The background to this initiative is very simple. The background is to illustrate to the peoples of our world the history of the civilisations of the Ummah. We don’t do enough to illustrate to the peoples of our world the greatness of the Islamic civilisations, of the cultures of the past. And because they don’t know, they don’t know our history, they don’t know our literature, they don’t know our philosophy, they don’t know the physical environment in which our countries have lived. They view the Ummah in terminology which is completely wrong. And I personally feel that this is a matter of the greatest importance.

Your Excellency The Prime Minister,
Your Excellency The Minister for Culture,
Your Excellency The Minister for Tourism,
Your Excellency The Chief of The Baath Party in Aleppo,
Your Excellency The Governor and the Mayor of Aleppo,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to begin these short comments by saying how deeply happy I am to be back in Aleppo on this occasion and to be able to welcome you to some work which the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has completed and to welcome you to some new projects which we hope to bring forwards.

The background to this initiative is very simple. The background is to illustrate to the peoples of our world the history of the civilisations of the Ummah. We don’t do enough to illustrate to the peoples of our world the greatness of the Islamic civilisations, of the cultures of the past. And because they don’t know, they don’t know our history, they don’t know our literature, they don’t know our philosophy, they don’t know the physical environment in which our countries have lived. They view the Ummah in terminology which is completely wrong. And I personally feel that this is a matter of the greatest importance.

I am only one individual, but I hope that there will be thousands of other people who will join me in recognising that we have to be proud, we have to be illustrative, we have to articulate the greatness of our histories…. And my interest in working in Syria is to take the various lead countries of the Ummah and say, let’s start, let’s move together, let’s revive our cultures so that modernity is not only seen in the terminology of the West, but modernity is seen in the intelligent use of our past …

And I am only one individual, but I hope that there will be thousands of other people who will join me in recognising that we have to be proud, we have to be illustrative, we have to articulate the greatness of our histories. And within that greatness, Syria has a unique position. Nobody who knows the history of the Ummah can ignore the role that Syria has played in that history.

And my interest in working in Syria is to take the various lead countries of the Ummah and say, let’s start, let’s move together, let’s revive our cultures so that modernity is not only seen in the terminology of the West, but modernity is seen in the intelligent use of our past, re-giving to our cultures the vivacity, the role in society which they should have. And I feel most privileged that the President, the Government of Syria, have given the Aga Khan Trust for Culture the opportunity to contribute to this small work.

And we, In’sha’Allah, will continue to do this, we will continue in sub-Saharan Africa where the mud architecture is some of the greatest architecture in the world. We will continue in the Middle East, here in Syria and elsewhere. We will continue in the Karakorum, in the Pamir, the Silk Route, and we will link, In’sha’Allah, the Silk Route that came through Syria all the way through the highest mountains of our world where the imprints of our history is there and we will revive it.

So I want to simply to say that what we are doing in Syria is simply a small part of what needs to be done. UNESCO has classified the hundred most important cities in the world. More than one-third of those one hundred cities around the world are within the Ummah. We mustn’t forget that.

Thank you Prime Minister, thank you your Excellency Minister for Culture, Minister for Tourism, for giving us this opportunity to try to revive our own, great traditions.

Thank you.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

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