Luis Monreal is a ball of energy who speaks quickly and wields a large vocabulary. Born in Spain to a Catalan mother and a Basque father, he is fluent in French, Spanish, English, German, and (he smiles) “some Arabic.” The man who runs the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva is in Toronto, preparing for the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum. Lighting technicians, carpenters, curators and cleaners bustle through the galleries, scrambling to get everything finished for a press preview Wednesday. The facility, which opens next week, is the first museum of Islamic art in North America. Mr. Monreal threads his way to a glass box inside which glows a gold disc the size of a tea saucer. “Now a major piece in the museum is a very small one,” he said. “This is an astrolabe, made in Spain in the 14th century — probably made in Toledo, Spain, not Toledo, Ohio! The inscription is in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin.” An astrolabe, he explains, is an astronomical tool, a medieval piece of high technology used for navigation. Not far away sprawls a mamluk, a traditional square fountain of mosaic marble in geometric patterns, made in the 15th century for a home in Cairo.
See also: Aga Khan’s Gift to Canada