From Khoja Wiki

This essay and others like it on Khojawiki are written to provide context for the life and migration stories of individual Khoja families. We would like to add more such family histories of those who lived here, so our collective history is more complete. Please Click Here To Add Your Family And More Information To Our History

The first settlers arrived at the site of present-day Kuwait City from the interior of the Arabian peninsula by mid 1700's.. The settlement grows into a bustling trading hub by the early 1800s.

Throughout the 1700's, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad, and Arabia. By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo. Indian traders have been in the Kuwait since around the the mid 1700's.

Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait. The East India Company (English) was diverted to Kuwait in 1792 and secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the East coast of Africa.

In the 1800's, Kuwait became significant in the horse trade and horses were regularly shipped by the way of sailing boats from Kuwait. By the middle of that century, it was estimated that Kuwait was exporting an average of 800 horses to India annually.

Sometimes a local ruler came to regard the entire Indian merchant community in his town as an unwanted commercial rival, so he forced them out, as happened in Doha in the early 1880s and Kuwait in the early 1900s.


In 1899, Kuwait officially become a protectorate of Britain, opening up avenues for more Indian settlement.

Around 1900, the largest towns on the Gulf littoral were on the Arab side, with the population of Kuwait about 35,000, Manama 25,000, Muharraq 20,000, and Dubai 10,000.


The earliest recorded Khoja Ismaili families in Kuwait had migrated in the 1940's from Muscat after the split in that Jamaat caused by the Agakhan Case. (see Muscat).

Although oil was first discovered in Kuwait in 1938, four large discoveries between 1951 and 1959 required workers and administrators and large scale Indian settlement started around this time. "The initial development of the oil industry coincided with the end of the British Raj in India and many British and Indian administrators and engineers transferred from there to Kuwait.

In 1952, when Shahibudeenbhai Juma came to settle there were only 4 families in Kuwait. A jamatKhana was soon established and by 1954, there were 50 persons were recorded as resident in Kuwait.

The jamaat became financially well settled and was soon visited by both sons of the Agakhan, Prince Sadruddin Khan as well Prince Alykhan in 1954.

In 1964,after the revolution in Zanzibar, the rest of the Muscat Khoja Ismaili Jamaat left that country and many migrated to Kuwait where jobs and business opportunities were plentiful due to the ongoing oil boom.

The Iraqi invasion in 1990 caused a major panic (Click here for an account by Habibah Hassanali about her family's escape from a burning Kuwait.) but after 10 months, many returned to resume their lives.

Some however, left permanently for their homelands or Canada & USA.

Picture Gallery of Khoja Ismailis in Early Kuwait

Picture Gallery of Khoja Ismailis in 1960's Kuwait

Picture Gallery of Khoja Ismailis in 1970's Kuwait

Picture Gallery of Khoja Ismailis in 1980's Kuwait

Some Kuwait Khoja Ismaili Personalities

Please write to us so we can complete their amazing personal stories.

  1. Indian Communities in the Persian Gulf Location 272-273.
  2. Potter,Lawrence G. Society in the Persian Gulf: Before and After Oil.© 2017 Center for International and Regional Studies Georgetown University in Qatar