Al Azhar Park – I

It’s a bit of green in the heart of Cairo, a city with little parkland. It is also, I suspect, a political statement.

Al Azhar Park was developed with a $30 million grant from the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. His family has long-standing ties to Cairo. Almost 40 years ago, on a visit to the city, he was standing in his hotel balcony and looking at what was essentially a garbage dump. He offered to underwrite the turning of the area into a public park.

It was early in the day when we visited and paid the modest entry fee. The time of day was partly due to the balancing act that is necessary when traveling with a toddler who still takes naps. The restaurants weren’t open, so I have no opinion on the food on offer, and it was way too early for concerts, so I can’t give an impression of what the park is like at night.

If I lived in Cairo I would probably visit Al Azhar Park fairly often. There isn’t much green space in the city, and there are plenty of benches among the gardens. I could see myself bringing a book and some food and spending an entire day here relaxing.

That is probably the tourist in me talking. There are some very nice parks in Ottawa – and I only visit them when we have guests. You know what it is like, the busyness of daily life means taking big chunks of time to relax rarely happens. For Al Azhar Park though I might make an effort. As I said, there isn’t much green space in Cairo.

So for the next few days, let us walk through the park together. The posts will be almost exclusively pictures, maybe a couple of words of explanation at the outset each day. I’ve not been sharing new travel posts recently, and it is time to get some of the backlog done.

And as for the park being a political statement, the Ismaili Muslims are a minority. I’m sure the average Cairo resident feels more kindly disposed towards them as he or she walks through the Aga Khan’s gift.

The Aga Khan knows that such investments can pay off. If he’d only given Canada a park, instead of a vacation for the Prime Minister and his family.

Maybe next time. Let’s go for a walk in the park.


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