A regularly updated collection of historical records and  from the Africa Federation archives.


Pirbhai Visram Kaka’s Travels File:  
This section covers our community in Uganda, Congo, Ruanda-Urundi (presently Rwanda and Burundi)
In 1940, Pirbhai Visram (Kaka) who lived in Bukoba opened a branch in Kampala, Uganda. The branch started growing steadily and it ventured in coffee business in 1942.  Pirbhai’s eldest son Gulamali operated the business.  Gulamali was known for his diligence, knowledge and business acumen. They sold their Bukoba Coffee Factory to Rashid Moledina and moved to Kampala. Pirbhai Kaka then lived in Kampala till his death. Relating to the settlement of our community in Kampala, Kaka writes:
“Although I moved to Uganda in 1945, I travelled to Kampala quite often after Tanganyika came under British mandate in 1918. I will therefore try to recall about families settled in Uganda: “
Community members started establishing their business from 1902 onwards. Sheth Bahadurali Mawji established business in Jinja and Kampala in 1904.

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The Tabora and Bukoba Venture:
At the age of 22, Pirbhai Kaka left Lamu for Tabora where he arrived in 1904. He worked for four years as Manager in the firm of Sheth Omar Abdulkarim & Sons. It took him 45 days to travel by foot from Lamu to Tabora via Bukoba.
There were six main families in Tabora which he can remember. Sheth Nasser Virji was running a booming business and their merchandise went to distant places like Ujiji, Rwanda and Bujumbura. Arabs used to be their major customers. At that time it would take about 45 days for merchandise to reach Tabora from Bagamoyo, the main port. The goods were carried by porters who had to pass through dense forests amid danger of attack by wild animals. Sometimes the porters would be looted by raiders. There was no way to get any news of the movement of goods. It is only when the porters would reach Tabora that they would tell of their escape. Under such difficult circumstances, the company was still able to expand its business and had branches at Mwanza, Bukoba, Biharamulo, Dar es Salaam, Kigali, etc. They were considered King among the businesses in Tanganyika and they had a great influence on the German government of the time.

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Pirbhai Visram fondly known as ‘Pirbhai Kaka” had submitted a settlement history of our community to the Secretariat of Africa Federation in 1953. His report covers four areas where he lived - Lamu (1897-1910), Tabora (1905-1909), Bukoba (1914-1945) and Kampala (1945-1953). His valuable contribution to the preservation of history of our community is deeply appreciated. We hereby submit his story, in three (3) parts: 

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Amongst The Early Arrivals in Zanzibar

1882 - 1956

Al Hajj Dharamsi Gangji was born in 1882 in Nanglepur, Cutch, India. He was the eldest of six male sons of Gangji Sivji, a Khoja subsistence farmer. The family practiced the Shia Ismaili sect of Islam.
The summer monsoon rainfall is the major prerequisite of agricultural productivity in Cutch, and when the monsoon failed in 1896 and again in 1899, there was a severe drought followed by famine.
The famines of 1896–97 and 1899–1900 in India affected almost the entire subcontinent, causing severe distress, debility, and mortality, killing over four million people. The effect on the Gangji farm was devastating. Life was very hard for the family and in 1899; Gangji Sivji decided to send his eldest son, Dharamsi, to East Africa.

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Archives Section – Down the Memory Lane Photographs


A Charity Walk was organized by the Dar-es-Salaam Jamaat Medical Sub-Committee to raise funds for a construction of Hospital for Dar es Salaam Jamaat.  Marhum Alhaj Murtaza Lakha – Barrister at-Law was the Chairman of the fund raising committee.

Unfortunately the intended Plot could not be acquired from the Government and the collected amount was handed over to Dar-es-Salaam Jamaat for future hospital project.

Late Agha Sayyid Lavasani, the then Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tanzania led the walk which started from the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat Mosque after Fajr prayers and ended at the residence of Alhaj Aunali Kassam in Migombele, Msasani area.

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Gulamhussein Remtulla Hansraj – Soroti, Uganda

Gulamhussein bhai arrived in Africa at the age of 12 and joined in the employment of Esmail Khimji’s branch in Lindi, under a three year contract at a salary of 1000 kodis which was equivalent of 300 rupees for 3 years. He arrived in Lindi in 1906 and at that time the Ithnaasheri community’s population was 200. The names of few of the traders at that time were as follows: Ali Walli, Kassamali Walli, Esmail Haji Khimji, Jaffer Najak, Moledina Karim Waaras, Alidina Walli Khaki, Gulamhussein Remtulla Pardhan, Alidina Mohamed Sajan, Moledina Mohamed, Gulamali Jaffer, Moledina Sumar, Allarakhia Sumar, Murji Moledina, Hirji Merali, Talib Dossa, Jaffer Premji, Pirmohamed Janmohamed and Mulla Esmail Gulamhussein. There were several others whose names he did not remember but he could recall the above as they were all from Kutch Mundra. There was only one Ismaili family.

