campus of the University of Houston. More than 16,000 people gathered at the Walk. The Walk was attended by Houston’s Mayor Dr. Lee Brown and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who proclaimed April 5, 1998 as AKF Partnership Walk Day. At the time, Princess Zahra was married to Mark Boyden, who also attended the walk.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Mayor Dr. Lee Brown of Houston and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee open the 1st Houston Aga Khan Foundation USA Partnership Walk on April 5, 1998 under warm sunny skies. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 1998

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1998 (2): Princess Zahra AGA KHAN at International Volunteers Conference in Edmonton

How do you mobilise volunteers? I will again turn to Ismaili tradition for an answer. Amongst Ismailis, it starts early and continues throughout an individual’s life. Young Ismaili children perform volunteer tasks at Jamatkhanas: serving water, collecting and looking after coats, and the like, tasks which require no professional knowledge, but which introduce, at an early age, the ethos of volunteerism. As she or he grows and develops academically and professionally, so do the complexity and performance of the voluntary tasks. For example, in order to protect people from the astronomical costs of litigation, we ask senior lawyers to volunteer their time on Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, in order to help people obtain professional and fair, yet completely free, judgement in commercial and domestic matters. Nowadays, this service is, in many places, used by Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike. In other instances, professionals volunteer their time and skill to bring the benefits of technology to people who might otherwise never be able to afford, or have access to, it. The ethic of service to others, is thus, inculcated early, and works to broaden the individual’s experience in relating harmoniously to the society around him or her. — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, International Volunteers Conference, Edmonton, August 1998.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan gives the keynote speech at the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) world conference held in Edmonton, Alberta, from August 23 to 27, 1998. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1998.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien greets Princess Zahra Aga Khan , flanked by Shiraz Shariff, MLA, and the Honourable Shirley McClellan, Minister of Community Development at the Conference of the International Association for Volunteer Efforts held on August 25, 1998 in Edmonton, Albera. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1998.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan sits in a mini-school class for newly settled children during her visit to Edmonton in August 1998 for her keynote address at the conference of the International Association of Volunteer Efforts. Youngsters in one of the classes she visited greeted Princess Zahra with a touching rendering of “You are the Sunshine of My Life.” Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1998.

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1998 (3): Princess Zahra Aga Khan AT OPENING OF the Madrasa Resource Centre in Kampala

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A view of the Kampala Madrasa Resource centre which was opened by Uganda’s First Lady, Mrs. Janet Museveni, on September 13, 1998 in the presence of Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1999.

The Madrasa Resource Centre in Kampala was officially opened by Uganda’s First Lady, Janet Musevini, in Kampala on September 13, 1998, in the presence of Princess Zahra. The opening was witnessed by over 200 guests representing the government, NGO’s, members of the Ismaili community and local communities as well as agencies of AKDN.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Children from Kampala’s madrasas present handicrafts to Princess Zahra Aga Khan during her visit to Uganda for the opening of the Kampala Madrasa Centre on September 13, 1998. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1999.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan holds discussions with officers of the Madrasa Resource Centre across the region at the opening of the Kampala Resource Centre on September 13, 1998. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1999.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Aga Khan receives a warm welcome from a young girl who presents her with a bouquet of flowers at a function following the inauguration of the Kampala Madrasa Centre on September 13, 1998. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1999.

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2000 OR 2001 Princess Zahra Aga Khan chairs the first global Ismaili youth conference

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan delivers the opening address at the first-ever conference of Ismaili youth from around the world held in Nairobi, Kenya. Date of conference not specified in Ismaili Canada, March 2001. Photograph: Ismaili Canada, March 2001.

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2003 (1): Princess Zahra AGA KHAN Promotes Education and Entrepreneurship in Mozambique and Kenya

MOZAMBIQUE

Over 4 days in March 2003, Princess Zahra witnessed at first-hand, progress on AKDN initiatives in education, health and rural development in Mozambique and Kenya.

In Mozambique, the Princess had formal discussions with Mozambique’s Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi and joined Education Minister Alcido Eduardo Nguenha for the signature of an agreement formalizing the transfer of a 23 -hectare site near Maputo on which the Aga Khan Education Services would build a centre of excellence.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan is received by Mozambique’s Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi in Maputo in March 2003. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, July 2003.

