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.
The Isa Khan Enclosure stand at the western end of the Humayun’s Tomb complex, almost at the centre of the Humayun’s Tomb – Sunder Nursery – Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Project area. Built almost five centuries ago, Isa Khan Tomb enclosure has high historical significance due to its associational value. Isa Khan Niyazi was a noble of influence at the court of Sher Shah Sur, on the death of whom, he took service with the younger son Islam Shah, and it was largely due to Isa Khan that Islam Shah succeeded in holding the throne of Delhi against his elder brother Adil Khan.
In the local context, Isa Khan Niyazi’s tomb is the culmination of the architectural style that commenced with the building of the earliest known Islamic octagonal tomb of Khani Jahan Khan Tilangani, that stands in the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti and the tombs of Sayyid and Lodi dynasty Royals, Mubarak Shah Sayyid (AD 1433), Muhammad Shah Sayyid (1446) and Sikander Lodi (1517).
Millions of visitors who visit Humayun’s Tomb complex each year enter the complex at the Isa Khan – Bu Halima complex. But most, however, remain unaware of the historical, architectural significance of this zone as some of the key buildings such as the gateway to Isa Khan’s Tomb enclosure and the Bu Halima’s tomb stand in a ruinous condition and large areas of concrete paving distract from the historical character of this zone.
An exhaustive condition assessment, measured drawing, archival research and detailed on-site discussions with experts in 2010 have led to the preparation of a Conservation plan for this significant entrance zone to the World Heritage Site. Conservation works, being undertaken with support from the World Monuments Fund, include restoring the 16th century landscape, which have commenced with the manual removal of thousands of truckloads of earth to restore this earliest known ‘sunken garden’.