The lady of Yakymour

 

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

Yvette Labrousse

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

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

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. Talking about the girls, the fashion of that time, the make-up and the travels.

 

12733570_1219927948035748_2868114140188946893_n

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 Aga Khan”. 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. “It’s later then you think”.

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

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.

 

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by Gyenes

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by Gyenes

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.

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.

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

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-Aga-Khan-at Yakymour-Le-Cannet.jpg

Grandma ‘Yaky’, the Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan with her poodles at Yakymour, Le Cannet, France, January 1, 1985 

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.

The highest result of education is tolerance.

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

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

 

 

 

 

 

HH Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III estate auction

 

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Sotheby's

Born Yvette Labrousse in 1906 in Sete near Marseilles, France. Begum Om Habibeh was the fourth and last wife of the late Sultan Mohamed Aga Khan III, the 48hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Mulims in direct descent from the Profhet Muhammad through his cousin  and son in law Ali and his daughter Fatima. The couple were married in Switzerland on October 9th, 1944.

The late Begum, following travels to Egypt, had already converted to islam before her marriage. Throughout her life she demonstrated a strong attechment to the faith and to its traditions of philantropy and concern for the less fortunate.The Begum took a particular interestin issues affecting woman and children’s welfare.

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Kahn Yvette Labrousse Signed to Roger Flor, 1er coiffeur Elizabeth Arden, 1959

HH. Begum Om Habibeh Aga Kahn III (Photo made and signed by Sam Levin, Signed to Roger Flor, 1er coiffeur Elizabeth Arden by HH. Begum Om Habibeh Aga Kahn III, 1959, private collection).

Following her husband’s death in 1957, the late Begum moved between Le Cannet, Paris, Geneva and Aswan. In Le Cannet she was held in particular esteem and was known for her generosity towards the eldery, through the establishment of a retirement home.

Before her death, the late Begum arranged that all her estate, other than certain bequests, be donated to the Aga Khan Foundation, Geneva, to the Bellerive Foundation, Geneva, and to her own Om Habibeh Foundation. Today, 15 years ago, on November 15, 2000 Sotheby’s held the auction of Her Highness’s jewels posthumously, with respect to her wishes.

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse neckless pearl

HH Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III, her famous 5 row pearl-diamond neckless.

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse

HH Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III, wearing her favorite 5 row pearl-diamond neckless, and  Harry Winston 51.85 carat diamond ring.

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse Ring Diamond

Highly important diamond ring by Harry Winston. Claw-set with a  step-cut diamond weighting 51.85 carats, between tapered baguette diamond shoulders, mounted in platinum

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse Neckless Diamond

Magnificent diamond necklace. The front is decorated with a profusion of marquise and pear shaped and brilliant and tep-cut diamonds, continuing to the back with graduated step-cut diamonds, spaced by clusters of marquise and pear shaped and brilliant cut diamonds.

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse Earrings Diamond

French fine pair of cultered pearl and diamond earrings. The cluster surmounts set with pear and marquise shaped and brilliant cut diamonds, each supporting a cultured pearl dropmeasuring approximately14.8mm in diameter, and are mounted in platinum and 18k gold. The pearl pendants are detachable. Her Highness the Begum was wearing them very often, in both ways, with and without its pearls. 

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse

Another favorite pair of earrings for her where these pair of French diamond pendent earclips. The surmounts decorated with a cluster of pear and marquise shaped diamond, supporting tassels of graduated pear shaped diamonds. The clips are mounted in platinum 

 

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Yvette Labrousse

 HH the Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III attends the ‘My Fair Lady’ ball, hosted by Hélène Rochas in the Bois de Boulogne in 1965. HH the Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III wore a gown of white lace and her favorite, also in her estate auction, her Bvlgari diamond and turquoise set. The set contains a  necklace, earclips and a bracelet that she is wearing in her hair, as the ‘first’ woman to do so, long before Princess Diana of Wales.