Our hope is to create a world-class academic resource immediately accessible to the youth in Mozambique, to enrich the educational offering for the entire region, and to build unique linkages with academic institutions of renown across the developing and developed worlds — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Mozambique, March 2003, on the proposed Aga Khan Academy in Maputo

Princess Zahra Aga Khan meeting students outside a school on Ibo Island, off the coast of Northern Mozambique on March 14, 2003. During her visit to Mozambique, she recognised the determination of disadvantaged littoral communities and their womenfolk, in particular, to extricate themselves from inherited and seasonal cycles of poverty. An administrative centre dating back to the Portuguese settlement in the 17th century, this almost forgotten town, is one of a number of rural locales visited by Princess Zahra in the course of a two-day visit to Mozambique. Photograph: AKDN/Aziz Islamshah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan visits a partner institution, the Agricultural School at Bilibiza, in Northern Mozambique in March 2003. Photograph: Aziz Islamshah/The Ismaili Canada, July 2002

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KENYA

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan with Mrs. Charity Ngilu, Kenya’s Minister of Health, at the inauguration in March 2003 of the Princess Zahra Pavilion at the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi. Photograph: Alnoor Abdulla/The Ismaili Canada, July 2003.

During her visit to Nairobi, Princess Zahra reminded youth of their stewardship, to leave the world a better place than they found it. Seeking excellence in education, a betterment in a societal sense, promoting lifelong learning, thinking internationally, and having fun permeated Princess Zahra’s formal remarks to the youth. “It matters a lot that we understand each other,” said the Princess.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan enjoys a game of foosball at the Ismaili Youth Centre, Nairobi, in March 2003. Photograph: Zahir Daya/The Ismaili United Kingdom, December 2003.

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2003 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan is appointed to the Aga Khan University’s Board of Trustees

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan is appointed to the Aga Khan University’s Board of Trustees in July 2003. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, July 2003.

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2003 (3): Princess Zahra Aga Khan Gives Keynote Address at the Ismaili Health Professionals Symposium in Atlanta

Today’s Symposium is yet another example of the lifelong humanitarian work this organization [AKDN] continues to do by working to close the healthcare gap between the industrialized and developing nations — Georgia Secretary of State, Honorable Cathy Cox, Atlanta, August 2003

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan delivers her keynote address at the fifth Ismaili Health Professional Association Symposium held in August 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia. It was attended by more than a 1000 people, mainly Ismaili health professionals and their spouses, from all over the USA. There were also many invited guests and faculty from eight countries. Photograph: The Ismaili United Kingdom. March 2004.

In her insightful keynote address to a record, 1000 participants at the 5th annual Ismaili Health Professionals Association Symposium held in Augst 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia, Princess Zahra commended the dedication of participants and inspired them to continue to contribute their diverse skills to assisting under-served populations.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan being conferred with an honorary citizenship of Georgia in August 2003 by the Secretary of State, Honorable Cathy Cox. Photograph: The Ismaili United Kingdom, March 2004.

In her welcome address, Georgia’s Secretary of State, the Honorable Cathy Cox, referred to Princess Zahra as “truly a role model to those of us who seek to serve the public and make the world a better place for global citizens.” She went on to proclaim the Princess as honorary citizen of Georgia and a member of the Goodwill Ambassador Corps. Secretary Cox referred to the Ismaili community as “a model Muslim community that is committed to good citizenship and social and civic causes in Georgia and throughout the globe.”

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2004 (1): Princess Zahra Aga Khan at groundbreaking of the Aga Khan Academy Maputo

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
President Chissano of Mozambique and Princess Zahra Aga Khan look on as Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, addresses dignitaries at the foundation laying ceremony of the Aga Khan Academy Maputo on June 25, 2004. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, December 13, 2004.

On June 25, 2004, Mawlana Hazar Imam and Mozambique’s President Joaquim Chissano laid the foundation stone of the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo. The Aga Khan Academies are part of a planned network of residential schools of the highest international standards, providing pre-primary through to higher secondary education. Princess Zahra accompanied Mawlana Hazar Imam for the event.

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2004 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan attends the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Ceremony in New Delhi

Can architecture be a way of bridging the gap between western and Islamic culture? For most of us, the need to build that bridge is something we’ve only recently become aware of. But someone who has long been trying is the Aga Khan — Robert Campbell, Boston Globe, November 2001.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and her younger brother Prince Hussain meet with Ambassador Masjed Jamai, the Iranian Ambassador to Morocco, at the banquet following the presentations of the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture held at the historic tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in New Delhi. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, March 21, 2005.

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2005: Princess Zahra Aga Khan attends Silver Jubilee anniversary of the Aga Khan University School of Nursing

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan addresses guests at the 25th anniversary of the Aga Khan University School of Nursing held in December 2005 in Karachi, Pakistan. Photograph: The Ismaili USA, March 21, 2006.

The Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing (AKU-SON) is the University’s first academic entity. It began its classes in 1980 with a batch of 39 students. During its 25 years of existence, from 1980 to 2005, the AKU-SON had graduated a total of 2,088 nurses, with 4 Ph.D. nurses in its 64-member faculty. Princess Zahra travelled to attend the silver jubilee commemorative event that took place in December 2005. In her remarks at the event, she said:

“In the past twenty-five years, AKU-SON has truly contributed to the improvement and appreciation of nurses in Pakistan and around the world. In the next twenty-five years, we need to make it easier for women and men to be recognized as professionals and to be socially accepted.”

