The first ever program organized by Africa Federation Archives Section – THE ZANZIBAR HISTORICAL EXPEDITION – “Chalo Jangbar 2022” from Thursday 8th December to Sunday, 11th December 2022. The Expedition was open to both genders of our youth fraternity from all member Jamaats under Africa Federation aged between 16 – 20 years, this was the target group aimed in developing them to better understand our history and heritage, and, Zanzibar was chosen for the first expedition. Insha’allah more expeditions visits shall be planned in the future, such Mombasa, Lamu, Kilwa, Bagamoyo, Kigoma and other places.
The primary objective of the Expedition was to generate interest and raise awareness of the rich Khoja history among the youth from our Jamaats and thus, Zanzibar was the first expedition place. The accommodation for the group was at Tamani Villas at Matemwe overlooking the Indian Ocean.
A total of 25 youths (11 boys and 14 girls) from Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Morogoro accompanied by 7 Mentors sailed off on 8th December 2022 by Kilimanjaro Fast Ferries.
The expedition was aimed towards exploring and learning the historical background of the first migration of Khojas to Zanzibar Island, how they struggled and developed into a strong community in religious, cultural and social aspects of their life. Zanzibar until 1963 had the largest number of community members (Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheries) in Africa.
On the first day, the group paid a visit to the Matam Bahrani (Matemni) in Kiponda street in Zanzibar, Matemni moved from the old site behind the Sultan Palace to this place in early 1900.
Thereafter the group proceeded to Kuwwatul Islam Jamaat Mosque in Kiponda for prayers and were served with special Zanzibari Pilau for lunch organized by Kuwwatul Islam Jamaat. Some of the youths had experienced for the first-time lunch being served in traditional Thalis where two to three people share one Thali (S/Steel Platter), a tradition which still continues in Zanzibar.
Similarly, they were briefed on the history of the Mosque, Imambargha and the mehfils which included Mehfile Bibi Fatema, Husseini Taziakhana, Mehfile Abbas and Mehfile Ali Makaam. Each of these places played an important role and contributed greatly in the development of the religion of Islam and the Madh’ab of Ahlulbayt (‘A). The Zanzibar School Faize (Madressah) was one of the renowned Madressahs in Africa amongst the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheries.
Zanzibar was at the helm of our community producing some learned Scholars, Teachers and Administrators, gradually spreading to other parts of Africa, and later transcended to Europe, North America and other places as the community members migrated to these places, begining from early 1960.
The group also visited Princess Salme Museum and sightseeing of historical sights of Zanzibar Stone Town.
They explored through the tour of the historical places the rich history of Zanzibar dating back to 1698 and then the era of the Omani Sultanate in Zanzibar in around 1832 before becoming a British Protectorate Island in 1890. The Old Fort, Bait-al-Ajaib, the Museum Palace was the Sultan Palace at Forodhani Gardens and the Old Ithna-Asheri Dispensary, now known as the Stone Town Culture Centre on the seafront are among the famous sites in Zanzibar, one cannot miss.
The Youths had some opportunity to meet people from different walks of life and also experiencing their culture.
On Friday, the group met Professor Abdul Sheriff at the famous “Bustani” – (Garden). The group heard about the history of the ancestors, the challenges and dangers faced by these pioneers, including the Dewji Jamal family of Zanzibar during migration from India to East Africa in around 1860. The visit to Bustani which was also used as graveyard for the Sheriff Dewji Jamal family was interesting, the youth gained immense information about the sacrifices given by our ancestors who were generous, committed and staunch followers of the Madh’ab of Ahlulbayt (‘A). We are grateful to them for the fruits we enjoy today from the seeds they sowed almost two centuries ago. Professor Abdul Sheriff is a Tanzanian history Professor born on 7th December 1939 in Zanzibar, he is former director of the Peace Memorial Museum, the national museum of Zanzibar and his contributions to Tanzania and to our community is immense.
