- Merchant Prince
Born in 1820 Bhavnagar
Dewji Jamal is considered one of the pioneers of the Khoja Shia Ithnaasheri Community.
Dewji Jamal was born in Bhavnagar, British Indiaaround 1820, in a rich and mercantile family.
He originally operated his business in Bhavnagar and moved to Bombay in 1850. In 1860, he opened his first East African branch in the name of Dewji Jamal & Co at Zanzibar.. According to Dr. Abdul Shariff, he built a large house in a short span of three years and appears to have made up his mind to stay. In about 1870 he opened a second branch at Lamu, then a principal port of Kenya, and in about 1890 he established a branch at Mombasa.
At first he managed his business at Zanzibar with his sons. Later Jaffer Dewji and Nasser Dewji managed the Lamu Branch while in 1887, Nazerali Dewji took care of the Mombasa branch.
Dewji Jamal & Co. were Importers and Exporters. Their own fleet of dhows transported timber, textile, all kinds of food stuff, including rice and sugar from British Indiaand exported cloves, copra, ivory, sea shells and wooden poles (Boriti) etc. from East Africa. The profits they made were invested in landed properties in Zanzibar and adjoining islands, Mombasa and Nairobi.
They built and contributed in building mosques, community halls, Rest houses, Madressas, cemeteries and properties for rental income for charitable purposes, both in British Indiaand East Africa. The beautiful mosque on the seashore of Lamu next to the Post Office, the Hyderi Mosque and Imambada, the cemetery at Mombasa, Zanzibar and Lamu, the huge Rest House, Mosque and Madressa at Bombay and at Kurla (Bombay Suburb) - these all are their charities which today hold immense value and services to the community.
Haji Dewji Jamal died in 1905 at the age of 85 and is buried at Karbala, Iraq. He had six sons: Sheriff, Janmohamed, Peerbhai, Nazerali, Jaffer and Nasser.
adapted from AFED Archives.