IT has been a long time coming, but after 32 years the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies finally marked its official opening.

Prince Charles, its patron since 1993, yesterday praised the ‘remarkable courage and determination’ of those behind the £100m centre, which is part of Oxford University.

The heir to the throne added: “Against the thousand-year history of learning in this city, the 32-year span of the entire project seems very short indeed.”

The Prince of Wales was speaking to foreign envoys, financiers and academics who gathered to tour the centre’s new buildings, in Marston Road.

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It marks a major milestone for the centre since it was founded in 1985. For several years it was based out of a wooden hut in St Cross Road, then more recently offices in George Street.

Construction at its new site began in 2002 and it was originally thought it would be finished just two years later, but delays pushed its opening back.

Yesterday the prince was given a tour of the finished grounds, including a mosque and a garden he helped to design.

The centre blends architectural styles of traditional Oxford colleges with classical Islamic buildings.

In his speech he called for the centre to be a place of ‘cultural connectivity’ that could promote understanding between different cultures and faiths.

The prince added: “We need to rediscover and explore what unites rather than what divides us.”

Centre director Dr Farhan Nizami said the project’s success was because of the ‘goodwill and optimism’ of those involved.

And trustee Prince Turki al-Faisal, of Saudi Arabia, added: “I hope it will be a welcome addition to the rich variety of Oxford architecture and appreciated by both town and gown.”