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Updated: October 11, 2009
Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Inauguration Ceremony of Khorog Park - October 10, 2009
Your Excellency, First Deputy Prime Minister, Asadullo Gulomov
Your Excellency, Chairman of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Qodiri Qosim
Your Excellency, Governor of Afghan Badakhshan, Alhaj Bazmuhammad Ahmadi
Today’s inaugural ceremony marks the culmination of a wonderful process - stretching back over more than a decade.
I am honored and humbled to remember that the site where we meet today was graciously presented to me by the then Chairman on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of my Imamat. Then, some five years ago, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began a rich and productive conversation about this site with the people of Khorog. We talked about how we might create a new and upgraded park in this place - what it would try to do - how it might be used – and what it should ideally look like.
Those conversations quickly fixed on one central goal: to offer all those who would enter here a place for personal reflection, for genuine relaxation, and for deep renewal. Our objective from the start was to ensure that this would always be a tranquil green space - serving all of the people who live in Khorog - and all of those who visit this city.
The development of Khorog City Park has been a cooperative response in many respects. Access to green spaces is clearly an important value for the residents of Khorog. Our vision for the Park is that visitors will truly think of the time they spend here as “quality time” - in the fullest sense of that word - moments in their lives during which their spirits will be deeply enriched, hours filled with experiences that they will both enjoy and remember as times of blessing.
That will happen in part because of the music and dance and other cultural events that will be presented here - especially in the new open-air theatre. It will happen in part because of the group discussions and lively conversations that will take place here - and the children who will play here - swimming in the summer, for example, and skating in the winter. It will happen in part because of the great celebrations that will take place here - including holiday ceremonies and festivals. And it will also happen because this will be a wonderful setting for individual reflection and contemplation - inspired by the beauty of this place - including the sounds and the sight of running water - in itself a mysterious, ever-changing and always-inspiring natural force. We see Khorog Park as a place of continuity - playing an intimate role from the earliest weeks of a child’s life until that child grows to become a grown-up with his or her own family. And we also see it as a place of change - a park for all seasons of the annual calendar - transforming itself to capture the particular beauty of each particular time of the year.
The Park is not only a place of beauty to be enjoyed by many generations of future citizens and visitors to Khorog, it is also one of the earliest symbols of the processes of change for which I hope and pray in this region. As one example of this process, and in close collaboration with the Governments of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, we took the decision to build a new university to serve the high mountain peoples of these three countries and the region more generally. Toward that end, we are pleased that work is progressing on creating the Tajik campus of this university here in Khorog.
In addition, the amazing beauty of this area of the Pamirs, along with the presence of the university, will surely attract more and more visitors to come to this city in the future. In order to address this new development, we are planning, in collaboration with the central Government and the Government of the Oblast, significantly to enhance the capabilities of Khorog airport, so that regular air transport can become a normal feature for those who wish to visit.
The new patterns of visitation will also require new residential capacities, and it is our intention to build a new quality hotel in Khorog while also encouraging the construction of other hotels and leisure facilities, such as restaurants.
You may also know that the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has recently completed a comprehensive town planning report to present to your government - and is preparing now for the second stage of that planning exercise.
I mention all of these initiatives to give the peoples of Badakhshan, both from here and from across the river, a sense of confidence that there will be new opportunities in the years ahead to benefit from an improved quality of life, to find stable and remunerative employment, to have access to quality education and health care.
Throughout this part of the world, one reflection of how the natural environment is revered and hallowed has been the importance accorded to Green Spaces, like the one we celebrate today. This quality has been a central part of Tajik and Central Asian culture - down through the centuries. I recall, for example, how the poet Saeb Tabrizi, wrote about beautiful gardens, in any season - and in every season – saying that they are places where even “the morning dew awaits with expectant eyes and heart.”
It is indeed with “expectant eyes and heart” that all of us gather here today to inaugurate on an official basis, the Khorog City Park. It is in that spirit that I join with you in celebrating the contribution which the Park will make to the quality of life in this community - for many years and many decades to come.
Speech and photos source: AKDN
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