Noting that nurses were in great demand around the world, and particularly in the wake of the earthquake in Kashmir in October 2005, it was important to acknowledge the contribution that nurses would make in times of disaster and also in the daily life of the nation.

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2006: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN Accepts the 2005 Alcan Prize on Behalf of Aga Khan Building and Planning Services, Pakistan

Princess Zahra Aga Khan receives the 2005 Alcan Prize for Sustainability, in Vancouver on behalf of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS), Pakistan. The award ceremony took place at a gala event held in Vancouver on March 2, 2006. Left to Right : Robert Davies, Managing Director of International Business Leaders Forum, and Travis Engen, President and CEO of Alcan. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Princess Zahra announced that the Alcan prize would be matched with a $US 1 miilion contribution from Aga Khan Foundation Canada in recognition of Canada’s long-standing support for the work of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services Pakistan and of Alcan’s Canadian roots.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan addresses the gathering at the Alcan Prize for Sustainability ceremony held in Vancouver on March 2, 2006 Barakah
Princess Zahra Aga Khan addresses the gathering at the Alcan Prize for Sustainability ceremony held in Vancouver on March 2, 2006. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte.

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2006: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN AT World Habitat Day in Kazan

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan accepts a World Habitat Award in Kazan, Russian Federation on October 4, 2006 on behalf of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Service (AKPBS). AKPBS was cited for its efforts to improve housing conditions in Pakistan through its Building and Construction Improvement Programme.

AKPBS is inspired by His Highness the Aga Khan’s conviction that “a proper home can provide the bridge across that terrible gulf between poverty and a better future”. AKPBS is one of nine agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network whose experience — across 35 countries and several decades — shows that the quality of life — for both urban and rural populations — can be significantly improved: if the endeavour is grounded in communities; if it integrates social, economic and cultural interventions; if it is undertaken with a long-term perspective; and it recognises the value of pluralism — Princess Zahra Aga Khan

Princess Zahra Aga Khan at the Press Conference at the World Habitat Day celebrations in Kazan, 4 October 2006.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan at the Press Conference at the World Habitat Day celebrations in Kazan, October 4, 2006.

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2008: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN With Mawlana Hazar Imam at National University of Ireland

Princess Zahra Aga Khan pictured with her father, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on June 30, 2008, at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, where he was honoured for his work against poverty and in promoting religious understanding. Photograph: © Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images.

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2008: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN at Opening of the Ismaili Centre in Dubai

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, together with his daughter Princess Zahra and son Prince Rahim overlooking the entrance hall of the Ismaili Centre Dubai from the balcony above at the opening ceremony on March 26, 2008 held during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee Year. Photograph Gary Otte/The Ismaili.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prince Rahim look on as Princess Zahra is presented with a gift by the leadership of the UAE Jamat at the Jamati institutional dinner held during the Golden Jubilee visit in 2008 . Photograph: The Ismaili USA, December 13, 2008

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2009 (1): Princess Zahra AGA KHAN At Summit on Chronic Diseases in Kampala

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan speaking at the summit on Chronic Diseases, held February 5-7, 2009 in Kampala, Uganda. Photograph: AKDN/Zahir Rehemtulla.

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2009 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan at opening of Ismaili Centre Dushanbe

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and her brother Prince Hussain arrive at the Ismaili Centre Dushanbe for its opening that was presided by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photograph: Gary Otte/The Ismaili USA, July 11, 2010.

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2010 (1): Princess Zahra Aga Khan At Inaugural Board Meeting of Directors of Global Centre for Pluralism

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
The Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism, Canada’s new international research and education centre dedicated to the study and practice of pluralism worldwide gathered in Ottawa on October 7, 2010 for its inaugural two-day meeting. Chaired by His Highness the Aga Khan, Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the Board is composed of renowned Canadian and international leaders and thinkers. They include The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada and Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Other members are: Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Head of the AKDN’s Social Welfare department, Iain Benson, Canadian lawyer and Professor of Law at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein; Yash Ghai, leading Kenyan constitutional expert; Rudyard Griffiths, co-founder of the Dominion Institute; Huguette Labelle, Chancellor, University of Ottawa; Azim Nanji, Senior Associate Director for the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Stanford University; Margaret Ogilvie, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, Carleton University; and Khalil Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). Photograph: AKDN/Safiq Dewji. Caption: News release, Aga Khan Foundation Canada.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Kofi Annan (d. August 2018, aged 80), former Secretary General of the United Nations, and Princess Zahra Aga Khan listen in during the inaugural board meeting of the Global Centre for Pluralism held in October 2010 in Ottawa. Photograph: AKDN/Denis Drever via The Ismaili Canada, December 2010.

