The lady of Yakymour

 

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

Yvette Labrousse (Click photo to enlarge)

Yvette ‘Yvonne’ Blanche Labrousse born, in 1906, of a father who was a tramway driver and a town councillor for Le Cannet, and a mother who was a seamstress. Nothing in her modest upbringing told anything of the glorious destiny that was to be hers.

Today, 110 years ago, Yvette Labrousse was born Yvonne Blanch Labrousse in the small town of Sète, near Marseilles, France, on 15 February 1906. She was the daughter of Adrien Labrousse and Marie Brouet, a seamstress. When she was only six months old her family soon move to Cannes, where they lived in a flat in the Rue d’Antibes, and later on to Lyon where the young Yvette spent most of her childhood.

 

Yvonne Yvette Labrousse Om Habibeh Begum Aga Khan

Yvette Labrousse (Click photo to enlarge)

Yvette grew up tall, more than six feet, and vèry beautiful. Having stricktly raised, however, she showed no disposition to accept the film and modelling offers that cameher way, instead, she went to work with her mother, who was running a dress shop that time. She always told that her parents were very warm, kind and always openminded.

 

Yvette Yvonne Blanche Labrousse Sète Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Le Cannet

Yvette Labrousse (Click photo to enlarge)

After being elected Miss Lyon in 1929, then Miss France in Paris in 1930, she joined the Miss Europe 1930 pageant in Paris, at the Paris Opera. The streets outside the hall were packed with people eager to see the beautiful participants from all over Europe… It was one of the most talked about events in the press.

Miss France, Yvette Labrousse, Begum Um Habibeh Aga Khan

Miss France, Yvette Labrousse, she was always full of great story’s about ‘her time’ as Miss France, about the girls, the fashion of that time, the make-up and the travels (Click photo to enlarge).

 

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Yvette Labrousse, Paris, 1930’s

Yet Yvette Labrousse was no longer a provincial. As a beauty queen and a representatieve of France, she traveled to many countries around the world. She found herself particulary taken by Egypt and, in the late thirdies she moved to Egypt.

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III by Weinberg Picture FrameSir Sultan Mohamad Aga Khan III and Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan seated half-length portrait by Weinberg. Photograph signed and inscribed by Begum, “A souvenir / from an old friend / of the family AgaKhan”. Inscribed in the image, middle left and right. 8 1/2×6 1/2 inches; matted in original sterling silver frame bearing Khan’s emblem at top. Circa 1955

She started to travel around the world and settled in Cairo. There Yvette Labrousse met her future husband, the Sultan Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Nizari Shia Ismaili community, and they fell in love at first sight when they met at a royal dancing party in Egypt in 1938. They married thirteen months after the Aga Khan III and his third wife were divorcedby mutual consent, on 9 October 1944 in Switzerland. Then she took the name of Om Habibeh (Little Mother of the Beloved) and became Begum, fully Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan. In 1954, Om Habibeh was given the title of ‘Mata Salamat’, which literally means serene or peaceful mother. She was the foutyh woman in Islamic history with that title!

I have at last been granted the real and wonderful haven of finding in and with my wife a true union of mind and soul

Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, in his Memoirs ‘World Enough & Time’, page 275

They settled in the Avenue Victoria villa at Le Cannet, in the hills above Cannes, on a hillside wich she had once looked on to from the flat in the Rue d’Antibes, for which planning permission applications had been submitted in 1937. They named it Yakymour: Y for Yvette, ak for Aga Khan, mour for amour. The French word for love. As is clear from such indications , the couple was very close and the two loved each other dearly.

Yakymour

Yakymour, Le Cannet, France

Within this property surrounded by parkland, Her Higness La Bégum used to assemble the members of the Cannes film festival jury, and many national and international movie stars. Some of them became friends for live. She wasn’t only Kees van Dongen’s muse, but with her husband’s encouragement, she also developed an active interest in painting and sculpture, herself becoming an accomplished artist and sculptor. She was also interested in the arts including classical music, opera and ballet.

She rarely left his side, and nursed him devotedly through the pains of old age until his death in 1957. But her duty was also a delight. She never ceased to be grateful for the manner in which he had widened her horizons, especially in music and in the arts. “Enjoy yourself”, he told her. Ït’s later then you think”.

