Must See Video: Bruno Freschi Provides Great Insights Into the Making of the First Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Canada, and Reflects on His Highness the Aga Khan

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

I first met met Bruno Freschi, the architect of the Ismaili Centre Vancouver, in Washington D.C., when Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was awarded the Vincent Scully Prize in January 2005 at the National Building Museum. After meeting him at the door, I politely intruded into a conversation the Aga Khan Council Canada President, Firoz Rasul, was having with Fumihiko Maki, the Japanese architect of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa (December 2008), and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (September 2014), and introduced Bruno to the President. So for the first time two great architects from different ends of the world met each other. We are truly proud of what both have done for the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili community.

Aga Khan at the National Building Museum Washington DC
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Charles Correa, Robert Ivy and Martin Filler in a panel discussion on “Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond”, on January 25, 2008 at the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. Photo: © Nicky Lubis. Special to Simerg.
Bruno Freschi, OC
Bruno Freschi, OC
Aga Khan at National Building Museum seminar
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan pictured during a panel discussion at the seminar “Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond” held at the National Museum Building in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2005. Bruno Freschi in an interview with Simerg noted as follows about Mawlana Hazar Imam: “An excellent design critic and intellectually generous in the pursuit of design ideas”. Photo: © Special to Simerg.

Later that evening before the ceremonies were over — and also later in my interview with him — Bruno told me that he met Mawlana Hazar Imam who thanked him for building the Jamatkhana in Vancouver which he said was one of his most favoured buildings. At the time, Bruno was based in the US capital.

Aga Khan message to Bruno Freschi
His Highness the Aga Khan’s appreciative note to Mr. Bruno Freschi for his “remarkable achievement”. Message written in the architect’s personal volume of the Ismaili Centre Souvenir publication. Image: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.

A few years later when Bruno was back in Vancouver but still travelling, I met him for the second time shortly after launching Simerg in the spring of 2009. My daughter had travelled with me to visit my parents in Vancouver. Bruno happened to be in town and was available one evening for dinner at the famous VJ’s restaurant.

VJs Vancouver Bruno Freschi and the Merchants
(From left, anti-clockwise) Bruno Freschi, Jehangir Merchant (d. May 2018), Nurin Merchant and Malik Merchant at the famous VJs in Vancouver, March 2009.

My dad joined us for a fantastic meal with Bruno, and what an evening it turned out to be. Among other matters, and in a setting of a great ambience, our conversation also centered around the magnificent Jamatkhana building that he had designed. That evening’s conversation along with subsequent text exchanges then became part of Simerg’s though provoking interview with Bruno Freschi, that includes several unique photos.

Jehangir Merchant, Ismaili teacher, writer and missionary at Ismaili Centre Vancouver
Jehangir Merchant pictured in front of the fountain in the beautiful courtyard of the Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana, Vancouver, designed by Bruno Freschi. It was designated as the Darkhana Jamatkhana by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Both Jehangir and his wife, Maleksultan, attended the Darkhana Jamatkhana every single day, and found immense comfort and happiness within the Jamatkhana space and the building’s overall interior and exterior environment. This photo was taken a few months before Alwaez died in May 2018 at the age of 89. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Mohib Ebrahim, Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre
A beautiful night view of the courtyard of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Vancouver, with the fountain in the foreground and the Jamatkhana entrance forming the backdrop. The Jamatkhana was designed by Vancouver’s Bruno Freschi and opened in 1985 by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © Mohib Ebrahim. 2014. For a superb collection of photos of the Ismaili Centre by Mohib, please click HERE
Mrs. Merchant at Ismaili Centre Vancouver with neighbour Nazim Rawji
Mrs. Merchant (d. January 2021) pictured with Nazim Rawji, her former 1960/1970’s neighbour from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, outside the courtyard of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Vancouver during an event marking the 59th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The building was designed by architect Bruno Freschi, and opened in 1985 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: Malik Merchant. July 2016.

I invite readers to read Simerg’s insightful interview with Bruno, and to also watch a fantastic program hosted by journalist Zahra Premji in Ismaili Canada’s series Summer Reflections. The video, below, must not be missed as it provides Bruno Freschi’s rare and unique glimpses into the making of this absolutely beautiful building which was opened in September 1985. His admiration and respect for Mawlana Hazar Imam is deeply touching.

