Breathing new life into the legacy of past civilisations calls for a creativity, imagination, tolerance, understanding, and wisdom well beyond the ordinary. The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP), established in 1992, implements conservation, urban revitalization and area development projects in historically significant sites of the Islamic world undertaking the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures and public spaces in ways that spur social, economic and cultural development. Its projects seek to mobilize local potential and resources in order to ensure their eventual self-sustainability through operational income, human resource development and institutional management capabilities. Through this integrated approach, the Programme seeks to demonstrate that strengthening cultural identity can go hand in hand with socio-economic progress.
Going beyond mere restoration of monuments, the Programme engages in activities related to adaptive re-use, contextual urban planning and the improvement of housing, infrastructure and public spaces. It carries out related socio-economic development initiatives directed at upgrading local living conditions and improving quality of life.
Investments in single project locations or regions are coordinated with other Aga Khan Development Network programmes so that they reinforce each other as they grow together into a critical mass for positive change. In all project locations, community participation and training of local professionals are essential components.
A video showing the rehabilitation process taking place at the Central Souk in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. In 2017-2018, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture developed a comprehensive conservation action plan for the Central Souk and in 2019 work on the rehabilitation of a portion of the Souk al-Saqatiyya was completed.
The rehabilitation included the restoration of a crucial portion of the main spine and 53 shops. This became a pilot project and model for the rehabilitation of further sections of the Central Souk. The goal is to reactivate the traditional access to the heart of the Central Souk, from the north and the main access points, which existed prior to the start of fighting. The rehabilitation, more than just improving the built environment, is bringing life back to the centre of the Old City.