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2010: Princess Zahra Aga Khan signs Memorandum of Understanding with the International Baccalaureate

The agreement is an important step in an already strong relationship we have with the International Baccalaureate not only because it will enable our educational institutions to benefit from the educational philosophy, curriculum expertise and academic excellence associated with the IB, but also because it will be instrumental in bridging cultural divides and traditions — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, October 28, 2010.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Head of AKDN’s Social Welfare Department and Jeff Beard, Director General of the International Baccalaureate, on October 28, 2010 sign the Memorandum of Understanding to improve access to quality education in the developing world. Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Carol Bellamy, Chair of the IB Board of Governors look on. Photograph: AKDN/Brunno Cohen, via The Ismaili Canada, December 2010.

This is a significant development as it will allow IB to extend its reach and draw upon the expertise AKDN has in providing education to students in some of the poorest and most challenging parts of the world — Jeff Beard, October 28, 2010.

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2014 (1): Princess Zahra AGA KHAN Launches Oncology Programme at Aga Khan Hospital IN Dar es Salaam

Princess Zahra Aga Khan meeting with Ms Wema Obillo a registered nurse at the Oncology Department at Aga Khan Hospital Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on January 27, 2014. Photograph: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

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2014 (2): Princess Zahra Aga Khan at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Address to the Canadian Parliament

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
An expression of gratitude and humility by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he accepts a standing ovation at the Canadian Parliament on Thursday February 27, 2014. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen applauding, with Princess Zahra, the daughter of His Highness, and Laureen Ann Harper, the Prime Minister’s wife, standing alongside the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photograph: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

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2014 (3): Princess Zahra Aga Khan in Dar es Salaam and Arusha for Aga Khan University’s Board of Trustees Meeting

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Princess Zahra review the model of the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam and its new regional Heart and Cancer Centre, together with leaders of the AKDN health sector. Photograph: Zahur Ramji/AKDN via The Ismaili USA, December 13, 2014.

In August 2014, Mawlana Hazar Imam, as Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, presided over a week-long meeting of the AKU’s Board of Trustees in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, Tanzania. As noted previously, Princess Zahra was appointed to the AKU Board of Trustees in 2003 and also participated in the meetings. During the visit Mawlana Hazar Imam and Princess Zahra met with the Board of the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam to review the expansion plans for a regional heart and Cancer Centre. This major expansion of the hospital in Dar es Salaam is part of the growing AKDN integrated health systems which include existing and new hospitals in East Africa.

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2016 (1): Princess Zahra Aga Khan Gives a Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 36th Asian Racing Conference in Mumbai

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan addresses the Asia Racing Conference in Mumbai, India on January 25, 2016. Photograph: Ahmed Charania/The Ismaili.

Excerpts from Princess Zahra’s address:

“The horse industry is an important part of the rural economy, employing millions of people around the world in areas of shrinking agricultural production. It supports farms and villages, it provides permanent, year-round employment to riders, lads, farriers, vets, farmers and businesses of all kinds. As my father said, ‘You can look at the horse in human life — in agriculture, in war, or as a vehicle of exploration — for hundreds of years. When you think about it, the horse is one of the most extraordinary phenomena we have’.

“In the late 19th century my great-great-great grandfather was racing horses all over undivided India. He had brought his stock from Persia, where the family had been breeding horses for many generations. Included in those horses in the late 19th century, were Shere Ali, who won the Arab Derby in 1869, Khusroo who won the Winner’s Handicap in 1870, and Maharaj, who won loads of stuff including the Governor’s Cup and the Derby in 1872. In the 20th century my grandfather and great-grandfather also raced their horses throughout India, to win races like the Indian Oaks with Ferial in 1945, four Viceroy’s Cups between 1928 and 1940, seven Eclipse Stakes of India between 1926 and 1956… and in 1922 my great-grandfather bought his foundation mares with Major Hall in Newmarket. Included in those lots was Mumtaz Mahal the “flying filly”, and her blood still runs in the veins of our families today, and in mares like Zafayra and To The Manor Born who are in the Indian Studbook.

“My father, His Highness the Aga Khan, has maintained this family tradition for 55 years, winning an international total of 15 Derbies, 13 Guineas, 7 Prix de Diane, 4 Arcs — but not the Indian Oaks… yet!”

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2016 (2): Princess Zahra at the launching of the Kenya Countdown to 2015 Country Case Study

Kenya has a great opportunity today to build a wonderful health system for women and children that focuses on the continuum of care from village-level provision of primary care to high quality sub-country and country hospitals and then on up to referral and teaching hospitals — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, April 28, 2016

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
From top to bottom: Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta and Princess Zahra Aga Khan prepare to officially launch the Kenya Countdown Case Study report on April 16, 2016; Princess Zahra delivers her remarks; and Princess Zahra bids farewell to Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta after the launch of the Kenya Countdown Report. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, Summer 2016.

