Agha Khan Mausoleum


Unless you cross the sands from the nobles tombs, you must take a fellucca to reach the west bank landing for the Agha Khan's Mausoleum. Agha Khan Mausoleum is a magnificent structure built to honor one of the greatest men of the modern age. This mausoleum is a fantastic stop on any tour in the area.

At a corral by the landing stage you can hire a camel for St Simeon's; otherwise it is no more than a 20 minute walk. A paved path runs between the mausoleum and the monastery but a wall has been erected across it at the mausoleum end by the begum.

You should visit the mausoleum first, principally for the view. (Though his wife, the Begum, closed it to visitors in 1997, she may since have relented; in any case the view remains) the mausoleum is built above the Agha Khan's white villa where, until his death in 1957, he spent the winter months and where the Begum still lives for three months of the year.

Apart from its beauty, the Agha Khan associated himself up to the waist in the sand. The restrained proportions and the granite and sandstone of the domed mausoleum are entirely in keeping with the surrounding.

The tomb within is of white Carrara marble, beautifully carved in Cairo with geometric patterns and Koranic inscriptions in high relief. Each morning in winter the Begum lays a red rose on the tomb, and the ritual is taken over in summer by the gardener. There is a story that one July not a single rose was to be found in Egypt and on six successive days a red rose was flown in by private plane from Paris.

The Agha Khan is spiritual leaders of the Ismailis, a Shi'ite sect (as were the Fatimids) centered on India but with large communities in East Africa and elsewhere. Agha Khan III, buried here, was a man of considerable bulk and was of such wealth that on his diamond jubilee in 1945 he was weighed in diamonds, which were then distributed to his followers. The succession passed over his playboy son Ali and went to his more earnest grandson Karim, Agha Khan IV.