Maputo, Mozambique, 16 December 2010 – In the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Mozambique’s president, His Excellency Armando Guebuza, officially inaugurated the refurbished Polana Serena Hotel, a historic water-front landmark in the capital city of Maputo, and one of Africa’s grandest colonial era hotels.

Situated in the heart of Maputo on four hectares of lush grounds, the 142-room Polana has long been regarded as one of Africa's leading hotels. Built in 1922, it was conceived as a luxury venue that would be a national landmark in the city – then called the Lourenço Marques, after the Portuguese trader and explorer who founded the settlement in the 16th century. The hotel quickly became a historic and cultural haven and a meeting place that offered unique elegance and grandeur.

After AKFED acquired the hotel in 2002, it underwent a multi-year programme of improvements, upgrades and enhancements. The hotel's grand ballroom has been restored to its former splendour, with painted wall mouldings and cut glass chandeliers hanging from its tall ceiling. Mahogany furniture and soft fabrics adorn the guest rooms. Three restaurants offer a choice between all-day dining, French-style fine cuisine and more casual fare. Hotel amenities also include a health club and spa, an outdoor swimming pool, extensive gardens, a business centre, and three gift shops.

“The Polana Hotel has the status of an icon – one of the few hotels on this continent that can claim to have that status and one of the very few in this part of Africa,” said Prince Amyn, who was present at the ceremony and spoke in his capacity as Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and Chairman of its Executive Committee. He noted that the hotel's “history stretches back nearly a century, to 1922.”

“No wonder the Polana is affectionately known locally as the Grande Dame of Maputo!”

AKFED's investment in the Polana dovetails with the wider work of the Aga Khan Development Network in Mozambique.

“World-class travel facilities can be crucial components of what we call ‘an enabling environment' – a setting in which additional development initiatives can take root and thrive,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam to the gathering.

Other AKDN agencies have been present in Cabo Delgado province for over ten years, working in the fields of agriculture, microfinance, tourism developments, education, health, entrepreneurship, civil society, environment, and water and sanitation.