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

By MALIK MERCHANT
(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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Anaar Naran (1936-2017): A Teacher Par Excellence at the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

BY MALIK MERCHANT

Anaar Naran (1936 – 2017) pictured at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now known as the Canadian Museum of History) during her visit to Ottawa, Canada, in 2011. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

It is with deep sadness that I announce the passing of a beloved family friend, educator and teacher par excellence, Anaar Naran, at the age of 81. She passed away peacefully in Richmond, Virginia, USA, on the morning of Thursday, September 14, 2017. Her funeral ceremonies will be held on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 2 pm in Richmond.

She leaves behind her children Amyn, Navyn and Naaznyn. She was predeceased by her husband Mr. Badrudin Naran in 1979 at the age of 48, and brother Zafar. She also leaves behind her brother Fazli and sister Farida.

Anaar Naran will be remembered by her students, their parents and her colleagues as a fine and inspiring teacher during her tenure at the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, during the 1960’s. Her friends and family members will remember her as a committed and hard-working educator throughout her lifetime. She always carried a beautiful smile and exuded warmth and happiness. Anaar was absolutely dedicated to her faith as an Ismaili Muslim, and her love for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was immense that when she talked about him, her face glowed with happiness. She remained an avid reader of literature until the last days of her life, encouraging even her daughter Navyn to produce poems.

At this sad time, our thoughts go to Mrs. Naran’s children and grandchildren, and we convey our condolences to the family of the deceased.

We pray for the eternal peace of the soul of Mrs. Anaar Naran, and for the strength of her family members at this difficult time.

Date posted: September 18, 2017.

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We invite your tributes and messages of condolences in memory of Anaar Naran by clicking on Leave a comment. Should you encounter technical or other difficulties submitting your feedback, please email your message of condolence to Simerg@aol.com under the subject heading Anaar Naran

A First-Hand Account of the Migration of Tanzanian Ismailis to Canada by Sadru Meghji

 “FOR MY TANZANIAN JAMAT, DIVERSIFICATION, YES, YES, YES; EXODUS, NO, NO, NO” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Kenya, 1972.

Sadru Meghji originally of Kilosa, Tanzania, tells the story of his 1971 visit to the Canadian High Commission in Dar-es-Salaam and how he became involved in assisting the migration of Tanzanian Ismailis to Canada. Meghji says that this form of assistance has been part of his family tradition from the time of his grandfather in 1899. Sadru’s father, Vazier Rajabali Meghji Visram, also continued similar service to the Ismaili community and, in the photo below, is seen receiving a ring and blessings from His Highness the Aga Khan during the 49th Ismaili Imam’s takhtnashini (enthronement) visit to Dar-es-Salaam in 1957.  Please click on the following link or photo for Sadru Meghji’s informative “lost history” piece.

PLEASE CLICK: Rediscovering a Lost Piece of Ismaili History — First Steps in the Migration of Tanzanian Ismailis to Canada

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, blessing Vazier Rajabali Meghji Visram during his visit to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganiika) in October 1957. Phooto: Sadru Meghji Collection, Toronto.  Please click on photo for article.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, blessing Vazier Rajabali Meghji Visram during his visit to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) in October 1957. Photo: Sadru Meghji Collection, Toronto. Please click on photo for article.