The auctions results totalled to SF41,249,800 – US$23,340,809 – £16,303,619 to benefit the aforementioned philanthropic institutions in overseeing and supporting major international programs in health, education and rural development in some of the poorest regions of Central and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as initiatives for the protection of the environment, conservation of natural resources and the safeguarding of human and animal rights.

 

 

 

Yakymour: A place of fashion, beauté, art, flowers, beauty and… love!

 

YakymourYakymour, Le Cannet, France

Playing as a child in the garden of Yakymour. A happy, innocent time, thanx to ‘Grandma’ Om Habibeh ‘Mata Salamat’ Aga Khan and to Sadruddin, where I could be fully myself and forget ‘the bad things’, and get some strenght

Yakymour, the house of the Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan. She was born Yvette Blanche Labrousse 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. After bieng elected Miss Lyon in 1929, then Miss France in Paris in 1930, she joined the Miss Europe 1930 pageant in Paris, won by Miss Greece. She started to travel around the world and settled in Egypt.

 

Yakimour1-1

Yakymour, in her own handwriting, on the wall next to the gate of her home.

There Yvette Labrousse met her future husband, the Sultan Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Nizari Shia Ismaili community, whom she married on 9 October 1944 in Switzerland, and 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 womn in Islamic history with that title! They settled in the Avenue Victoria villa at Le Cannet, 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.

 

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by Gyenes

HH Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III

They named it Yakymour: Y for Yvette, ak for Aga Khan, mour for amour. Within this property surrounded by parkland, Her Higness La Bégum used to assemble the members of the Cannes film festival jury. 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. Om Habibeh started building at Aswan, on top of the hill above there house, a mausoleum to her husband, immediately after his death, while finishing it took 16 months.

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.

France, Le Cannet, Yakymour

Yakymour, Le Cannet, France

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”. 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 was an open house.

She 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!

Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan

HH Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan III

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.

For over forty years, banquets were offered to the town’s elderly inhabitants. The Begum also ran a charitable foundation (Om Habibeh Foundation) which tackled poverty in Aswan, Egypt, where she inherited her husband’s villa by the Nile. At home in Cannes, 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. 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, in her image. She last appeared in public for the inauguration of this garden in 1997

But 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. 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…..

Om Habibeh, ‘Yaky’ I love you! Thanx for everything you showed me and teached me! Love always!

Jean Amr

 

 

 

 

Aga Khan announces Om Habibeh Foundation grant for Aswan

His Highness the Aga Khan in Cairo, Egypt, December 2003-12-Egypt-24910

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, in Cairo, Egypt, December 2003.

His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims today announced a grant of US$ 320,000 for medical equipment by the Om Habibeh Foundation established by the Aga Khan’s late step-grandmother, Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah.

Following a meeting with the Governor of Aswan, H.E. Samir Hassanin, the Aga Khan announced the grant as part of a series of new development initiatives to benefit the people of Aswan. These included a plan for a social development training centre to have national reach, and programmes in the areas of nursing education, pre-school education and the strengthening of civil society organisations. The new initiatives in Aswan will complement an extensive social and urban development programme underway on the edge of the historic city of Cairo.

Aswan and the people of Aswan, have a place of deep affection in my heart and within my family.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

The Aga Khan went on to state that the Aga Khan Foundation (Egypt) which was in the process being established as a national entity would work in Aswan through the Om Habibeh Foundation which is an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network.

The programmes announced today intend to both continue, and also to build significantly on, the work begun by Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah. Our objective, is to strengthen civil society at the grassroots by helping to improve community development organisations and by bringing to bear on critical needs in this area, the panoply of experience and resources of the Aga Khan Development Network.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

Governor Hassanin expressed sincere gratitude on behalf of the people of Aswan and pledged to extend the Governorate’s full cooperation and support to the new initiatives which he said both responded to immediate and long-term needs, and reinforced the warm and close historic links that bound the Aga Khan, his family, and his community to Aswan and to Egypt.

