There is a significant site that I have yet to visit in Dushanbe and despite the temperature decided that this weekend I should take a walk to the imposing Ismaili Centre. The building sits on a huge site surrounded by cooling pools of water and is an intriguing mix of modern and traditional architecture. The external brick work (3 million bricks) and the inlaid tile work have been executed like the remainder of the building with the highest quality workmanship – the titles above the door are set as script ‘God is Great’.
The Tajik constitution allows for freedom of religion but since 2009 Sunni Islam has been recognised as the country’s official religion. Around 85% of Tajikistan’s population is Sunni and about 5% are Shia Muslims who belong to the Ismaili sect. There have been Ismailis in Tajikistan predominantly in the Pamirs where they fled to escape persecution, since the early 10th century but they can also be found in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and India.
The Ismaili Centre Dushanbe
Ismailis follow the religious leadership of the Aga Khan. The current Aga Khan has founded both the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). The AKDN is one of the largest private developments in the world with an annual budget exceeding US$600m and works in more than 30 countries in the fields of education, health, culture and economic development.
The Ismaili Centre reflects these fields and has impressive facilities for not only the religious elements of the faith with a prayer hall that holds 1500 people but also around the bringing of religions together through education and culture.
Tile detail – Ismaili Centre
The AKDN is particularly active in the Pamirs alongside other NGOs such as VSO and may well feature in future blogs about the work being undertaken in Khorog – provided of course that I get the opportunity to return there to work, we can only say Insha’Allah (God Willing).