There were lustrous ceramics, shimmering skeins of silk, finely carved ivory, illuminated texts and all the latest medical instruments. Lavishly paraded through the streets of 10th-century Cairo, the Fatimid caliphs used the public display of royal bounty to help cement their new capital as the most important cultural centre of the Islamic world.
Masters of stagecraft and the symbolic power of art, they developed a culture of exhibiting private treasures in public long before museums began in the west.
By Oliver Wainwright for theguardian.com
Now, 1,000 years later, one of their descendants is continuing the tradition – in a business park on the edge of Toronto.
With faceted white walls that gleam in the afternoon sun and strange crystalline domes poking up above the trees, the new $300m (£168m) Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre are startling additions to this stretch of suburban North America, at the roaring junction of two six-lane expressways.
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