Begum Om HabibehAga Khan Yvette Labrouse Aswan

Begum Om Habibeh ‘Mata Salamat’ Aga Khan in Aswan

It is hoped that the Aga Khan University will be invited to provide the planned support for nursing education. The University operates programmes in this field in six countries in Africa and Asia. It also supports training in the healthcare field in Syria and its teaching hospital handles referral services through a presence in the United Arab Emirates. Early childhood education has been an area of expertise for the Aga Khan Education Services for many decades now. Besides facilitating and providing pre-school education on four continents, the Aga Khan Education Services has just announced that it will establish an Early Learning Centre in Dubai to offer broad, holistic, early childhood education on a secular and non-denominational basis at the highest international standards of excellence. The Aga Khan Foundation is active in a number of countries in promoting an ‘enabling environment’ for the emerging non-profit citizen sector, by providing advice and related institutional strengthening services and by helping to forge new models for partnerships involving government, business and citizen organisations to extend, improve and sustain health, education and welfare services for underprivileged populations.

The Om Habibeh Foundation 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 involved in healthcare, education and income generation for disadvantaged communities. The Foundation will draw on the support and technical expertise of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network to advance the newly announced initiatives.

Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahuhammad Shah was born Yvette Blanche Labrousse 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. After bieng elected Miss Lyon in 1929, then Miss France in Paris in 1930, she joined the Miss Europe 1930 pageant in Paris, won by Miss Greece. She started to travel around the world and settled in Egypt.

There Yvette Labrousse met her future husband, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Nizari Shia Ismaili community (the present Aga Khan’s grandfather and predecessor as Imam), whom she married on 9 October 1944 in Switzerland, and 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 women in Islamic history with that title! They settled in the villa Yakymour at Le Cannet, 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.

She and her husband, Sir Sultan Mahuhammad Shah Aga Khan spent also many happy times at their home Noor El Salam by the banks of the Nile at Aswan. When her husband died in 1957, Om Habibeh started building at Aswan, on top of the hill above there house, a mausoleum to her husband, immediately after his death, while finishing it took 16 months. After the death of her husband, she continued to live at Yakymour, le Cannet, France, though she always spent three months a year in the villa at Aswan, at the site of her husband’s mausoleum.

Yvette Labrousse Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan Aswan Egypt

Begum Om Habibeh ‘Mata Salamat’ Aga Khan in Aswan on the river Nile.

As a widow, she travelled widely both for charity and for pleasure. 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 was an open house.

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’….

Begum Om Habibeh ‘Mata Salamat’ Aga Khan

And that’s what she did! 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.

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. At home in Cannes, 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 ‘Mata Salamat’ aka Yvette Labrousse died on 1 July 2000, in Le Cannet, near Cannes, at the age of 94 years, and is buried alongside to her beloved husband at the Aga Khan’s sandstone mausoleum in Aswan in whose design she was closely involved.

The family’s historic connections with Egypt go back to the Aga Khan’s ancestor, the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al Mui’zz who founded the city of Cairo in the 10th century.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is currently engaged in an extensive range of cultural, social and urban development projects on the edge of the historic city . They encompass: the creation of the 33-hectare Azhar Park that will be the city’s largest green space; community leisure and recreational areas; rehabilitation of the 12th Century Ayyubid Wall; restoration for re-use of selected historic buildings and monuments; and social development projects that include the provision of microfinance and microenterprise support in the Darb al Ahmar district.

The Aga Khan’s visit to Egypt comes at the end of an extensive tour covering Pakistan and the Middle East, including visits to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

For further information about the and the Om Habibeh Foundation, please contact:
The Information Department
Aiglemont
60270 Gouvieux, France
Téléphone: +33 3 44 58 40 00
Fax: +33 3 44 58 42 79
E-mail: amyn.ahamed@aiglemont.org
Website: www.akdn.org