On April 28, 2016, the Aga Khan University, Kenya’s Ministry of Health and a group of partners launched the Countdown to 2015 Country Case Study, a landmark study that will help analyze the country’s progress in reducing maternal and child deaths. The findings will guide efforts to accelerate improvements in maternal and child health and achieve Sustainable Development Goals new targets by 2030. Princess Zhara and Kenya’s First Lady Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta attended the launch. Kenya was one of 10 countries selected for the Study.

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2016 (3): Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim AGA KHAN Inaugurate Health Centre in Gilgit

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Rahim Aga Khan inaugurate the Aga Khan Medical Centre in Gilgit, Pakistan, on May 24, 2016. Photograph: Pamir Times via AKDN.

When my father visited [Northern Pakistan] in the 1960s, he went in on a donkey. The state provided education for boys — and so the AKDN offered education for girls, and very successfully, in many ways. Literacy reached 100 percent. Even the schoolhouses themselves benefited the larger community: Built to a high standard of earthquake-proofing, they could serve as shelters in emergencies — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, in “homecoming” interview, Harvard Gazette, May 13, 2008

Princess Zahra Aga Khan being presented with a bouquet of flowers during her visit to Gilgit, Pakistan, on May 24, 2016. Photograph: Pamir Times via AKDN.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Rahim Aga Khan (partially visible) with a staff member of the Aga Khan University’s Professional Development Centre North during their visit to Gilgit, Pakistan, on May 24, 2016. Photograph: AKDN/Rafiq Hakim.

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2016 (4): Princess Zahra Aga Khan At Launch of 2nd Phase of Aga Khan Hospital Construction in Dar es Salaam

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Chair of the Aga Khan Health Services Board Executive Committee and Tanzania’s Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Honourable Madam Ummy Ally Mwalimu officially launch Phase 2 construction of the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 23, 2016. Photograph: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

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2017 (1): Princess Zahra Aga Khan inaugurates the new Bamyan Hospital in Afghanistan

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
His Excellency the Second Vice President of Afghanistan Sarwar Danesh and Princess Zahra Aga Khan unveil a plaque at the inauguration of the Bamyan Provincial Hospital. Photograph: AKDN/Muslim Khuram

The then Second Vice President of Afghanistan, Sarwar Danesh, and Princess Zahra Aga Khan inaugurated a US $22.8 million state of the art hospital on April 24, 2017 to serve the people of Bamyan. The state-of-the-art 141-bed facility places particular emphasis on the needs of women and children and represents a new chapter for the Bamyan Provincial Hospital.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
The construction of the new Bamyan Hospital in Afghanistan was funded by the Government of Canada (US $17 million), the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (US $3.2 million) and the Government of France (US $2.3 million). Photograph: AKDN/Sameer Dossa

The Aga Khan Development Network has been committed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the beginning of this century, having channelled close to a billion dollars towards the country’s development.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah.
On April 24, 2017, Princess Zahra and the then second vice president of Afghanistan, Sarwar Danesh, inaugurated the new Bamyan Hospital. The new hospital has strong Canadian links. The Government of Canada invested $23 million, to construct the facility and individual Canadians contributed $4.3 million through Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Gold Tournaments. In addition the Government of France provided $3 million. Photograph: The IIsmaili Canada, Summer 2017.

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2017 (2): Princess Zahra AGA KHAN Opens New State-of-the-Art Laboratory and Low-Cost in-Patient Unit at Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan opens new State-of-the-Art Laboratory and Low Cost Inpatient Unit at Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on June 8, 2017. Photograph: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

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2017 (3): Princess Zahra at Inauguration of Aga Khan Hospital’s Latest Cardiology Technology in Mombasa

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan looks on as Her Excellency the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, cuts the ribbon on June 9, 2017 to inaugurate the latest technology in cardiology at the Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya.
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Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, share a light moment during the signing of the guest book following the inauguration on June 9, 2017 of the latest technology in cardiology at the Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa.

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2017 (4): Princess Zahra AGA KHAN Accompanies Mawlana Hazar Imam for His Diamond Jubilee Visit to Pakistan

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan is presented with a bouquet of flowers upon arrival with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the official residence and workplace of the President of Pakistan, on December 8, 2017. Photograph: The Ismaili/ Akbar Hakim.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan speaks at the institutional dinner during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan in December 2017. Photograph: The Ismaili/ Akbar Hakim.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in a group photo with musicians and dancers who performed at the institutional dinner during Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan in December 2017. Photograph: The Ismaili/ Akbar Hakim

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2018: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in lisbon

Princess Zahra has truly been an inspiration to the Jamat with the work she has done for Mawlana Hazar Imam, and for her devotion to the Imamat and the Jamat. She accompanied Mawlana Hazar Imam on many visits during the Golden Jubilee Year from July 2007 until December 2008, and her devotion, care, and concern for her beloved father was noted by all of us. Her presence during the Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon in July 2018 added immense joy and happiness during the historical occasion.

