Dara to Rule the British Stage

Dara Shikuh

For the first time in the history of Pakistani theatre, a stage play has been adapted by a British production team and will open at the National Theatre in London on January 20, [2015]. Originally written by acclaimed playwright Shahid Nadeem, Dara has been commissioned by National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hynter, directed by associate director Nadia Fall and adapted by Tanya Ronder.  The cast members are well-known British actors, many of them of South Asian origin.

Read More: Dara to Rule the British Stage

Restoration Under Way on Qusayr ’Amra Wall Paintings

Quseir Amra

Around 26% of the 380 sq. m wall paintings at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Qusayr ’Amra in Jordan have been restored by the Italian Higher Institute of Conservation and Restoration, in collaboration with the World Monuments Fund (WMF) and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. A campaign to conserve the exterior and decorations of the eighth-century Umayyad palace, which contains exceptional examples of early Islamic art, was launched in 2008 after its inclusion on the WMF Watch list.

Read More: Restoration Under Way on Qusayr ‘Amra Wall Paintings

In Search of Harmony

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Eighteen years in the planning, the $300m Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre complex in Toronto consists of two important buildings by octogenarian master architects – Japan’s Fumihiko Maki for the museum and India’s Charles Correa for the centre – in a new city park by Lebanon-based landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. Exhibition design is by Adrien Gardère from Paris, so this is all as international as could be. The aim is to celebrate the artistic, intellectual and scientific achievements of Muslim societies from ancient times to the present, and to serve the Ismaili community of the area.

Read More: In Search of Harmony

See also: The Aga Khan Museum: Faith Healer

Chausath Khamba Tomb Reopens After Four Years of Painstaking Work

Chausath Khamba

With Sufi singers singing Amir Khusro’s tunes in the backdrop, Mirza Aziz Koka’s restored tomb was opened to the public after four years of work. Better known as Chausath Khamba for its 64 pillars, the marble structure stands close to the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s dargah and Mirza Ghalib’s mausoleum. Over three centuries of damage had caused the monument to lose its shine until the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Archaeological Survey of India joined hands with the German Embassy for its restoration.

Read More: Chausath Khamba Tomb Reopens After Four Years of Painstaking Work

Alamut Fortress to be Registered in World Heritage Site


Alamut fortress is a magnificent and well-insulated castle northeast of Gazerkhan village built on a massive rock in an altitude of 2100 meters above sea level and leads to horribly stiff cliffs. Historian and geographer Hamdollah Mostofi wrote that the fortress was founded by da’i Hassan ibn Zeid al-Baqeri in 226 AH, and in the night of Rajab 6, 483 AH (September 10, 1090 AD) was overtaken by Hassan Sabbah, and now it is called Alamut or Hassan Sabbah fortress.

Read More: Alamut Fortress to be Registered in World Heritage Site

The Aga Khan Museum: Faith Healer

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The Aga Khan Museum is glistening confidently, almost defiantly, beneath overcast skies when monocle visits. Opened in September on the outskirts of Toronto, it is North America’s first repository of artworks and artefacts from the Muslim world. The Aga Khan, the France-based spiritual leader of an estimated 15 million Ismaili Muslims, conceived the project 20 years ago. “The objective is to educate the world not through the formal language of textbooks but through the language of objects, which have emotional impact on both young and old,” says Luis Monreal, general manager of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Read More: The Aga Khan Museum: Faith Healer

See also: The Aga Khan Museum: The Riches of the Islamic World

Preserving Heritage: Walled City of Lahore Authority Gets Rs770 Million for Royal Trail Restoration

Walled City of Lahore

The Punjab government on Monday provided Rs770 million to the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) to restore buildings located on the Royal Trail. The area includes Kotwali to Masti Gate through Chuna Mandi Chowk and Moti Bazaar and Purani Kotwali Chowk to Sonehri Mosque via Dabbi Bazaar. The funds were approved by the Planning and Development Department chairman. Rs667 million has been provided for infrastructure development and Rs103 million for facade improvement.

