Karim Aga Khan & The Emerald Coast 0 Comments
Once upon a time, 60 years ago, there was a Prince who bought, "sight-unseen", almost seventy hectares in Romazzino, a coastal stretch of Gallura in the northeast of Sardinia, called Monti di Mola, only grounded on the advice of two English friends who had praised it's pristine beauty...
That Prince is Shah Karīm al-Husaynī, better known as the Aga Khan, Muslim Imam of the Shia Ismailite community and a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad through his cousin Ali. When he went to see the land purchased he was initially destabilized because it really was a pristine piece of land. "It was like a hunting reserve: there were no houses, there was no running water, no electricity, no businesses of any kind." he would say later. But the beauty of the Sardinian coast seduced him with its splendid sea and its fragrant, wild land, with its ancient origins and its millenary traditions and he planned to turn it into a corner of paradise, with houses, running water, electricity and businesses.
The Prince was 24 years old, and it may be said that they grew up together, he and the ones of Monti di Mola, he and Arzachena, he and Gallura, he and Sardinia. In love with the beauty of the north-eastern Sardinian coast, included in the municipalities of Olbia and Arzachena, he bought the land. He transformed Monti di Mola into "La Costa Smeralda", the Emerald Coast, captured its soul and proudly made it known to the world, developing it touristically by designing the Costa Smeralda style by using the local Gallura’s resources, such as granite and wood. In 1962 the Costa Smeralda Consortium was founded, a non-profit association for urban and territorial development and the Architecture Committee was appointed to control the area with strict development plans that guaranteed the preservation of the natural heritage with a style that combines the beauty of the environment with elements of the local building tradition. The result was the implementation of an environmentally-friendly urban location, that made Costa Smeralda be the first and singular example of virtuous and balanced tourism development in the Mediterranean.
Prince Karim Aga Khan, a pioneer of sustainable development, guided the carrying out of each phase with enthusiasm and passion, inspired by the most rigid defence of ecological and environmental values, developing the area under the control of the Consortium itself, in strict compliance with environmental values, and in the preservation of the millennial Sardinian civilization.
He founded Porto Cervo in 1962 where he built a 700-berths port, with luxurious hotels, resulting into a famous worldliness meeting place. In 1963 he created the Alisarda airline, which in 1991 became Meridiana and become Air Italy in 2018. He built the new Olbia-Costa Smeralda Airport in 1969, which became the most important international airport on the island. In 1967 he founded the Costa Smeralda Yacht Club. In 2012 the control of the Consortium was transferred to other companies.
The Consortium still provides important services: the Medical Center, the Surveillance Service, the Firefighting Service, which includes a helicopter, Environmental Protection for cleaning roads and beaches and the infrastructure management service, the water supply with its services, sewer control, purifiers, and public lighting. The Costa Smeralda today includes the Marina of Porto Cervo, the Shipyard, the Yacht Club, the Tennis Club, the Pevero Golf Club.
At 84 years, 60 years later, Aga Khan might make an assessment of how much the accomplishment of this project has given him or how much it has taken away from him. It was a complex relationship made of enthusiasm, intuition and sacrifice. In Gallura, however, they are certain of what the Prince has given them: a future.
“The search for justice and security, the struggle for equality of opportunity, the quest for tolerance and harmony, the pursuit of human dignity – these are moral imperatives which we must work towards and think about on a daily basis”. (Karim Aga Khan)
Written by Daniela Toti