I have always enjoyed being around Bruno because of his humble qualities and for sharing inspiring insights into the work of the Ismaili Imamat. I was delighted to meet him again at a much different VJ’s some years later just before the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam. He then contributed a thought provoking article The architecture of empathic pluralism: His Highness the Aga Khan, an inspired vision of architecture for Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family. Then, after my dad passed away, I met him once more when my mum was with me at a daytime event at the Ismaili Centre. She was very happy that she had finally met the person who designed the Jamatkhana that both she and my dad had visited every single day for years and years. The Jamatkhana had provided them with spiritual happiness and comfort as well as strength in their daily lives, like it has for thousands and thousands of Ismailis living in Vancouver as well as visitors from around the world.

We thank you Bruno for creating a beautiful space to which we all enter (go in) with anticipation and leave (go out) with an immense amount of happiness and hope. We return to it over and over again. Your insight into the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre will make us think more about the building you painstakingly designed for us, working together side by side with our beloved Imam to see its total and full completion.

The Ismaili Canada Conversation with Bruno Freschi

Note: To skip the pre-show of songs and music, please start the video at approximately the 13 minute mark to watch Zahra Premji’s excellent and extensive interview with Bruno Freschi, the architect of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Vancouver.

To skip songs and watch Ismaili Centre program and interview with Bruno Freschi, please begin at 13 minute mark.

Date posted: August 14, 2021.


Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Photos and Video: A Gift for Eid ul-Fitr – The Birth of 6 Goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto on the Blessed Day of Chandraat

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Editor’s note: Please click Simergphotos for a vastly updated version of this post.

Newly hatched goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

The female goose I had photographed so many times in the weeks before I travelled to Vancouver lay on her eggs for around 28 days. No food, no drinks, no wandering around!

She had to find a perfect spot to protect her nest from animals and human interference, and that she did at a shrub just outside the South East wall of the Ismaili Centre. What a strategy — uncomplicated and safe!

A new family. Proud parents with their newly born goslings outside the Ismaili Centre and the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

The eggs hatched on the morning of Wednesday May 12, as per the security guard who was present at the nesting site when I met him. My plan was to actually go to Edward Gardens for a long walk but instead of travelling straight on Wynford Drive to reach Don Mills Road, I “lost my senses” and ended in the parking lot of the Aga Khan Museum. I couldn’t have been happier, with what I saw and came away with.

I would call it “A Miracle of Life” and it took place at the end of Ramadhan, and on the day of the sighting of the new moon that Ismaili Muslims celebrate as Chandraat as per the wishes of their 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957). He bestowed the night on the Ismailis for the inner peace and happiness it would bring. For me seeing this phenomenon of birth, and looking at the tiny goslings was an incredible and joyous event. I consider it as the most appropriate gift of Eid ul-Fitr. Enjoy the photographs.

The beautiful Aga Khan Museum Building. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Children play on the courtyard of the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
The Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto, an extension of the Ismaili Centre. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The female goose seen by the shrub at the Ismaili Centre where she nested her eggs for a period of around 28 days. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The mother goose on the nest with her new family of six goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Newly hatched goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.


To my fellow brothers and sisters in the Ismaili community, I share with you the following message that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, conveyed to us a year ago on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr:

“It is my wish that my Jamat should look to the future with hope and courage, in keeping with its age-old tradition of unity, generosity and mutual support which has at all times enabled it to move forward to a position of enhanced strength and resilience, from generation to generation.

“My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

“I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings to all my Jamat – for happiness, good health, confidence and security in your lives ahead, and for mushkil-asan.”

My daughter Nurin joins me in conveying all readers of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos Eid Mubarak with best wishes and prayers for good health; long lives and success in all walks of life.

Date posted: May 13, 2021.
Last updated: May 14, 2021 (link to updated version of post, click HERE)


Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Close to my Heart On a Perfect Valentine’s Day: The Aga Khan Park, the Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome and the Aga Khan Museum

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Aga Khan Museum
A view of the Aga Khan Museum’s main entrance bloc on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

I couldn’t have asked for a better and happier February 14, 2021. I woke up very early to complete an exclusive photo piece of Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to Pemba on November 18, 1957. Looking out of the atrium windows across my living room facing North-West, I knew the sun was rising on the South-East side. It was -9°C and there was absolutely no wind. I had been cooped up inside for the past few days and wanted some fresh air. I brewed Colombian Supremo Coffee that I had purchased earlier during the week at St. Lawrence Market, filled a huge steel mug that keeps beverages boiling hot for about an hour, and headed to “What a Bagel” bakery on York Mills and Leslie, which was spewing out fresh hot bagels the minute I arrived there. “Give me a really hot one,” I said, and asked the ever-smiling server to make me a vegetarian sandwich. “Not toasted,” I reminded her, as many who come to the shop insist on having their order toasted, even if they are fresh from the oven.