Presidential Palace Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Lisbon Barakah
From left to right: Prince Aly Muhammad, Princess Zahra, Prince Hussain, Princess Salwa, Prince Rahim, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Prince Amyn, and Princess Zahra’s children Miss Sara Boyden and Master Iliyan Boyden pose for a photo at the state dinner during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon in July 2018. Photograph: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim.

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2019: Princess Zahra Aga Khan Receives Huffington Award

We were so humbled to honour Princess Zahra, and it was an inspiration to hear about the many projects in healthcare and education that she and the Aga Khan Development Network have spearheaded globally. Through her work, Princess Zahra is building hope and trust in a world where both are greatly needed. — Bonna Kol, President of Asia Society Texas Center.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan Birthday Tribute, Barakah., Malik Merchant
Princess Zahra Aga Khan receives the Roy M. Huffington Award from President Bonna Kol and honorary co-chair & board member Nancy C. Allen in recognition of her work, through the Aga Khan Development Network, advancing healthcare and education. The award is the highest honour bestowed by the Asia Society Texas Center recognising leaders who are a major force on the international stage. Princess Zahra Aga Khan was honoured for her outstanding contributions that have furthered international understanding, uplifted lives, and advanced health and education.

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2019: Princess Zahra AGA KHAN Visits Canada for the Pluralism Award

Aga Khan arrives in Ottawa for 2019 Global Pluralism Award
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and his daughter Princess Zahra are welcomed to Ottawa by Ameerally Kassim-Lakha, President of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada, on behalf of the Canadian Jamat, as they arrive for the presentation of the Global Centre for Pluralism Award Ceremony held in Ottawa on November 20, 2019 at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building. Photograph: The Ismaili/Mo Govindji.
2019 Global Centre for Pluralism
Princess Zahra Aga Khan congratulates 2019 Global Pluralism Award Winner, Ghana’s Deborah Ahenkorah, at the Award ceremony held in Ottawa on November 20, 2019, as Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Meredith Preston McGhie, the Global Centre for Pluralism’s Secretary General look on. The other two award winners were The “Learning history that is not yet history” Team from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia and Center for Social Integrity from Myanmar. Photo: Global Centre for Pluralism.

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2021: NEW WING AT AGA KHAN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL IN KARACHI is named Princess Zahra Pavilion

Like all members of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family Princess Zahra works silently and effectively. It was therefore with deep happiness that we, as a Jamat, learnt that a state-of-the-art wing at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi was renamed recently as the Princess Zahra Pavilion.

Princess Zahra Pavilion Barakah
Aga Khan University Hospital’s new Private Wing complex, named as the Princess Zahra Pavilion, has been designed to provide peace and tranquility to patients and their families. Photograph: The Ismaili.

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FEBRUARY 4, 2022: PRINCESS ZAHRA AGA KHAN JOINS MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM IN MEETING WITH PRESIDENT OF PORTUGAL

Aga Khan, Princess Zahara, Sara Boyden and Portuga;s President
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa met in Lisbon on February 4, 2022. Mawlana Hazar Imam was joined at the meeting by Princess Zahra and her daughter Miss Sara Boyden. During their meeting, Mawlana Hazar Imam and President Marcelo spoke about several matters of mutual interest, including the presence and activities of the Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network in Portugal, Portuguese-speaking countries, and around the world. Photograph: Fernando Costa/IPL via the Ismaili.

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FEBRUARY 26, 2022: PRINCESS ZAHRA AGA KHAN PRAISES AGA KHAN UNIVERSITY GRADUATES FOR RESILIENCE DURING THE PANDEMIC

AKU Convocation, Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Barakah
Princess Zahra Aga Khan delivering her remarks at the Aga Khan University Convocation that was live-streamed around the world. Princess Zahra attended in person at the convocation held in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday, February 26, 2022. Simultaneous ceremonies were also held at the AKU campuses in Uganda, Tanzania and Pakistan. Photograph: Clipped from live coverage.

More than 660 students in Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda graduated from the Aga Khan University (AKU) in a live-streamed Global Convocation Ceremony that was watched by viewers around the world. The ceremony in Nairobi was attended in-person by Princess Zahra Aga Khan and saw the University commit to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2030. Climate scientist, author and activist Dr Peter Kalmus addressed the convocation as its chief guest. The Global Convocation Ceremony also featured the inauguration of President Sulaiman Shahabuddin, who became the third president in AKU’s 39-year history. 

President Sulaiman Shahabuddin receives a medal of authority from Princess Zahra Aga Khan as he is officially inaugurated as the third President of the Aga Khan University in a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya, on February 26, 2022. Photograph: Clipped from live coverage.

