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Gwadar is a city on the south-western Arabian Sea coastline of Pakistan, 300 miles to the west of Karachi. The Port is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, near the key shipping routes in and out of the Persian Gulf and it has a good natural harbor.

Gwadar is an ancient city. During the homeward march of Alexander the Great Macedonian, its presence was noted as "the home of the fish-eaters", a Greek rendering of the ancient Persian name for the area "Mahi khoran", which itself become the word "Makran", the old name of Baluchistan. The region came under the Arab-Muslim rule in 643 AD and withstood repeated Portuguese attacks under Vasco Da Gama in the 16th century to finally end up under the rule of the Sultan of Oman until 1958 when it was annexed/purchased by Pakistan. Gwadar was a dependency of Oman from 1783 to 1958.

Although Sindhi Khojas have lived in Gwadar for many centuries, initially as fishermen and later as small rekri cart-vendors, most Khojas traders migrated from Hyderabad (Sindh) and Kutch around the 1830's.[1]

Population of the town according to the latest estimate is about ten thousand out of which about 500 are British subjects in whose hands is a large proportion of the local trade. These British subjects mainly comprise of Sindhi Hindus who number about 100 and the Community of His Highness Sir Agha Khan, better called Ismaili Shias or still better Khojas whose total population is about 400. These people originally belong to Hyderabad Sindh and Bombay Presidency from where their ancestors emigrated in almost 1830 and settled down here permanently. They allege themselves Muhammadona of the Shia School but differ in their religious doctrines from the Persians or Indian Shias or Ithna-Ashiris of Muscat who believes in 12 Imams, whereas Khojas' Imams number as 48. They ended up running the small import-export and retail trade in that strategic Omani town. [2]

They developed a reputation for honesty and eventually came to dominate the fish trade, owning fish trawlers and exporting dried fish to China and Ceylon,[3]

See Hussein Jaffer Bhimji

By 1929, according to the British Agent in Gwadar, the Khojas numbered about 400 and had established a fine school and a library in the Jamatkhana community center. The school had three efficient masters, who supervised 35 girls and 45 boys in classes teaching English, Gujarati, Sindhi, geography, drawing, physical exercises and music!.'[4]


His superiors were not amused, however, when it came to the way Waris Ali relayed news of the communal disturbances that took place at Gwadar in 1929 between Khojas and Baluchis. The former were Ismaili Shia Muslims, also referred to as ‘Aga Khanis’, who were British subjects while the latter were subjects of the Sultan of Muscat. The troubles started with allegations that a mosque had been defiled by Khojas; in the disturbances that followed, a member of the Khoja community, Khimji Reinoo, was killed and a Khoja graveyard desecrated.

Gwadar played a very important role in the global diaspora of the Khojas. During centuries before and after Portuguese colonial disruption of the 1500s, Oman was the dominant maritime power on the Indian Ocean and under Omani rule, many Khojas relocated from Gwadar to Muscat, the capital of Oman and then later, made their way to Mombasa and Zanzibar, which were also under Omani rule.

When the British established their rule over India and Oman, these Khojas became British subjects and many have opted to remain in the Middle East until the present time. Others moved to Doha where they live to this time.

Presently, there are many Khoja families in Gwadar, taking advantage of the massive redevelopment of the Port under Chinese administration.

Iqbal I. Dewji, Editor /2019

  1. (1) British Political Agent, Gwadar reporting to the British Counsel, Muscat.1929 (File 22/16 II (A66) Gwadur', British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/1/379, in [ Qatar Digital Library
  2. ibid pg 3 "Chief articles of export are wool, ghee, cotton, palm tree leaves, mats, hides and dates which generally come from the interior, while the main articles of import are cloth rice, flour, foodstuffs, pulses, piece goods, net threads, crockery, and other luxuries articles. Most of the ghee, dates, firewood, and foodstuffs brought from Mekran and Persian Balochistan is consumed locally Wool, Ghee and cotton are generally brought to Gwadar only if they are surplus to the needs of the interior people, otherwise, these things are also imported from India. By 1891, they were prosperous enough that they built themselves a splendid jamat-khana community center that was known as the "Gowar-e-Gwadar" or "Light of Gwadar".
  3. ibid pg 6 "Fish catching and fish preserving are by far the most important industries at Gwadar which yield the bulk of China and Colombo's supply. About fifty thousand of fish packets are exported during the year under report. In Gwadur there are over 500 boats of various sizes known as Rachans, Batel and Yakdars (hooris) engaged for fish catching. The men who catch the fish are called "Janshus " and their headman is often termed as “ Nakhuda'. The Nakhudas or Janshus make special arrangements with the owners of the boats. There is a special Salifa Daryai Court to advise the Authorities on matters of various disputes arising amongst the owners of the boats, Nakhudas and their Janshus."
  4. ibid pg 7 "The only school of note is an elementary but flourishing school of boys and girls conjointly. It is located in the so-called JamatKhana of Khojas. It is run by three efficient schoolmasters and one schoolmistress. About 45 boys and 35 girls attend the school on the curriculum of which are the subjects of English, Gujrati. Sindhi, Geography, Drawing, Physical Exercises and Music."

Photo Gallery Of Gwadar Throughout its History