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by

Before his death, the Aga Khan III chose a location on the on the West Bank of the Nile as his final resting place. The location was highly symbolic, for centuries earlier the Aga Khan’s ancestors had founded the Fatimid dynasty with its capital in Cairo. The Fatimids represented one of the apogees of culture, being patrons of the arts, liteature, achitecture, pluralism (the acceptance of racial, ethnic, cultural and intra-religious differences) and scientific endeavors,  all fields that were equally dear to the Aga Khan III an Om Habibeh. The Begum was very supportive of her husband in his work during their thirteen years together. They both took a particular interest in issues affecting women’s welfare.

When her husband died in 1957, he had stated in his will that his successor, his grandson Karim, would have Om Habibeh as advisor for the first seven years of his reign. because she had been familiar for many years with the issues facing his followers and he had the confidence in her wise judgment. Immediatly, with the help of architect Farid El-Shafie and contractor Hassan Dorra, Om Habibeh started building at Aswan, on top of the hill above there house, a mausoleum to her husband, a task that took 16 months.

Begum Om HabibehAga Khan Yvette Labrouse Aswan

It was not in her nature either to forget, or to try to hide, her humble orgins. Her legacy remains in the Om Habibeh Foundation, whose programs have contributed to health, education and inclusion in some of the poorest areas of Egypt.

Her gesture of daily placing a red rose on her husband’s tomb while in Egypt (every day for 43 years, either the Begum or when she was away in Europe, Sheikh Ahmed Ibrahim, whom she hired in 1963 to spend eight hours a day chanting verses from the Koran over her late husband’s tomb, laid a fresh red rose there) enforced the reputation of the legendary romance between the Aga Khan III and Om Habebeh. After the death of her husband, she continued to live at Yakymour, though she always spent three months a year in the villa at Aswan, the site of her husband’s mausoleum.

As a widow, she travelled widely both for charity and for pleasure. She was a regular face at Ascot (she herself owned several horses), where she always caught the eye. In the 1950’s and 60’s she was a true fashion icon, and was a countless times on the cover of big magazines. Her advice on fashion was typically sensible: “Don’t choose what you like, but what suits you. To be elegant one must have discretion. The secret is in the details”. Often she was sitting front-row at the Paris fashion shows from Christian Dior, Lanvin, Jaques Faith and many others

Begum Om Habibeh Aga KhanBegum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

She was dearly loved by her people because of her generosity to the poor, childern, women and the elderly, and, by her own husband as well. She had a big heart for everybody. Also for people outside the Shia Ismaili community. No matter what kind of religion, man or women, or even sexual oriantation, she was véry openminded, Yakymour and Nour el-Salam were both an open house.

Begum Om Habibeh also loved annimals a lot. Over the years she had several dogs and cats. “Every person and every animal should be loved, we are all creations from Allah. When a person is not good for animals, he can not be good to humans”. “”We should take care of eachother, everybody should be loved!, we are here on earth to do good, and not to harm or judge people, so lets love”…. And that’s what she did!

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aha Khan by Gyenes

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by Gyenes

Beauty was not only on the outside. It came from the heart. Highly popular, Her Highness La Bégum showed great generosity throughout her life. She made many donations to schools (‘education is the most impotant thing in life after being loved’ and ‘The highest result of education is tolerance’ she always said) and hospitals. But also donations to women’s shelters, Alzheimer foundation, and… Aids foundation.

Over four decades of widowhood (she never thought of remarrying) she was always out in the community helping the poor and elderly and would relentlessly encourage education for women. For over forty years, banquets were offered to the town’s elderly inhabitants. The Begum also ran a charitable foundation, the Om Habibeh Foundation, which tackled poverty in Aswan, Egypt, where she inherited her husband’s villa by the Nile. At home in Le Cannet, she established a home for the elderly. It was not in her nature either to forget, or to try to hide, her humble origins. In the last years of her life, she made an outstanding donation to the town, enabling it to renew its school property.

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan at Le Cannet, Le Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers

Begum Om Habibeh, Le Cannet, Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers, Le Cannet, 1997

She also contributed to the creation of the Jardin des Oliviers, for which the town showed its gratitude by erecting a bronze statue by Charles-Louis La Salle, unveiled by the mayor of Le Cannet Rocheville, in her image. She last appeared in public for the inauguration of this garden in 1997. She was also vèry happy that she could be present at the wedding of Princess Zahra Aga Khan with the businessman Mark Boyden, June 21, 1997 in Paris.