Read More: Walled City of Lahore Gets Rs770 Million for Royal Trail Restoration

In New Delhi, It’s Back to the Future for a Star Architect

Ratish Nanda 2

It’s amazing how the accident of life can turn a career — and in this case, perhaps reshape the way a city of more than 16 million looks at both its ruins and some of its future buildings. In the case of Ratish Nanda, it happened when a professor at a New Delhi college asked him and other students to write a paper on urban villages near their homes. During his research, Nanda discovered that he was living amid the ruins of a dynasty but didn’t know it.

Read More: In New Delhi, It’s Back to the Future for a Star Architect

The Aga Khan Museum: The Riches of the Islamic World

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The low-slung, white-granite Aga Khan Museum in north-east Toronto shimmers through the autumn leaves. On first view the newly opened 17-acre site seems like an image out of a desert dream. It has a garden with five reflecting pools, as well as a dramatic, glass-domed prayer hall and a community centre for local Shia Ismaili Muslims. (The Aga Khan is spiritual leader and adviser to the world’s 20m Ismailis.) This 21st-century evocation of the Muslim East — an unexpected sight in a city that gets covered in snow for months each year — makes a fantastical introduction to a museum of Islamic arts.

Read More: The Aga Khan Museum: The Riches of the Islamic World

See also: First Muslim Art Museum in North America Aims to Create Better Understanding of Islam

The Blossoming Talent Behind the Floral Mosaics of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Beds of dark-pink bougainvillea provide the only accent in the formal gardens that envelop the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a near-monochrome landscape that’s as restrained as it is green. Featuring hedges of clipped Indian privet (Clerodendron inerme) and Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens) as well as date palms and fragrant frangipani (Plumeria obtusa), the gardens form a buffer that helps to calm tourists and worshippers alike, while filtering out the roar of nearby traffic with the sound of fountains and ­birdsong.

Read More: The Blossoming Talent Behind the Floral Mosaics of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Mecca Under Threat: Outrage at Plan to Destroy the ‘Birthplace’ of the Prophet Mohamed and Replace It With a New Palace and Luxury Malls

Mecca under threat

The site in Mecca where the Prophet Mohamed is said to have been born is about to be “buried under marble” and replaced by a huge royal palace. The work is part of a multibillion-pound construction project in the holy city which has already resulted in the destruction of hundreds of historic monuments. The project, which began several years ago, aims to expand the al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, to cater for the millions of pilgrims who make their way to the holy city each year for the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are obliged to make at least once.

Read More: Mecca Under Threat

See also: As the Hajj Begins, the Destruction of Mecca’s Heritage Continues

World’s Richest Art Collector Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar Dies Suddenly

Sheikh Saud Al Thani

A Qatari royal hailed as one of the most powerful men in art after spending more than $1bn creating a collection to rival the great European galleries has died suddenly in London aged just 48. Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani, a former Qatari culture minister and cousin of the current ruler of the oil-rich Arab state, passed away at his residence in the capital on Sunday. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Read More: World’s Richest Art Collector Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar Dies Suddenly

First Muslim Art Museum in North America Aims to Create Better Understanding of Islam

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One of the world’s most unique art collections, curated by Muslim royalty, opened recently not in Dubai, Tehran, London or even Paris — but just over the border in Toronto. The Canadian city famous for its troubled former mayor and frigid winters is now known among cognoscenti for one of the top Muslim art and culture collections anywhere, curated in a glass and granite space specifically designed to showcase the diversity of Muslim cultures in the West. The Aga Khan Museum is being hailed as the first museum in North America dedicated to Muslim art and culture — and its location makes a statement that goes beyond the impressive exhibits.

Read More: First Muslim Art Museum in North America Aims to Create Better Understanding of Islam

See also: Islamic Arts Showcased in Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum

World’s Biggest Art Collector – Sheikh Saud Al Thani – Dies at Age 48

Sheikh Saud Al Thani

Once widely regarded as the world’s richest and most powerful art collector, Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar died suddenly at his home in London on November 9, age 48. Details of his death have not been announced, although initial reports say it was from natural causes. A cousin of the Qatar’s current Emir, Sheikh Al-Thani served as the country’s president of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, from 1997 to 2005. During his tenure, he oversaw the development of the oil-rich nation’s ambitious plans to build an extensive network of new schools, libraries, and museums. He also spent well over $1 billion on art purchases during that period, more than any other individual, according to many art-market observers.

