Topic for Debate
Al-Azhar Park
I have only one question which i hope can be answered without prejudice.
In 2005, I went to see the new Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt. I thought I had entered into a new garden of Eden where fountains flowed and soon the palm trees would grow and their fronds would sway in the evening breeze. The beauty was ancient mixed with a healthy but restrained pinch of the modern times.
I have just been to see the park and I was truly upset, angered, and found the word gift (which it was to all the people of Cairo from the Aga Khan and several countries which have cultural trusts), to be something taken completely for granted and something the people had utterly no respect for.
It thrilled me to see the children rolling down the gentle grassy slopes surrounded by glorious blossoming trees in pink clusters of flowers.
However turning to see a fountain, there were children breaking branches from the same trees to play with and the parents did nothing, neither did the two guards standing not more than 10 meters away.
The royal palm tree lane leading down to the small lake were covered in (cut with a key or knife) graffiti, the walk paths were separating at several joints, one lady pulled up a patch of freshly laid sod and stuffed it into her massive purse.
The worst was yet to come when I went into the Lakeside Restaurant for lunch. A chair which had a broken chair was laid next to a waiters station (prominent enough for me to see), The once beautiful chandeliers were hanging by their wires, the concrete columns had broken edges, the floor and awning seemed never to have been introduced to a mop and soap, there was even a light in the ground (which showed previous signs of repair) with a broken glass cover.
I can go on and on, but to get to the question: Is it worth giving a gift costing forty million dollars to a country which cannot appreciate it, care for it, respect the fact that the countries which donated the money for its creation was tax payer money. I have always greatly respected the protection of cultural traditions in all aspects from protecting it from loss of skills to loss of language (except those with no concept of human rights). But when a culture cannot respect itself enough to care for a park that never existed before, the question is why not go and create it in a country where it would be respected and protected by its citizenry?
I hope someone who will not rip my head off because it happens to be associated with The Aga Khan will answer this question for me.
Many thanks.
Al-karim Wissanji
Al-Azhar Park
Al-Karim, Firstly, things may have changed for the better since your visit of 2005. Secondly, a gift is something given permanently and not something on loan. On the other hand, for someone to disrespect a gift is almost the same as disrespecting the giver of the gift.

Furthermore, there is an old proverb that disrespecters of gifts should do well to remember: "Do not kill the goose that lays golden eggs".

The reason why people disrepect "gifts" is because the gift cost nothing, therefore it has no value. So a better way would be for half of the cost of any such project to be `paid for` by the local people in time and energy or money. In this way the gift has some value, because people do not leave garbage on their own doorstep.
Frank John Snelling


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