Le Cannet, Le Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers

Le Cannet, Le Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers Park

Le Cannet, Le Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

Le Cannet, Le Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers, bronze statue of Om Habibeh by Charles-Louis La Salle

Before her death, the late Begum arranged for Yakymour, the home of which she and her husband were so fond, to be retained for use by the Aga Khan family. She also planned that a large part of her estate be donated to two foundations closely associated with the family: The Aga Khan Foundation, Geneva, a non-profit organisation established by the current Aga Khan in 1967, which oversees and supports major international programmes in health, education and rural development, in some of the poorest regions of Asia and Africa, and the Bellerive Foundation in Geneva, established by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in 1977, which is devoted to the protection of the environment, conservation of natural resources and the safeguarding of human and animal rights.

There was no doubting her enduring devotion. “Now all I have left to hope for”, she said shortly before her death, “is that Allah will take me to his side”. Begum Om Habibeh ‘Mata Salamat’ aka Yvette Labrousse died on 1 July 2000, in Le Cannet, near Cannes, at the age of 94 years, and is buried next to her beloved husband at the Aga Khan’s sandstone mausoleum in Aswan. The couple had no children. She was survived by her stepson, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and three step-grandchildren, Karim Aga Khan the current Aga Khan, Amyn Aga Khan and Yasmin Aga Khan, who are the children of the late Prince Aly Khan, who died in 1960 and who was the eldest son of the late Aga Khan. 

The jamat will recall with fondness and affection her support for the work of My late beloved grandfather, and also her devoted care and attention to Him particularly in the later years of His life. Throughout her lifetime Mata Salamat retained an abiding interest to the progress and well-being of the jamat world-wide

Mawlânâ Hazar Imam Karim Aga Khan IV

She has now been reunited with her husband, who has been resting, since 1957, in a mausoleum built on their Nour es-Salam property, near the river Nile, in Aswan, Egypt. ‘Till today she is very respected and loved. For her eternal love, her honesty, her help (she hated the word ‘charity’!) and being só openminded…..

by Jean Amr

 

 

 The Om Habibeh Foundation

The Om Habibeh Foundation was established by the Aga Khan’s late step-grandmother, Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. It is an Egyptian, not-for-profit organisation of long-standing that has been contributing to, and supporting, a number of institutions, in the Aswan area, which are involved in healthcare, education and income generation for disadvantaged communities. The Foundation draws on the support and technical expertise of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network to advance the newly announced initiatives.

The Aga Khan Foundation

For more information:

Farees Nathoo
Aga Khan Foundation
Tel. +20 (22) 506 1570
Email: info@akdn.org

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46 thoughts on “The lady of Yakymour

    1. Yes, she was a special, remarkable and exceptional woman. She had an open heart (and door) for everyone. No wonder she got the title of Mata Salamat.
      When I was a child, she was just ‘grandma Yaky’ and ‘grandma Om’…and getting older realizing
      Missing her everyday.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. (Tazdin Esmail, sorry, replying by phone doesn’t always work well)
        I wanted to say: When I was a child, she was just ‘grandma Yaky’ and ‘grandma Om’…and getting older realizing who she (really) was.
        Yes, I’m still missing her everyday.

        Thanx for your comment.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Her love for His Highness, Sir Sultan Mohamad Shah Aga Khan III was legendary. What made her so special, she had a big heart for everybody. Also for people outside the Shia Ismaili community. No matter what kind of religion, man or women, or even sexual oriantation, she was véry openminded, and was only thinking in terms of Love.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. She was an exceptional child and woman, and i have her whole story with coloured pics with Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah, explaining in detail how they met and her making a pottery of his face, which was beautiful, taking his pics, always by his side. I hope to find it and and will share it with all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanx for your reply! Yes she was exeptional!
      She was creative in many ways. She always took pics, on every occasion, and she loved to make sculptures. The one of her husband Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah is famous. But she made also one of her father (she had in her livingroom) one of Yasmin and of me, when I was a child. She wasn’t only Kees van Dongens muse, she also loved to paint herself. I always loved her portrait of Yasmin Aga Khan she had in her livingroom. I have lot of (privat) pics that I will share, with its stories, here on ‘Yakymour’ in the nearby future.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful amazing
    Mashallah no word
    Thanks for sharing.
    Rahemat Nanji
    🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹💝💝💝💝👏👏👏👏👏🌇