I jumped into my car, turned it on with a low heat setting and enjoyed the bagel and coffee. What next? A visit to my Valentine, and I am sure that makes my readers curious. A meeting, maybe, at the Aga Khan Park?

Aga Khan Park Flags of Canada, ontario province, city of toronto and ismaili imamat simerg
So still was the wind at Aga Khan Park on February 14, 2021, that the flags of the Ismaili Imamat, the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and Canada were unmoved! It was a beautiful day to savour at the Park in -5°C Celsius. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Ismaili Centre
Ismaili Centre main entrance with the Jamatkhana dome at left under blue skies on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Who might that “lucky” Valentine be? In the absence of my lovely daughter who is several hundred kilometres away and my beloved mother who passed away only three weeks ago, I turned to my constant companions for several months — the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome, the Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park where I have experienced so much happiness and inspiration. I adore being there. Can one make non-human object(s) around you as your Valentine for February 14th? Not by the definition of Valentine’s, but I contrived one just for myself!

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © John MacDonald, Ottawa
His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © John W. MacDonald, Ottawa.

I cannot thank anyone but Mawlana Hazar Imam for his vision in conceiving and building three extraordinary spaces for the enjoyment of people in Toronto and everyone around the world. I am one of the lucky ones, who gets to visit the grounds as and when I like. February 14, 2021 was a very special day. There was beautiful light snow on the ground, the sky was blue and sunny, it wasn’t cold and the flags stood still in the absence of any windshield factor!

I FaceTimed my daughter Nurin to show her the beautiful environment that surrounded me. My face, she could see, had lit up.

Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome.
The dome of the Toronto Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana captured under sunny blue skies on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2021. The glass niche in the centre of the circular wall faces the direction of Kaba where all Muslims face for prayers. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Aga Khan Museum Valentine's Day
A man walks by one of the snow covered ponds at the Aga Khan Park, with the Aga Khan museum in full view under sunny blue skies. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Aga Khan Park Aga Khan Museum Ismaili Jamatkhana Valentine's Day 2021 Simerg
A family with children walk on the Aga Khan Park trail under sunny blue skies on February 14, 2021. The dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana at left reflects a rare white cloud in the sky, and the Aga Khan Museum building can be seen further away. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg,
cn tower aga khan park simerg downtown toronto
A close up view of the CN Tower from the south east end of the Aga Khan Park on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Big Heech Aga Khan Museum
The Big Heech Sculpture located in front of the Aga Khan Museum’s main entrance bloc. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Jamatkhana dome Simerg Valentine's Day Photo
A view of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana dome from the grounds of Aga Khan Park. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Ismaili Jamatkhana dome Simerg
An amazing reflection of a rare cloud on the dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana on an otherwise clear blue sky on February 14, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

After spending a good measure of my morning at the Aga Khan Park, I returned home to continue working on the Pemba photo essay for the remainder of the day, while many others would be enjoying their Valentine’s day with their partners in creative settings necessitated by Covid-19.

Date posted: February 14, 2021.


This post is also repeated on Simerg’s sister photo website with larger photos and other minor changes. Please click On a Perfect Valentine’s Day, the Aga Khan Park, the Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome and the Aga Khan Museum Came Even Closer to My Heart

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Aga Khan Park, Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum on a Snowy Xmas Day

With more than 10 cms of overnight snow, affirming December 25, 2020 as white Xmas, Malik Merchant put on his winter boots, in addition to wearing warm clothes, and headed to his favourite spot armed with a fully charged camera, an orange and an apple (to keep the doctor away)! Someone’s genuine love for winter, however, put Malik behind in second place, as a cheerful looking snowman had already been constructed…..MORE

PLEASE CLICK: Simergphotos at Aga Khan Park, Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum on Christmas Day 2020 or on image below

Snowman at Aga Khan Museum Malik Merchant
Please click on image for photo essay

Date posted: December 26, 2020


Poem by Farah Tejani Celebrating the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum’s 6th Anniversary, and the LAPIS Event

Note: The Lapis event is now over

The Aga Khan Museum has been hosting the annual fund raising LAPIS event for the past few years, with Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan honouring the event by personally attending it. Now due to Covid-19, the signature event has been reinvented with a broadcast from the Aga Khan Museum that everyone is invited to register for free.