At Bustani, the participants and mentors were shown several graves of the family members of late Dewji Jamal, they also paid respect and remembered the late Chairman of Africa Federation, Fakhre-Qaum, Murrabbi Alhaj Ibrahim Hussein Sheriff Dewji who died suddenly on 9th January 1964 at a young age of 41 years while in the position of Chairman of Africa Federation. He died 3 days before the Zanzibar revolution which took place on 12th January 1964.
Thereafter the group proceeded to the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Hujjatul Islam Jamaat Mosque (Nai Misid) in Hamamni street for Juma’h prayers. Here they were briefed on the history of the Mosque and Imambargha by Shabbir bhai Somji and his wife Fatim bai.
From the records available, the foundation stone of the Nai Mosque & Imambargha was laid in 1890, the Mosque Minaret was built in the 1940s which remains a landmark in Zanzibar till this day, it was a highest structure in Zanzibar in those years.
The participants were served with delicious biryani for lunch before they departed for the next site visit.
The group later also visited the Shia Ithna-Asheri Kabrastan (Cemetery) at Mwanakwerekwe to remember the past leaders, volunteers and members of the community who are buried there.
Workshop and History Learning Activities:
In addition to historical visits and sightseeing etc., the group also engaged in workshops and history-related fun activities. The participants were divided into groups where they were allocated either significant personalities or an important event in early Khoja history. The topics included Haji Naji, The Aga Khan Court Case, Dewji Jamal, how AFED came into existence, Haji Ali Nathoo, AbdulHussein Gokul and several more.
The participants worked prudently to prepare and present their work in the most creative manner possible, coming up with PowerPoint presentations, video recordings and short skits. After each presentation, discussions were held on various lessons learned from the personality/event, and how relevant it is for us today. The winning groups were presented with medals.
On Saturday, the group witnessed the sunrise at the beach followed by an interactive session whose objective was to highlight the importance of preserving and recording history and how relevant it is today. The participants were able to share their views on some basic principles of preserving historical records, early Khoja history and how it can be presented in a more creative manner.
This was then followed by an interactive session on the challenges of our time – The Youth and Aspirations by Br. Shabbirhussein Khalfan, Chairman of AFED Capacity Building Group (CBG) who travelled to Zanzibar to facilitate the session and join the mentors in the program.
The Archives Team also engaged the group in an activity where they were supposed to prepare an action plan of the visions, they had for the community for the next 5 years. The youth presented their remarkable thoughts on their visions.
In addition to the sightseeing and workshops, the group also enjoyed the FIFA soccer matches, swimming and play at the beach. The group also paid a visit to the Tamani Schools where they gained an insight into how the Foundation assists children with free education.
The Archives Section of Africa Federation would like to extend sincere appreciation to the Kuwwatul Islam and Hujjatul Islam Jamaats of Zanzibar for their support, cooperation and hospitality accorded to the Chalo Jangbar Team. We are also grateful to Professor Abdul Sheriff, Shabbir bhai Somji and Fatim bai Somji for sharing their valuable insights with the participants. Our gratitude is also due to Br. Shabbirhussein Khalfan who took his time off and accepted to facilitate the Youth Session, part of the Zanzibar Historical Expedition program, the participants benefitted greatly from the Sessions also, they have shown keen interest to partake in future similar programs.
We also wish to acknowledge the Africa Federation Office Bearers and the Administrative Staff for their immense encouragement, cooperation and financial support in enabling us to organize the Chalo Jangbar Expedition. Our special thanks go to the Vice Chairman of Africa Federation, Alhaj Aunali Khalfan for his constant support and guidance which was very helpful in planning the expedition.
This first ever Expedition has given us more confidence and experience to carry out more such expeditions in future. Lastly, we would like to appreciate all the Youths who participated in this Expedition to Zanzibar, we are grateful to them for their time, efforts, vibrancy and creativity they brought to this Expedition, making it a success. We also thank their parents and guardians for allowing them to join us on this Expedition.
ARCHIVES SECTION OF THE AFRICA FEDERATION
29th December 2022