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome Rahemat! Anytime…

      Starting this Blog/Glamazine a year ago, partly as an ode to her, I found out people like it very much. Thanx for that!
      But now, the last 3days, the amount of visitors, on this artical, turned up sky high. Over 5000!!, and mostly people from Canada.
      And I am wondering why??….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. wonderful; to know that HISTORY is alive and our children and grandchildren are now being exposed to our Imam’s legacy. MATA SALAMAT was an example of simplicity and charm and SULTAN MOHAMED SHAH wanted our EAST AFRICAN LADIES to adopt western clothes and wear SHORT DRESSES…give up the FROK PACHEDI which they use to wear. I AM PROUD TO INFORM YOU ALL THAT MY MOTHER WAS THE FIRST LADY IN MOMBASA TO ADOPT MOWLA’S FIRMAN AND WORE SHORT DRESS IN JAMMAT KHANA IN KUZE IN THOSE DAYS…SHE WAS CONGRATULATED BY ALL THE OFFICE BEARERS AND JAMMATI LADIES AND IT WAS A PROUD MOMENT FOR ALL OF US JAFFER FAMILY OF MOMBASA. I AM INEED VERY PROUD OF MY MOTHER WHO IS NOW GOING TO BE 90 YEARS THIS SUMMER.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanxx for your wonderful story! Deepest respect for your mother. Wishing her all beautiful, and good health.
      I remember Mata Salamat often said:
      ‘Traditions are beautiful, but Eastern’ ladies should adopt western clothing, and ‘Western’ ladies should adopt ‘Eastern’ clothing, so everybody is wearing what they realy like. And it will make understand eachother much more…
      I believe she was right!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanx for your beautiful words. It’s so wonderful to see how many people still think of her nowdays and especially on her birthday. I want to express my gratidude for you and everybody who keep her memories and thoughts alive. Thank you for that! I still miss her everyday. Bless you all.

        Like

      2. The people of this world will never forget her humanity services and love and affection for the upliftment of poor people.
        HAPPY BIRTHDAY, I pray that her soul may rest in calm and peace. Aameen.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. She was an elegant, good looking and Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shahs opinion of her being a wonderful and loving and caring person. Saw her in Nairobi at a very close range and She caressed my daughter Salimah’s cheeks at the Shaw Conference Centre saying she had lovely cheeks. Salimah at the time was about 11 yrs old, still had her baby fat! Will never forget Mata Salamat or that particular day. She looked radiant and stunning in her saree and pearl necklace and earings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just read your beautiful article about Mata Salamat. A very remarkable and gracious lady. I got to know some more fascinating stories and facts about her life and wonderful things she did. Thanks for sharing. Please continue with more insights.

    Like

  6. What a remarkable lovely lady.
    She had donated her life for serving our late Imam Shah Sultan Mohamed Shah until she
    had passed away. We feel very proud that our son Minaz and Anar were at Aiglemont &
    had an opportunity to attend her funeral at Aswan. Rajabali and Banu Nanji.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed she was a remarkable lady. I still miss her every day.
      She donated her life to everyone who needed her. She didn’t think in color, religion or…..
      She was beautiful!
      Sorry I can’t remember your sons Minaz and Anar…. but we must have met then.

      Bless you and your family. May all positive things in life will be yours.

      With kind regards,
      Jean Amr

      http://matasalamat.wordpress.com

      Like

      1. To,AMR63. Ya Ali madad , My son Minaz is a Graphic Designer and works with Hazer Imam for last 35 years. His wife is Anar (used to be Anar Kassam) is a Solicitor and had worked there as Mawlababa’s secretary.They both had chance to attend the funeral. also
        Anar had attended the gushal ceremony. We had lived in Kampala .Rajabali & Banu Nanji

        Like

  7. Some fragrance angle are born / choosen in this world to serve and devot for special assignment , She is one of those heavenly angle. Almighty blessed her soul in eternal peace aameen.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Matasalamat was very wonderful woman she looked after our 48th Imam and gave her life to her beloved husband Sir Sultan Mohamed Aga Khan 3rd. Ismaili community will never forget her and our imam Sultan Mohamed Shah,our 49th Imam (Hazar imam) gave his life to the Ismaili Community.On 11th July 1957.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When her husband, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, died in 1957, he had stated in his will that his successor, his grandson Karim, Hazar Imam, would have Om Habibeh as advisor for the first seven years of his reign. because she had been familiar for many years with the issues facing his followers and he had the confidence in her wise judgment. She had a big heart for everybody. Also for people outside the Shia Ismaili community. No matter what kind of religion, man or women, or even sexual oriantation, she was véry openminded. She often said: “We are here on earth to do good (and not to harm or judge people, so lets love)”. And that is what she did! For that she deserves the title Mata Salamat.
      I still miss her. Everyday. Missing her smile, her humor, her warmth, the pancakes she made in the middle of the night…. I will always love her.
      Thank you all for remembering her! Bless you

      Like

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