This new Centre is itself a profoundly spiritual place. Its defining symbolism is inspired by the Fatimid tradition – stretching back over 1000 years …
… this building exists fundamentally as a place for peaceful contemplation …
It is not a place to hide from the world, but rather a place which inspires us to engage our worldly work as a direct extension of our faith.
– Mawlana Hazar Imama at the Inauguration of the Ismaili Centre, Dubai, Wednesday, March 26, 2008
On March 26, 2008, Mawlana Hazar Imam officially opened the Ismaili Centre, Dubai in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, senior members of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates. Hazar Imam was accompanied at the ceremony by Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim.
The Ismaili Centre, Dubai is built on land that was donated by the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, on the occasion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee in 1982. It is the fourth such institution in the world and the first in the Middle East.
The Ismaili Centre is a domed structure inspired by the Fatimid architecture of old Egypt and Syria that is infused by the spirit of Islam. The Centre was erected with the use of traditional materials and craftsmanship. Its seven domes were built in brick and wood by Kashmiri masons equipped with increasingly rare traditional construction skills.
The Foundation Ceremony took place on 13 December 2003 in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam and His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Deputy Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and President of the Department of Civil Aviation, who represented Sheikh Mohammaed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
The building is built primarily in Aleppo limestone, practically each piece being precision cut before assembly. From the brickwork in the domes, the marble interiors and tiles inlaid in the water channels, to the carved, shaped or assembled hardwood floors, fittings and furnishings, the range and placement of materials testify to rare artisanal detail and celebrate a sharing of talent. The largest exterior feature within the Ismaili Centre is a courtyard with a takhtabosh (loggia) along one side providing both shade and seating. A separate wing comprises meeting rooms, classrooms and recreational areas including a small courtyard. On the ground floor is the Early Childhood Learning Centre operated by the Aga Khan Education Services.
In his address at the opening ceremony, Mawlana Hazar Imam reflected on Dubai’s vision for the future in keeping with Islamic traditions of search for knowledge and contributing to the betterment of humanity. It is in this shared spirit that the construction and development of the Centre advanced.
“The Dubai ethic is one that honours a generous exchange of knowledge and ideas, that welcomes the opportunity to learn from others, that celebrates not only our historic identities but also our open horizons.
This ethic of exploration and interconnectedness is one that is deeply shared by the Ismaili community. It is an ethic, in fact, that is firmly rooted in our faith – a value system which grows from deeply spiritual roots. It understands that human diversity is itself a gift of Allah – that pluralism is not a threat but a blessing. It sees the desire to explore and connect as a way to learn and grow – not to dilute our identities but to enrich our self-knowledge. This ethic emanates ultimately from a relationship to the Divine which inspires a deep sense of personal humility – and a relationship to humankind which is infused with a spirit of generous service and mutual respect.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam emphasized the role of the Centre:
“…this building exists fundamentally as a place for peaceful contemplation, but one that is set in a social context. It is not a place to hide from the world, but rather a place which inspires us to engage our worldly work as a direct extension of our faith.”
Read full speech at http://www.theismaili.org/ismailicentres/speech-opening-ceremony-dubai
Research by Nimira Dewji
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