International recognition for historical Gulabpur Khanqah’s rehabilitation project

UNESCO awards Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) Award of Distinction.

Express September 30, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Conservation and rehabilitation efforts for the culturally and historically significant Gulabpur Khanqah, first started two years ago, were recognised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) early in September, said an Aga Khan Foundation’s press release on Wednesday.

UNESCO awarded The Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) the Award of Distinction in the 2010 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. The awards recognise the achievements of individuals and private organisations “in successfully restoring structures of heritage value in the [Asia Pacific] region”.

The 331-year-old Gulabpur Khanqah, which is a mosque with meditation rooms, is located in Gulabpur village near Skardu, on the western bank of Shigar River, about 10km upstream of where it meets the river Indus.

The monument, a popular tourist attraction and accessible through the link road of Arandu Valley, has the typical architectural features of buildings in Baltistan, such as the double roof with a classical Tibetan tower on top. The building features an impressively-painted ceiling supported by wooden pillars. For over three centuries the Khanqah has served as the hub of social, cultural and religious activities for the local communities, according to the press release.

Khanqah is a building where people can go for spiritual retreat and character reformation.

The Gulabpur community teamed up with AKCSP between 2008 and 2009 for the conservation and rehabilitation project. The local community contributed around 40 per cent of the total costs in cash and materials, while the remaining finances were contributed by the German Embassy in Islamabad. AKCSP provided technical advice.

“A great sense of commitment was demonstrated by the Gulabpur community, which makes the project an exemplar of community-led architectural restoration [to sustain] living cultural traditions,” said Salman Beg, CEO of AKCSP, upon receiving the award.

This year, 33 projects from 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region were submitted for the awards’ consideration. These projects included conservations of museums, hotels, cultural institutions, educational institutions, religious sites, industrial public institutions, residential buildings, urban district and islands.

The Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, which is the operational arm of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Pakistan, has won this award for nine times in a row now.

The press release said that some of the prominent award-winning AKCSP projects in the past were the Baltit Fort in Hunza and Shigar Fort in Baltistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2010.


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