In the three short years since its doors officially opened, the Ismaili Centre, Dubai has emerged as a multidisciplinary hub of culture, faith, education, and community identity.
The microcosm of a global village, the Ismaili community in Dubai includes members from East Africa, India, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan and Western countries. For them, the Centre is a special place of belonging, and an important physical symbol of the Jamat's unity.
“It fosters a sense of community and identity for all,” notes Tahira Dosani.
The Ismaili Centre, Dubai was opened on 26 March 2008 by Mawlana Hazar Imam in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, senior members of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates. Like other Ismaili Centres around the world, the Ismaili Centre, Dubai seeks to exemplify the core values of the Jamat, incorporating social, cultural and spiritual spaces, and extending a hand of friendship to other communities.
“This building exists fundamentally as a place for peaceful contemplation, but one that is set in a social context,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Centre's opening ceremony. “It is not a place to hide from the world, but rather a place which inspires us to engage our worldly work as a direct extension of our faith.”
Over the past three years, the Ismaili Centre, Dubai has taken on this mandate vigorously.
The Centre's striking architecture made it a fitting venue for a lecture series organised by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. The six-week lecture series was hosted in partnership with the Architecture Heritage Society in the UAE in late 2009. Concerned with heritage sites in the Arab region, the forum emphasised the importance of regional culture, and the need for careful preservation and management.
The Ismaili Centre was also the venue for an exhibition of Dubai's history through the lens of Noor Ali Rashid, Royal Photographer of the United Arab Emirates. Titled Reminiscing Heritage, the exhibition – organised together with Dubai Culture – documented the emirate in the 1960s, a period when its economic foundations were being laid. His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, inaugurated the event, which was attended by government officials and diplomats, as well as influential businessmen.
Within the Jamat, the Ismaili Centre played host to the
The Centre has had the honour of partnering with other government and non-government organisations and partaking in a variety of unique events, including a joint venture with the Dubai Municipality, and hosting a classical opera night for the German Consulate General.
Since its inauguration, a steady stream of prominent guests have visited the Centre including members of Mawlana Hazar Imam's family, national and regional leaders, international ambassadors, and members of the global Jamat. Each was struck by the magnificent architecture of the Centre, including its indoor and outdoor spaces.
“We used to think that beautiful buildings have only beauty and no function,” says Aly Haider a Jamati member from Syria. “But when you enter the Ismaili Centre, Dubai you can see the extreme beauty and feel energy and touch functional design.”
Stunning courtyards have served as a setting for many events, including exhibitions and receptions. The beautiful park across from the Centre is visited and utilised by both Ismailis and the general public. Suleiman Saladdin, who lives near the Centre and is a regular visitor, says: “I bring my daughter to this park often to enjoy the serenity and lovely nature. It's so nice to have a relaxing spot in the middle of this bustling neighbourhood.”
Outside of hosting grand events, another advantage of the Centre is the resources that it makes available to the community. Fifteen-year-old Aqil Rashid appreciates the programmes run by the Youth Coordinating Forum. Such events could rarely take place before because of a lack of facilities. The Social Hall accommodates workshops and classes on culture, health, language skills, economic advice, and much more. Lecturers visit from around the world to conduct conferences and address gatherings.
At the Foundation Ceremony in December 2003, Mawlana Hazar Imam expressed his wish for the Centre to “be a place of peace, of order, of hope and of brotherhood, radiating those thoughts, attitudes and sentiments which unite, and which do not divide, and which uplift the mind and the spirit.” With a sound foundation, the Ismaili Centre, Dubai will inshallah continue to be a strong platform for dialogue, unity and progress within the Jamat, the ummah and in the wider global community.The Ismaili Centre, Dubai is also making a marked impact on Early Childhood Development. The recently opened Aga Khan Early Learning Centre provides resources for both children and parents. With an open and ethnically inclusive outlook, the Early Learning Centre provides distinguished standards of education for children, teaching in both Arabic and English. Its library is accessible to all, with a vast array of books and other resources.