Ismail Jaffer Somji

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Ismail Jaffer Somji
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Town of birth
Country of birth
Date of Birth
  • 1901/08/19
Date of Death
  • 1982/02/06
Place of Death
Name of institution of highest education achieved
  • German School
  • Bagamoyo (1916) and home tutoring
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Business
Where-City or Country

Born in 1901 Bagamoyo

Ismail Jaffer Somji Khakwani

(extract from his autobiography, November, 1997)

1916 - Foot Journey from Bagamoyo to Pangani – then rickshaw to Tanga:

[The First World War was still raging on but now in the interior, the British in hot pursuit of Von Lettow and his German forces. But the coast was fully under British control, the German cruiser Konigsberg having gone into hiding in the Rufiji delta – where it remains to this day!]

"At last, the time came for me to leave for Tanga, which I did by machavo [by foot, but also by palanquin, or more usually, both]. As I couldn't sit for very long, I walked occasionally, and only sat when I wanted to rest. An Ismaili boy accompanied me on my trip from Bagamoyo to Pangani, a journey of about 100 miles, which we covered in 6 days and during which we crossed 3 rivers. We slept in bungas (African huts) in the evenings. We stayed at Hasham Jeraj's place in Pangani where uncle Abdulrasul Somji was going to send a rickshaw for the rest of the journey. For the evening, they had made sonya pilao (prawn/shrimp pilaf), and as soon as I learned what it was, I left it and went to sleep starving. This is because my grandfather had a sukha [resolution] that no one in the Somji family should eat prawns, as two of our relatives had died after eating them.

Next day, I started by rickshaw for Tanga, where I arrived at 1 pm. I met my father [Jaffer], uncle [Abdulrasul], aunt [Zainab Kanji] and Alimohamed Jaffer [who worked with his uncle and who married Kulsum, sister of Muradali Hasham Jeraj, originally of the Pangani family mentioned above]. As I didn't know any English [only German, having been educated in German schools], my uncle called a Maratha teacher who taught me at home. In the meantime, my mother and brother arrived in Tanga [from Bagamoyo], the latter also received tuition in English. Consequently, both of us forgot German."

  • Although he resided in Tanga and was married there, he moved to Mombasa in 1920. But for father Jaffer and uncle Abdulrasul, Tanga would be where they eventually passed away in 1940 and 1956 respectively.