Edmonton – A magnificent new garden costing millions and designed to bring people of diverse backgrounds together is coming to Burnaby.
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismailis, made the announcement on Tuesday at the inauguration of the Aga Khan garden he donated to the University of Alberta. The Aga Khan Trust for culture donated $25 million for the U of A garden that’s themed along Islamic gardens built by ancient Muslim cultures.
The Burnaby garden will surpass the one in Edmonton, joked the Aga Khan, in a speech to dignitaries including the Lt-Gov. of Alberta Lois Mitchell, premier Rachel Notley and 250 guests in attendance.
The garden in Edmonton was 18-months in construction and opened to the public last June.
On Tuesday the park was officially inaugurated.
“The 4.8 hectare Mughal-inspired garden features secluded forest paths, granite and limestone terraces, still pools that reflect the prairie sky and a waterfall that tumbles over textured stone,” according to AKDN.
“Fruit orchards extend around the large Calla Pond, and the garden contains more than 25,000 trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and wetland plants, selected for fragrance, beauty and the ability to survive Alberta’s harsh climate.
“In Canada and in many other places, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has made a major commitment to creating and renewing important green spaces in recent years,” said the Aga Khan.
“We can look back on ten recent successes in places ranging from Cairo to Zanzibar, from Toronto to Kabul, from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Bamako in Mali. In 2018 alone, I helped to inaugurate three such Garden projects – in London, in Delhi, and now here in Alberta.”
“But the story does not end here. In fact, the story of Canadian Islamic Gardens itself is not yet completed. Our plans are now advancing, in fact, for a new Park to be developed a few hundred miles southwest of here, in Burnaby, British Columbia.”
“Yes – to be sure – it will surpass Edmonton as the western-most Islamic Garden,” he said.”But, of course, we can be rest assured, that Edmonton’s Garden will still have a lasting claim as the northern-most!”
“I have talked about the past, today, but I would close by emphasising the future. It is wonderful at a moment like this to think of all those who will visit here in the years to come. Our work now is to sustain this space, to create new experiences and to meet new challenges.
“As you walk through these Gardens, you will see evidence of the ways in which future generations will be able to make the most of this site. It is our hope and expectation on this special day that the Aga Khan Garden here at the University of Alberta will truly be a gift that keeps on giving.”
“The Garden of Islamic tradition is also a place where the flow of refreshing water reminds us of Divine blessing. It is a place for meditation, and quiet renewal.
“But I would likewise emphasise that the Garden, through history, has also been seen as a social space – a place for learning, for sharing, for romance, for diplomacy, for reflection on the destiny of the human race,” the Aga Khan said.
“And even as we share the Garden experience with one another, we can feel a connection with those who walked through similar Gardens in the past.
“I would also mention one additional aspect of the particular Garden we inaugurate today. It symbolises not only the creative blending of the Natural and the Human – but also the beauty of multiple inter-cultural cooperation.”
“One of the great questions facing humanity today is how we can honour what is distinctive about our separate identities – and, at the same time, welcome a diversity of identities as positive elements in our lives.
“This city and this country have been among the world leaders in providing positive answers to that ancient question. The project we inaugurate today is a beautiful extension of that Canadian tradition.”
The Aga Khan’s youngest son, Prince Aly Muhammad was in attendance as guests listened to speeches and then participated in a reception.