Speaking on behalf of the University’s Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, Princess Zahra Aga Khan praised the graduates for the resilience and agility they demonstrated throughout the pandemic and highlighted AKU’s contributions to the countries it serves. 

“Globally, AKU has educated 18,000 individuals,” Princess Zahra said. “It cares for more than 2 million patients every year from internationally accredited hospitals and was recently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world in public health. It also serves as a trusted advisor to government and is a powerful advocate for pluralism and women’s empowerment. During the pandemic, the value of the University’s capacity for cutting-edge inquiry has never been clearer.”

Addressing the members of the Class of 2021 in all four countries, Princess Zahra said: “No AKU class has worked harder for this moment than you have. The last two years challenged you with lockdowns, quarantines and isolation. In the years to come, you will always be able to look back and draw strength from your achievements during this momentous period.”

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March 30, 2022: Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Hussain Welcome President of Greece as She Meets Refugees at Ismaili Centre Lisbon

Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Prince Hussain and President of Greece at Ismaili Centre Lisbon, Barakah.com
Princess Zahra Aga Khan, her brother Prince Hussain, and Nazim Ahmad welcome Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, to the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, on March 30, 2022. Photograph: IPL/Luis Filipe Catarin

Ms. Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the first woman to be elected President of Greece, visited the Ismaili Centre Lisbon on March 30, 2022 and met with refugee families who have arrived in Portugal from Greece in recent months. Princess Zahra Aga Khan and her brother Prince Hussain received the President on her arrival. Hundreds of refugees have arrived in Portugal from Greece. One of the refugees the President met was 13-year-old Arezu Kabuli from Afghanistan who has been awarded a scholarship to study at the International School of Boston, starting autumn 2022. In recent years, the government of Portugal has prioritised the reception and integration of refugees, and works with local authorities and civil society in a continuous effort to support this commitment. 

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April 11, 2022: Princess Zahra Aga Khan in Dar es Salaam for New Cancer Treatment Centre

The Citizen Tanzania reports that the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has officially launched the construction of its state-of-the-art Cancer Treatment Centre. The Tanzanian Health minister Ummy Mwalimu and Princess Zahra Aga Khan laid the foundation stone for the Cancer Centre.

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April 21, 2022: Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Hussain Attend Iftar Dinner at Ismaili Centre Lisbon

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Hussain at Itfar Ismaili Centre Lisbon, Barakah.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan in conversation with Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as Prince Hussain looks on at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, on 21 April 2022. Photograph: JORGE SIMÃO/IPL.

On April 21, 2022, the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon hosted an Iftar dinner at which least 12 different religious traditions were represented, including attendees from the Muslim community in Lisbon, the Hindu community, the Buddhist Union, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Religious Freedom Commission. Diplomats from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and the European Union were also present. The president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was also present along with Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Hussain. Iftar is the meal served to bring people together at the end of a day of fasting during the month of Ramadan. Guests enjoyed an eclectic Iftar dinner — itself a celebration of culture and pluralism — featuring a mix of dishes from South Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. “Gatherings such as this one, of unity and understanding, are needed now more than ever,” remarked Nazim Ahmad, Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to Portugal.

The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Princess Zahra Aga Khan, and Nazim Ahmed, Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to Portugal at the Ismaili Centre Lisbon for the Itfar dinner, April 21, 2022. Photo: © Miguel Figueiredo Lopez/Presidency of the Republic of Portugal.
The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is joined by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Prince Hussain and Ismaili leaders at the Iftar dinner held at the Ismaili Centre Lisbon on April 21, 2022. Photograph: © Miguel Figueiredo Lopes/Presidency of the Republic of Portugal.

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June 18, 2022: Princess Zahra Aga Khan Conveys Special Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam at the University of Central Asia’s 2022 Graduation Ceremonies

Princess Zahra Aga Khan University of Central Asia Graduation Ceremony
Princess Zahra Aga Khan speaking remotely to the 2022 graduates of the University of Central Asia. Photograph: Clip from video of the speech, AKDN.

On June 18 2022, amid the majestic mountains of the Pamirs and Tien Shan, the graduation ceremonies at the two University of Central Asia (UCA) campuses at Naryn and Khorog brought together parents, faculty and many distinguished guests who came to congratulate the students for their academic achievements and promises of successes yet to come. On behalf of the Chancellor, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Princess Zahra Aga Khan, who is also a trustee of UCA, conveyed a special message of congratulations. The message concluded as follows:

“As you continue your professional journey, our hopes and aspirations go with you. Ultimately, UCA’s success will be measured by the success of its graduates. No effort has been spared to provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable you to thrive in a rapidly changing world, and it is our dearest hope that you will underpin your professional growth with the values of pluralism, pluralism, responsible citizenship, and ethical leadership.”