Read More: Sheikh Saud Al Thani

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia: In Differences, We Grow

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia 2

Southeast Asia’s biggest and one of the world’s most representative collections of Islamic arts stands atop a hillock on Jalan Lembah Perdana in Kuala Lumpur. Founded in 1998, this museum, known simply as the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, is one of the anchors of Malaysia’s Muslim identity. Apart from the priceless relics therein, the site itself is a prized work of art. The domes of the museum show up prominently amongst the mesh of flyovers and skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur. They are done in cobalt blue, white and turquoise to represent the characteristic bright hues of the art found in Islamic lands towards the end of the medieval ages. The rest of the façade is designed in a clean and modern scale, with squared edges, glass walls and ample windows cleverly positioned to allow for a steady flow of sunlight even to the halls located deeper inside. The roofs of the galleries are adorned with huge domes coloured in peach, light blue and cream with gold and silver embellishment.

Read More: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia: In Differences, We Grow

MFAH’s New Curator of Islamic Art Vows to Expand Small Collection

Aimee Froom 2

On the morning of September 11, 2001, art historian Aimée Froom was only a few days into her new gig as the Brooklyn Museum’s Hagop Kevorkian Associate Curator of Islamic Art, her first job out of graduate school. The events of 9/11 changed the field of Islamic art history, Froom recently told me, forcing her and her colleagues to take on a more public role in pushing back against misperceptions of Islamic culture.

Read More: MFAH’s New Curator of Islamic Art Vows to Expand Small Collection

See also: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Appoints Dr. Aimee E. Froom as Curator of Islamic Art

Islamic Arts Showcased in Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum

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Amid a new and especially grisly rise of radical fundamentalism in the Middle East, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) of the Ismaili community, one of the most progressive branches of the Shia Islam, has inaugurated a new Ismaili Center and a museum for Islamic art in Toronto–the first of its kind in North America. The new campus is designed to serve as a gateway into the historic and artistic tradition of Islam “at a time when such a gateway is profoundly needed,” explained Prince Amyn Aga Khan, one of the benefactors of the project, during the inauguration of the campus this fall.

Read More: Islamic Arts Showcased in Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum

See also: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Reveals Marvel of China’s Impacy on Islamic Art

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Appoints Dr. Aimée E. Froom as Curator of Islamic Art

Aimee Froom

Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has announced the appointment of Aimée E. Froom as curator of Islamic art. She joins Mr. Tinterow and Mahrukh Tarapor, the Museum’s senior advisor for international initiatives, in expanding the Arts of the Islamic World program at the MFAH. “After a lengthy international search, I am delighted that Aimée Froom has joined our staff,” Mr. Tinterow said in announcing the appointment. “Her credentials, curatorial experience, and scholarly accomplishments will provide an excellent platform from which she can grow our collection and deepen our programming based on the extraordinary loans from The al-Sabah Collection, in collaboration with Kuwaiti cultural organization Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah.”

Read More: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Appoints Dr. Aimee E. Froom as Curator of Islamic Art

Meeting the Last Masters of Alam, A Dying Art


Safar Fooladgar hits a piece of iron the size of my palm with his hammer. Like a drum rhythm, his hands evoke a dance: bang, swish, bang, swish,bang. Each time his hammer lands, another detail begins to form: it will soon become the face of a dragon. I am in a small south Tehran workshop of one of the last living masters of the art of alam, a heavy metal installation filled with intricate figurines and engravings, used in Shia Muslim ceremonies marking the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and those who fought by his side at the battle of Karbala in AD680 against an army loyal to Yazid, caliph of the emerging Muslim world.