The program on Thursday September 24, 2020 will be live streamed at 8 PM ET, and include remarks from Prince Amyn, Chairman of the Aga Khan Museum Board, meaningful conversations with acclaimed international artists on art in a changing world and four breathtaking performances with diverse talent from around the world.

The Aga Khan Museum invites you to join with friends and family from around the world as together it shares a unique message of hope, resilience and light. Please click HERE TO REGISTER.

Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre 6th Anniversary

And while we are on the subject of the Aga Khan Museum, let us remind our readers that September 12, 2020 marked the 6th anniversary of the inauguration of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the then Prime Minister of Canada the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper. The Museum officially opened to the public on September 18, 2014, with the Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana (known as the Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana) opening to Ismaili community for prayers on Friday, September 19, 2014.

To commemorate the openings of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre as well as the annual Lapis event, we are delighted to present this thoughtful poem by Farah Tejani of Vancouver.

Celebrating the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto

Ismaili Imamat Projects on Wynford Drive, Toronto, Canada. The Ismaili Centre (with glass dome), the Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park.


Two complementary sister structures of architectural elegance and splendor
Jut out and pierce the heart of Toronto’s sky.
The Aga Khan Museum and
The Ismaili Centre.

United are they for the beneficial purpose of extending a hand
Of Everlasting Friendship,
Between Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.
Uniting the Muslim Ummah,
The World Ummah,
With Cultural and Religious Tolerance and Respect…

Dispelling all deplorable depictions of Islam in the Media,
By propagating the Truth:

Peace, Love, Brotherhood, Compassion, Spirituality and Prayer.

Yes, we extend a hospitable, gracious, loving hand of friendship,
Celebrating Cultural Diversity,
Historical Traditions,
Arts and Artifacts,
Awe-inspiring Calligraphic Designs and Structures,
Tours, Recitals, Exhibitions, Theatre, Films and
Educational and Cultural Activities.

The Ismaili Centre has unique and grand tiled floors
Laced with elaborate, poignant calligraphy,
Upon entering the prayer hall
We begin every act beseeching God to
Bless and Accept
All Our Endeavours.

The Prayer Hall’s distinctive
And elegant Crystalline dome,
Illuminates the night sky,
Reflecting itself into the pond,
While angels come together to lift and carry,
Each and every Murid’s,
Most Earnest and Heartfelt Prayer
To the stars:
Just Outside Allah’s Door.

Comprising one fifth of the world,
We are Muslims…
Yet there is little known of our faith and traditions.
These two buildings will stand side by side like Doves of Peace,
Aiming to bridge the gap and promote Compassion and Understanding,
Welcome, one and all.

Housing Well-Preserved Priceless Works of Art:
Objects and Artifacts,
From the Aga Khan and his Family’s Personal Collection,
The Aga Khan Museum’s Relics will tell of themselves,
For countless years to come.

Tradition and Modernity,
Come and join together to create these Majestic Timeless Landmarks,
For people from all parts of the world to enjoy.

As His Highness the Aga Khan said at the Opening Ceremony:
“We are, after all, a community that WELCOMES THE SMILE!”
With His Grace, many outdated notions of what Islam is
Will be Demystified,
And the Exemplary Fundamental Truths Unveiled
For all to see.

So again we say Welcome…
We extend a hand of Loyal and Loving Friendship,
With Peace, Brotherhood, Unity and Prayer at the Core of Our Existence.
And from the Heart of each and every individual Ismaili,
We welcome you to
Our Wonderful Universal and Timeless Tradition.
Come discover, share and learn.

Date posted: September 29, 2020.


We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click on Leave a comment . Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Farah graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. With the help of her agent Barbara Graham she then went on to publish a collection of short stories published by Trafford, called, “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” — ten short stories dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award.” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021. Her most recent poetic pieces are Behold the Light of Ali and The Great Sacrifice.

Iringa Jamatkhana, Mohamed Hamir, Ismaili, Simerg

Alijah Mohamed Hamir Pradhan, Inspiration Behind the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Iringa, Tanzania


[This special piece for Simerg is a revised version of the original article by the author that was published in Khojawiki in July 2020 — Ed.]

In 1933, in the midst of a global recession, a landmark building, a prayer house, arose in the center of a small provincial town in the interior highlands of Africa. The story of this remarkable building had its genesis in Kutch based family patriarch by the name of Hamir Pradhan, my great grandfather.