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Marhum Haji Mohamedali Janmohamed Kessani was born in Mikindani, southern Tanganyika in 1896. His father Janmohamed Kessani was born in Mundra, Kutch and had lived for many years in Mikindani where he died. After the death of his father in 1900, Mohamedalibhai’s relatives arranged for him to be sent to a boarding primary school in Mumbai. He completed Level 2 Gujarati primary education in 1902. A renowned businessman from Mogadishu, Fazalbhai Hasham, while in Mumbai, offered him a job and he travelled with him to Mogadishu in 1908. After working at Fazalbhai for 15 years, he started his own business.

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(1892-1971) - Chiungutwa, Southern Tanzania

 In 1908, at the age 16, Fazalbhai travelled from India and landed in Tanga. After three days in Tanga he went to Pangani where he joined in the employment of Mr Mohamed Karim for 6 months. He then worked for Mr Mohamed Tharoo for 3 years. In 1912 he left Tanga with 4 labourers on a 20 day trip to Singida (300 miles away) on foot. He worked for Jaffer Khimji in Singida for 12 months.
Fazalbhai decided to start his own business. He bought cattle in Singida and went on a 25-day journey on foot to Korogwe where he sold the cattle. He continued this business for 3 years. The business was going on well but an incident in 1916 made him to drop the business. While traveling to Korogwe, he reached Kondoa-Irangi where British rule was already established after the defeat of the Germans.

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Brief Information of Pemba Island 

Pemba known as 'Al Jazeera Al Khadra' (the green island, in Arabic) is an island forming part of the Zanzibar archipelago, lying off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It is situated about 60 km to the north of the island of Zanzibar. It lies 50 km east of mainland Tanzania. Together with Mafia Island (south of Zanzibar), they form the Spice Islands.
The estimated population of Pemba Island is about 300,000, with an area of 980 km². The island of Pemba currently has 4 districts; they are Chake Chake, Mkoani, Wete and Micheweni.
Pemba Island is the untouched and pristine island of great beauty and fertility. The mosaic of forests, swamps, mangroves, hidden beaches and lagoons is scattered with the ruins of mosques and tombs mostly reclaimed by the forest – sites that date back to Arab domination when Pemba Island was seized by the Sultan of Muscat (Oman) in the 17th century.
Pemba was once the world’s major clove producer, making to almost 70%.

Wete Jamaat:
In 1910, eight families of our community lived half a mile from Mtemani which is the current commercial centre. They were Br. Habib Hasham Chatoo, Br. Karim Hasham Chatoo, Br. Khakoo Ramji, Br. Kermalli Hasham, Br. Hasham Hirji and Br. Ali Kasu.
During the 1914 World War, the Mtemani area became commercially active and our community members moved in gradually. Wete at the time was in the early stages of development, it was like a small village. There were no proper roads, water and electricity. Wireless telegram communications started in 1914. Bullock carts were used for movement of goods. Donkeys were used for travel purposes. Since the donkey was the only method of travel, no one felt ashamed doing so. The first motor vehicles arrived in 1926. Telephone communication for public started in 1932.  Piped water was installed in 1937 and electricity in 1958.


KSI Community in Kaberamaido, Uganda
Mulla Haji Gulamhussein Ladha 1896-1964

Mulla Gulamhussein Ladha’s family was the first Ithnaasheri family in Kaberamaido. He arrived in 1938 from Soroti. He was a Zakir-e-Hussain and used to recite majlises in Kutchi and Urdu and Ismaili Community would attend as well.  All religious programs which included Thursday, Wafat, Khushali and Mahe Ramadhan majlises were held at Mulla Gulamhusein's house.
Members of the Ismaili Community later on requested for turns to hold majlises at their houses as well which were recited by Mulla Saheb.
Mulla Saheb used to recite majlises in Atuboi (a town 15 miles away) as well where all the residents were Ismailis and the majlises use to be held at the Jamatkhanas.

Haji Hassanali Salehmohamed 1917-1972

Another family in Kaberamaido was that of Alhaj Salehmohamed. Hassanalibhai Salehmohamed migrated from India and arrived in Mombasa at the age of 12. He then travelled to Kaberamaido where he initially worked for his maternal uncle Rashid Bata for six years. He then worked for his brother Rajabali Salehmohamed for two years, before leaving for India for marriage.
Upon returning from India he worked in partnership with his brother for a year, after which he started his own business.  When he first arrived at this town, there were 5-7 Turkish and about 5 Ismaili shops. There was good cooperation between Ismailis and Ithna Asheris which continued.
Thursday, Wafat and Wiladat majlis continued to be held in turns while Muharram Majlis were held at the residence of Hassanalibhai on sponsorship basis. The Khoja population increased gradually. 


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