Read More: Meeting the Last Masters of Alam, A Dying Art

Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Reveals Marvel of China’s Impact on Islamic Art

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The newly-inaugurated Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is a multifaceted building of fabulous architectural detail that transforms the building into being, not only a home to over 1,000 precious artifacts from the Iberian Peninsula to China but to a functioning lyrical space that uses light play to fascinate the public. In many ways it’s a temple to the graciousness of Islamic thought that is a foundation of the Aga Khan’s ethos. His Highness Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan IV commented that the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto reflects his families’ ongoing commitment to pluralism and to the promotion of understanding between civilizations, religions and races.

Read More: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Reveals Marvel of China’s Impacy on Islamic Art

See also: Decoding the Muslim Past

Decoding the Muslim Past

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“For the 30,000-strong Ismaili community that calls Toronto home, this museum is an attempt to demystify Islam,” says a museum guide, who takes visitors on an enlightening 60-minute tour of the permanent collection comprising of more than 1,000 artifacts. Having opened its doors this year on September 18, the museum has tapped into Aga Khan’s private collection, showcasing ancient books and hand-crafted manuscripts from the Holy Quran to Shah Tahmasp’s illustrated version of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. An audio recording of the great epic is also recited along the alcove by the display for a complete sensory experience.

Read More: Decoding the Muslim Past

See also: Toronto’s New Islamic Art Museum Aims to Express a Non-Threatening Islamic Identity

Six Must-see Works Before LACMA Islamic Art Galleries Close


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is known for a lot of things: its giant rock, its rack of lampposts and that crazy mint-green building by Bruce Goff that looks like a totally ’70s samurai helmet. But it also has an extraordinary collection of art from the Islamic world, with more than 1,700 objects dating back to the early Islamic era (which began in the 7th century). The collection includes an ethereally translucent 14th century Egyptian lamp, a majestic 16th century Iranian silk rug and an entire fountain harvested from an 18th century Syrian home.

Read More: Six Must-see Works Before LACMA Islamic Art Galleries Close

Toronto’s New Islamic Art Museum Aims to Express a Non-Threatening Islamic Identity

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The Aga Khan is a smiling man, genial, with twinkling eyes and never less than a faint trace of benign good will turning up the corners of his mouth. He smiled all the way through a speech last month at the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, especially while alluding to the innate happiness embodied in the branch of Shiite Islam of which he is the spiritual leader, Ismailism: “We are a community that welcomes the smile,” he said.

Read More: Toronto’s New Islamic Art Museum Aims to Express a Non-Threatening Islamic Identity

See also: Inside North America’s First Islamic Art Museum

A Scholarly Life: Professor George Scanlon

George Scanlon

With the death of Professor George Scanlon on Sunday 13 July, during a short visit to New York, the field of Islamic art and architecture has lost a remarkable scholar and perhaps the last of the great amateur archaeologists: amateur in the best eighteenth-century sense of the word. His loss will resonate throughout Cairo, where he made his life’s home, in so far as anyone with such wide tastes and universal interests can be said to have had a temporal home, but, as his muse was Egypt, he wore the city like a comfortable old pair of shoes. His students will remember him as an inspired and incomparable cicerone of the Islamic architecture of Cairo, pointing out the discreet beauty of some stonework or the historical significance of some monument, but always insisting on the exactitude of dates and facts.

Read More: A Scholarly Life: Professor George Scanlon

Sotheby’s Celebrates Indian and Islamic Art Through an Exciting Series of Exhibitions, Auctions and Events

Sotheby's Islamic auction in October 2014

In order to celebrate the rich traditions of Indian and Islamic art, Sotheby’s has mounted ‘Indian and Islamic Week’, a high profile series of public exhibitions and three dedicated auctions presenting the works of renowned artists and craftsmen from the Indian Subcontinent and the Islamic world. These exciting initiatives will take place at Sotheby’s in London from 3 – 8 October 2014. The sales comprise Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art on 7 October, and Art of Imperial India and Arts of the Islamic World on 8 October. The combined estimate across the three sales is £11,200,000-16,000,000.

Read More: Sotheby’s Celebrates Indian and Islamic Art Through an Exciting Series of Exhibitions, Auctions and Events


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