The Hamir family of Sinogra/ Nagarpur districts of Kutch was remembered as a reasonably prosperous and enterprising family in the latter half of 1800s. Hamir Pradhan had sired eight sons and one daughter. He was also a person of deep faith and community service. He had built and donated a small Jamatkhana in Sinogra. There is evidence that Hamir Pradhan had created a legacy of community service and sacrifice that left deep impression on his children and the community in Kutch. 

During early part of 1900s, six of the Hamir male siblings had joined the large scale migration of peoples from Kutch, Kathiawaar and other parts of Gujarat plagued by large scale famine, to the colonized countries of eastern and southern Africa. One of the young men among these siblings to migrate was Mohamed Hamir Pradhan, my grandfather. He was married to Bachibai, my grandmother. She and their first born daughter Fatma, who was around 3 years at the time, were to join my grandfather in Africa several years later.

Mohamed Hamir Pradhan (1880 - 1943) of Iringa, Tanzania Simerg
Mohamed Hamir Pradhan (1880 – 1943). Photo: Hamir Collection.

My grandfather, Mohamed Hamir (Pradhan) was born in Sinogra, Kutch in 1880. Following his siblings, in 1902, he arrived in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), a German colony at the time. After a short stint in Kilosa with one of his brothers, Haji Hamir, he followed another brother, Satchu Hamir, to Iringa, a quintessential German/British colonial outpost town in the Southern Highlands, where he went to work for him in his retail (duka) shop. He helped his brother expand his business to inland villages, often traveling for weeks with a caravan of porters carrying merchandise. In 1905, three years after his arrival in Tanganyika, he formed his own business.

Benefiting from his trading experience and extensive contacts with both the German and later British colonialist, he was able to capitalize and benefit from the war economy of the First World War (1914-1918). Over the next three decades he became a successful entrepreneur in retail and residential real estate development. Also over the next several years he and my grandmother Bachibai who had joined him from Kutch, expanded the family to include three more daughters and a son. This expanded, and eventually extended family through marriages, was to play a large role in my grandfather’s business successes, and more importantly in helping him achieve his ultimate legacy. Since his son, my father was only 12 or 13 years of age, his daughters played a key role in running his retail business and were deeply involved on his legacy project.

Bachibai Mohamed Hamir Pradhan, Ismaili Iringa simerg photos
Bachibai Mohamed Hamir Pradhan. Photo: Hamir Collection.

The names of my grandfather’s children and their marital families are (chronologically): daughters Fatma Mahamed Ladha, Sikina Bhimji Asser Sachedina, Jena Ramzan Parpia, and Rehmat Fazal Manji; and son and daughter-in law Akbar and Kulsum Mohamed Hamir.

In early 1930’s and in the midst of The Great Global  Economic Depression, our grandfather embarked on a project that would become a matter of pride and an important legacy for our family and the Ismaili community of Iringa. Inspired by his father Hamir Pradhan’s generosity and community service, as well as his own deep faith, he proposed to the community that he wanted to build a Jamatkhana complex and donate it to the Imam for benefit of the Ismaili community in Iringa. My grandfather’s proposal called for a two story Jamatkhana building with a capacity for 600 people, four times the Jamat size at the time. The complex was to include primary school facilities, a social hall, a guest house (dharmshara) and a recreation compound. The building was to be located right in the middle of the main street, which later was named as Jamat Street, a tribute to the Ismaili community of Iringa for the Jamatkhana building that manifested prominently on the street.

With perseverance and after several design changes, he was able to get an agreement on his plan and approval for the project from the appropriate jurisdictional leadership as well as our Imam. The construction was commenced in 1931 and completed in 1933. Due to drastic economic conditions, my grandfather had to resort to borrow money to complete the project. Several prominent families had stepped up to lend him the money. Our family folklore describes his obsession with the project that was of legendary proportion. At times, things got so desperate that he personally and physically toiled on the projects along with our family members to help the project move along to completion.

Iringa KIsmaili Jamatkhana, landmark street scene, Simerg.
Street scene with Iringa Ismaili Jamatkhana standing out prominently with its high tower and clock. The Jamatkhana was completed in 1933 with the support and initiative taken by Alijah Mohamed Hamir Pradhan. Photo: Courtesy Shafin Haji.

At the time of the completion of the Jamatkhana in 1933, it was reported to be one of the best in Tanganyika, and architecturally one of the most beautiful in the whole of East Africa. Over the next twenty-five years the Ismaili Jamat in Iringa grew five-fold, exceeding the original capacity of 600. The Jamatkhana complex was not only the anchor of the community, but also a major catalyst for the growth of the Ismaili community in Iringa. Later in the 1960s, my father, Alijah Akbar Mohamed Hamir, expanded the capacity of the Jamatkhana to accommodate the growing Khoja Ismaili community in Iringa.