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July 11, 2022: Mawlana Hazar Imam Celebrates Imamat Day with His Family

Aga Khan with members of his family Lisbon July 11 2022 Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with his younger brother Prince Amyn, and children, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain, and Prince Aly Muhammad, on Imamat Day, 11 July 2022. Photograph: Fernando Costa/IPL via The Ismaili.

Date posted: September 18, 2022.
Last updated: September 23, 2022, 05:00 EDT (see last update below)

The following events have been inserted since the piece was first posted September 18, 2022:

1970-1981: Photographs of Princess Zahra in childhood;
2000-2001: Princess Zahra at first-ever world Ismaili youth conference;
1994: Princess Zahra at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s MIT Commencement address;
2004: Princess Zahra at Foundation Ceremony of Aga Khan Academy Maputo;
2005: Princess Zahra at 25th anniversary of the Aga Khan University School of Nursing, and
1997: Prince Zahra attends International Ismaili Women’s Forum

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FEEDBACK

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. Barakah’s editor Malik can be reached via email at mmerchant@barakah.com.

VISIT BARAKAH’S SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website visit our please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents or the Home Page for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

ABOUT MALIK MERCHANT – PUBLISHER/EDITOR OF BARAKAH

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Barakah (2007) and its two sister websites Simergphotos (2012) and Simerg (2009). An IT consultant for 40 years in the UK, USA and Canada, he now engages in small family related projects and is passionate about his websites. His interest in literature and community publications began in his childhood years through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. May 2017, aged 89) and Malek Merchant (d. January 2021, also 89), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time, His Highness the Aga Khan, as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited the flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm, with his father. The internet encouraged him to launch his first website, Simerg, in 2009. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he relocated to Alberta in January 2022. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant who practices as a vet. Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@barakah.com. Please follow him @twitter and @facebook.

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We plan to add more items to the following reading list that was prepared for the original post about a year ago.

  1. AKDN: 1998 Princess Zahra on volunteerism in the New Millenium
  2. AKDN: 2003 Princess Zahra Aga Khan promotes rural entrepreneurship and education in Mozambique
  3. AKDN: 2005 Alcan Award Prize awarded to AKPBS
  4. Harvard Gazette: 2008 Princess Zahra outlines the work of Aga Khan Development Network
  5. AKDN: 2009 Aga Khan University hosts Summit on Chronic Diseases in Kampala
  6. AKDN: 2014 Launch of the Oncology Programme of the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam
  7. Pamir Times: 2016 New Aga Khan Medical Centre Helps Strengthen Pakistan’s Health System
  8. AKDN: 2016 New Aga Khan Medical Centre helps strengthen Pakistan’s health system
  9. AKDN: 2017 Aga Khan Hospital opens new state-of-the-art laboratory and low cost inpatient unit
  10. Barakah: 2019 Photos and Report: Asia Society Texas Center Honors Princess Zahra Aga Khan with annual Huffington Awardhe Ismaili: 2021 Princess Zahra Pavilion offers world-class care and a welcoming oasis

Also, see links to pieces on Princess Zahra Aga Khan at AKDN by clicking HERE.

7 comments

  1. Truly a brilliantly researched piece, Malik. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it all. A beautiful dedication for Princess Zahra’s birthday.

    Like

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed going through this enlightening presentation marking Princess Zahra’s 52nd birthday. Your painstaking effort to create this beautifully readable document deserves commendation.Thank you Malik Merchant.

    Like

  3. This is truly a phenomenal effort on the part of Barakah to present to all extensive details and the wonderful pictures from around the world on the auspicious 52nd birthday of our beloved Princess Zahra. 

    At the outset we pray that may our beloved Princess Zahra enjoy a long healthy life with continuous service to the Imam, the Jamat and humanity at large. Ameen.  Princess Zahra’s life illustrates many tangible parts of our lives and also demonstrates the ethics and values of Islam regarding many aspects of life including most importantly “unity within the family and the Ummah”.

    Coincidentally, in some of the pictures I was pleased to identify local, national and international leaders whom I have known and, in some cases, worked with for the past almost 7 decades of my service to the Jamat and our most beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Shukhar Alhamdulillah!

    I cannot end without paying our indebtedness and gratitude for the continuous very well thought thorough posts to Malik Merchant.  Our prayers for your good health. Ameen.

    Kamrudin A. Rashid
    Toronto, Ontario,
    Canada
    September 18 2022.

    Like

  4. Wonderful photographs of our Beloved Princess Zahra and Noorani Family.

    On behalf of the Global Jamaat Wishing our Beloved Princess Zahra a very Happy, Healthy, Joyous and Peaceful Birthday. May our beloved Princess be blessed with a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful Long Life. Ameen. May Princess be blessed with success in her endeavors, Ameen

    May Hazar Imam and Noorani Family be blessed with Long, Happy, Healthy and Peaceful Lives. Ameen Ameen. Shukhar Mowla

    Like

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