At the Golden Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah in Nairobi 1936, our grandparents were scheduled for special audience with the Hazar Imam in order to formally present the gift of the Iringa Jamatkhana. However due to the last minute illness of my grandmother they were not able to make the long journey to Nairobi. Our Imam accepted their gift in their absence, and conveyed much appreciation and blessings to them and to their family. This was the happiest moment in our grandfather’s life! The Imam also bestowed on him an honorific title of Alijah.

Iringa Ismaili Jamatkhana Tnazania Simerg article
A close up view of Iringa Ismaili Jamatkhana, completed in 1933 with the support and initiative taken by Alijah Mohamed Hamir Pradhan. Photo: Courtesy Shafin Haji.
Aga Khan Ismaili Iringa Jamatkhana close-up of bell clock, Simerg
An enlarged view of the prominent bell clock of the Iringa Jamatkhana. Photo: Courtesy Shafin Haji.

Since its manifestation almost 90 years ago, the Iringa Jamatkhana  continues to stand as symbol of the town’s identity. Located in the heart of the town, the high and prominent clock tower, adoring the architecturally beautiful building, remains the emblem and inspiration to the local and diasporic community of Iringa. Its large bell clock and high visibility reminds people to the calling of the time, and the out-of-town visitors to their bearings.

It is a source of pride for our community and our family to have the Jamatkhana be such an iconic monument of the town. It is also a tribute to my grandfather’s foresight, faith, leadership and perseverance. His generosity and service to the community is a remarkable legacy and an inspiration for our family and for the future generations.

Date posted: August 2, 2020.

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Mohamed Hamir

About the author: Mohamed Hamir, originally from Tanzania, has lived in numerous locations throughout USA since 1969. He is a retired financial services executive including a 20 year career with Citibank in the USA. He has an undergraduate degree in science from London University, UK and an MBA in finance from Indiana University. His work experience and extensive travel included both USA domestic and international markets.

Since his retirement in 2001, he has been passionate about causes involving female infanticide and education of marginalized children. He is on the Advisory Board and member of the LEADers Circle of PRATHAM USA, a prominent global educational NGO. He is also the Executive Producer of “Petals in the Dust”, an award winning documentary exposing gender discrimination, girl killing and violence against women in India.

Among his numerous services to the Ismaili community, he has served as both Mukhi and Kamadia of the Jamats in the USA. From 1988 to 1991 he served as a member of the National Council for USA with a portfolio of fund raising for Jamatkhanas. In 1968, when he was a student in London, he co-founded and was the first president of the inaugural Aga Khan Sports Club of U.K. He currently resides with his family in Southern California.


Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

Translucent Night




A grain of sand,
Held in its shell.
A pearl is born, hidden from sight
These are reflective within the whole
Under the opaque crystal
Of the peaked Ismaili Centre dome
Here grains of sand
transform into pearls.
A mountain peak risen
From circular white granite
The translucent glass faces
His one time home.

The moon is peeking out
As it waxes on a journey
The clearest night paves the way
towards a seventh heaven
No clouds to deter the clarity and blessings
of quanta and waves.
Piercingly clear, nothing interferes.
The dome sits majestically, still as thin air
In the bright night lit of stars
Where all souls pray.

Those who eat of the fruits of that which is within
In the peace of the night
Light enters through the transparent glass
You search for the spiritual nature of being
Between the opaque and the transparent.

Peace tonight as Shawwal arrives
Then dawn will break clearly
And rustle of wings and hymns of birds will be heard,
As buds have been born
Tulip has bloomed
Russian sage is waking
Cherry blossoms are done
Serviceberry smart in rows, salutes
Infinity pools await water,
Thoughts take root.

And so we wonder,
What is under this dome?

Ismaili Centre Toronto Dome
The dome of the Ismaili Centre Toronto

Date posted: May 25, 2020.


About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.


We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.


Photos: Walking through the Aga Khan Park on a beautiful day of spring

PLEASE CLICK: Photos of Aga Khan Park, Ismaili Centre, Aga Khan Museum and Cherry Blossoms at Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre

Aga Khan Park Photos at Simergphotos
Please click on image for more photos.

Date posted: May 8, 2020.


Latest on COVID-19: Ismaili institutions in Canada announce Jamatkhana closures nationwide as provinces take steps to limit large gatherings

Please click on image for guidelines and other important information issued by the Ismaili institutions in Canada

Ismaili institutions in Canada respond to COVID-19 with Jamatkhana closures

LATEST DEVELOPMENT: The Aga Khan Museum has announced that it will be temporarily closed until April 7, 2020. All scheduled events and programs up to and including April 6 have been cancelled. Ticket purchases for affected Museum events, programs, and performances will be automatically refunded by March 20, 2020.

The following information has been compiled from the Ismaili Canada website and the Al-Akhbar special COVID 19 supplement:

Provincial health authorities in Canada have announced additional steps to limit large gatherings and reduce the risk of infection from the spread of COVID-19.  As a result, the Jamati Institutions, in consultation with public health officials, and with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable in our Jamat, have closed Jamatkhanas in each jurisdiction. This includes morning, evening and weekend ceremonies. All Jamatkhana-based programming is also cancelled including social events associated with the celebrations of Navroz such as dandia raas, traditional dancing as well as jamans (large scale dining).

The decision to close our Jamatkhanas has not been taken lightly, and we seek the Jamat’s understanding and forgiveness for any inconvenience caused.  While the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to assess the risk to the general population in Canada as “low”, we are taking these precautionary steps in the interests of the Jamat’s long-term health and security.  

The Jamati Institutions will continue to provide regular information and updates to the Jamat via the electronic Al-Akhbar and iiCanada app.  We pray for the safety and security of all Canadians and for all those affected globally.  

EARLIER NEWS: Earlier during the day, Ismaili institutions had announced a cap of 250 people in Jamatkhanas in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec following bans by the three provincial governments of gatherings of more than 250.

The Al-Akhbar newsletter distributed by the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada via subscriptions contains COVID-19 updates with the intention of keeping the community informed of developments as they unfold, with specific reference to the situation in Canada, which is different from that in other parts of the world. Please click here for the latest COVID-19 update.

Ismaili institution response to COVID-19 in other parts of the world

Link(s) to measures taken by Ismaili institutions in other parts of the world for their respective Jamats will be provided below and will be updated regularly:

1. PORTUGAL – The Ismaili Portugal Atualizações: COVID-19

For non-Portuguese speakers, please use google translate to obtain a fairly accurate translation of the changes that are being implemented in Portugal. Interestingly, the article is pretty open about the specific steps that are being implemented within the ritual and ceremonial aspects of religious practices to contain COVID-19. The Portuguese article also states there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country among Jamati members. – Ed.

2. USA Jamatkhana closures – The Ismaili USA COVID-19 Updates

3. Aga Khan University’s Response to COVID-19: President Rasul’s message

4. Far East Jamat: Navroz Message and COVID-19 guidelines

Muslim countries take steps as Coronavirus plagues the world

Note: The content in this section is not being updated.

. Saudi Arabia has suspended Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Umrah is a pilgrimage that many Muslims elect to perform at any time of the year, and is a shortened version of the annual Hajj pilgrimage that is scheduled to take place in late July. Last year’s Hajj was attended by more than 2 million people, and this year’s Hajj hangs in the balance as fears about the coronavirus plague the world:

. Iran has cancelled Friday prayers across provincial capitals

. Singapore Muslims have been urged to bring own prayer mats to mosques;

. The government of Tajikistan has asked Muslims to avoid going to mosques for the Juma (Friday) prayers;

. Iran, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan are among countries that have halted the annual celebration of Navroz that takes place around March 21;

. In Malaysia, the health ministry has called on mass gatherings to be postponed after 12 cases were linked to a 3 day Islamic conference held in Kuala Lampur recently;

. Singapore has temporarily closed all the country’s mosques for deep cleaning from Friday March 13 after two men contracted the coronavirus while attending the Islamic conference in neighbouring Malaysia;

. The Muslim Council for Britain has just released a four page document containing guidance on the impact on mosques, madrasas and Islamic centres in the UK after the announcement that an emergency legislation is to be introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19;

. Across various faiths and religious denominations, rituals and practices are being tweaked to adapt to the outbreak of a disease that thrives on nothing more than close human contact.

Stouffville Metro supermarket; Vovid 19 rush.
At around noon on Friday, March 13, 2020 in Stouffville, north of Toronto, a Metro grocery store parking lot was full. Concerned shoppers had filled their shopping carts with all the essentials, and the line-ups at the cashiers at the supermarket were long as is shown in the photo above: Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Date posted: March 13, 2020.
Last updated: March 19, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.


Brushing off the “Weeping Walls” of the Historic Bagamoyo Ismaili Jamatkhana

…Now no one cares, no paint on the walls. Who can save this lovely heritage? So sad to see the weeping walls — Shariffa Keshavjee in a piece for Simerg

Bagamoyo Jamatkhana
A view of the Indian Ocean from the balcony of the Jamatkhana, overlooking the building’s rooftop. Photo: Shariffa Keshavjee, Nairobi, Kenya.

Taking Example of Pakistan’s Baltit Fort, the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana Can be Converted to a Museum Chronicling Ismaili Settlement in Tanzania

(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

In the wake of the partial collapse of the roof the historic Darkhana Jamatkhana in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Tuesday September 3, 2019, we felt it important to highlight an incredible photo story that Shariffa Keshavjee of Nairobi contributed to Simerg some seven years ago. She had then lamented the sorry state of the historic Bagamoyo Jamatkhana through prose, pictures and thoughtful poetry in a highly acclaimed must read piece. Another very interesting piece on Bagamoyo was by Zahir Dhalla with photos of the Bagamoyo beach area where Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah set foot on East African soil for the first time in 1899 when he arrived in a yacht from Zanzibar. Zahir’s exterior photos of the Jamatkhana highlighted the building’s poor state.

A passage from the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana leading upto the sea front. Photo: © Shariffa Keshavjee, Nairobi, Kenya.
Bagamoyo Jamatkhana interior
The tejori (left) and the flag of the Ismaili Imamat resting against one of Bagamoyo Jamatkhana’s “weeping walls.” Photo: © Shariffa Keshavjee, Nairobi, Kenya.

The questions we would now ask of Ismaili residents of Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo or anyone who has visited Bagamoyo recently as well as our Tanzanian Jamati institutions are: How are the “weeping walls” of the Jamatkhana doing today? What about the passageway leading to the ocean? How about the tejori (chest) in the Jamatkhana, and what is the state of the Ismaili Flag and sadri (floor mats)? And, finally, how is the Jamatkhana being utilized today, and can the Ismaili community feel proud about its current state and usage?

We look forward to an update on the state of the Jamatkhana with the sincere hope that what was once an eyesore, both outside and inside, has been restored to its former glory. If that has not been done yet, which is what we suspect, and the building is simply languishing and not used as a Jamatkhana anymore, we humbly bring forward the idea to convert the historic building to a museum that will hold important relics as well as portray the history of early Ismaili settlement in Bagamoyo and other parts of Tanzania (then Tanganyika). Many little towns that I have visited during my drives across North America have small museums housed in heritage buildings that wonderfully tell stories about their origins and the people who first occupied them. Of course, the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana building has to be be properly restored for any such project to develop, and this should quickly become a work in progress.

As a Jamat, we have to be mindful of historical buildings and places of worship like the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana, and do everything possible to revive and revitalize our cultural and spiritual heritage before they are forgotten or lost forever due to neglect, lack of interest or apathy.

Ismaili Jamat Khana and Cemetery, as seen from the Bagamoyo beach. Photo: © Copyright Zahir K. Dhalla 2017.

Time and Knowledge Nazrana: A Major Resource for Creative Projects

Institutions must lead and inspire the Jamat, and the Jamat must in turn respond with zeal and interest. It is a 2-way effort. Perhaps, there is an opportunity for hundreds of Ismaili architects, artists, planners and engineers who pledged their Time and Knowledge Nazrana (TKN) to Mawlana Hazar Imam to take a lead to improve the condition of our historic buildings that are in disarray for good and purposeful use.

Bagamoyo Jamatkhana
Ismaili Cemetery, at the Beach and the Indian Ocean, seen from the balacony of the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana.  Photo: © Copyright Zahir K. Dhalla 2017.

That can be properly and effectively facilitated by the TKN leadership team that is based in Toronto, in consultation with Ismaili institutions and local TKN bodies around the world. The transformation of the Baltit Fort in Pakistan that was undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is an example of what can be accomplished with the Bagamoyo Jamatkhana and other heritage buildings of historical importance. There is immense talent and creativity in the Jamat as well as material resources that can be utilized for well planned little museum projects that would not only enrich local history, but also help boost the tourism industry. After all Bagamoyo, with its world class historical sites, has been proposed as a World Heritage Site.

Date posted: September 5, 2019.


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