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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


Germany established a boma, a military/administrative camp on the foothills of Kilimanjaro.(Swahili; Kilima=Mountain; Ngara=shining) in a location they called Neu-Moschi in August 1893.

To protect the caravan road which runs from Kilimanjaro down to Tanga or Pangani, a fort was established at Moshi, on Kilimanjaro, in the territory of chief Mandara, who was friendly to us.[1]

The boma was a fairly large place, consisting of a Government station in charge of three or four white officials with about a hundred Native soldiers. Before the country was taken over, this part was thickly populated by the Wachagga, a rather fine race of people, who gave the Government a lot of trouble. They were well versed in woodcraft, did beautiful carving in wood, rhino horn and ivory, and they were very clever at copying anything.[2]

The Germans attracted European farmers and Indian traders to create a plantation economy for their new colony in the lush Kilimanjaro region.

By 1906, Natha Hirji seems to have been settled in Moshi, accompanied by his brothers Merali and Habib. All three went on create large family businesses in the region.

Moolji Nazarali, who was married to Alladin's cousin Sherbanu, took Alladin to the office of the Distriktkommisar the next day, to a square building with three-foot thick walls and a wide verandah and a corrugated tin roof over and open attic where bats and bush babies hung out at night.The German officer showed Alladin his piece of land on the map. Ten acres for a thousand hellers, or ten Indian rupees. The transaction took place in German with a few Kiswahili words. Alladin Giga would have found it difficult to communicate with someone from another part of India, let alone in German and Kiswahili. The cousin-in-law translated for him, mainly with intelligent guesswork and a few words of German and much more Kiswahili that he had learned. They left the Distriktkommisar with papers signed and stamped in purple ink. [3]

Moolji Nazarali went on to become a very successful businessman, who following the centuries-old Khoja tradition of public service, donated extensively to a number of public projects in Moshi. He began with the construction of a new community center (Jamatkhana) in 1925, which he built with his own funds of 40,000/- shillings. Next, he donated 150,000/- shillings in building a primary school. Later,he had also contributed a handsome amount in the establishment of a guest-house for traveling businesspersons and families, a public library, a social club and a nursery school.

The northern line railroad, built to assist new German settlers, reached Moshi in 1912[4]

The railway provided a further impetus for the established coastal Khoja traders to open their shops around the railway station buildings. Sheriff Dewji & Sons, was established in Moshi in 1912.This family started out from Zanzibar and also set up stores in Mombasa and later at Arusha and Tanga. Once on the mainland, his son,Jaffer Dewji of Mombasa, later opened branches at Kampala, Jinja, Mbale, & Soroti.(Uganda).

It also created opportunities for employment-Hassam Mawji Amlani,a baker, was also living in Moshi 1912.


1916 - van Deventer (British Army Commander) occupied Moshi, the German railway terminus, on the 13th, where he was subsequently joined by General Stewart's column from Longido....The Kahe position was turned by van Deventer on the 21st and on the following day, the enemy were in full retreat down the line, destroying the bridges behind them. With the capture of Arusha, the occupation of the Kilimanjaro district was completed." [5]

The British quickly went about to exploiting the advances made by Germans.

Moshi was the obvious area on which to concentrate. It was densely populated with a million people living in banana groves (migombani) and coffee small-holdings (vihamba) on the fertile slopes of the mountain. This was where they cultivated the excellent Arabica coffee the Catholic missionaries introduced at the end of the last century. Thanks to the government, local authorities and Catholic and Lutheran missions, Moshi had universal primary education and the highest literacy rate in the territory. The Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) was probably the most efficient and progressive cooperative organization in Africa. A district commissioner called Sir Charles Dundas, a Scots baronet started it in the 1920s to enable Chagga coffee growers to compete on equal terms on world markets with the European growers.[6]

These government initiatives increased prosperity amongst the Chaggas and opportunity for more Khoja traders to settle.

“The major influx of Asians into Moshi was around 1927-1928"[7]

Joharali Jamalarrived in 1927 with a group of Khoja Ismailis by way of steamship from Porbandar to Mombasa and then up the Uganda Railway to the station at Voi, from where they made their way by road to Moshi.

[Ismail Alibhai], a descendant of the Mombasa pioneer, Suleman Verjee, was attracted to the business prospects of Moshi, also came in the late 20's to establish a bakery which continues to operate.

[Hasham Jessa] arrived in Moshi from Junagadh, Kathiawar, via Mombasa and went on to establish a beekeeping and fruits business, mainly oranges and tangerine and vegetables which he supplied from his farm in west Kilimanjaro to the growing metropolis of Nairobi. His entrepreneurship was an inspiration to many others.

The growth of Moshi as a commercial centre for the whole region also created employment opportunities for a working/professional class of migrants such as Hassanali Charania who worked for several decades as a banker and Najmudin Kassam Dewji who initially worked as a farm worker in the Moshi area for a number of years before becoming a famous hotelier and community elder in Dar es Salaam

Moshi has been a very prosperous q area for Indian settlers and in particular, the Khojas of Kutch & Kathiawar.

References & Notes

  1. A HISTORY OF THE ARAB REBELLION IN EAST AFRICA (GESCHICHTE DES ARABERAUFSTANDES IN OST-AFRIKA) An Account of the "Abushiri Rebellion" in Tanzania and its Aftermath, 1888-1891 by Rochus Schmidt Translated (with an introduction) by John W. East.
  2. Boyes,John: Company of Adventurers- pp 115 Extract Date: 1903
  3. Extract from Ties of Bandhana by Safder Giga Patney
  4. Illiff, John. page 136
  5. Samler Brown, A, and Gordon Brown, G (Editors) South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1920, 26th issue;Page Number: 520-521E d Extract Date: 1916
  6. Tanzania, Journey to Republic – by Randal Sadleir (Author), Dr. Julius Nyerere (Foreword)- 1 Jul 1999 (Pg 200a)
  7. Allen Johnson Green - University of California, Los Angeles, 1986 - Social Science - "A political economy of Moshi Town, 1920-1960 pg 55

Other families who settled in Moshi in early decades of the century,whose histories can be found by clicking their names, were :

Walji Kassam

Nazarali Walji Abram

Hassanali Charania

Hirji Jivraj Bharmal

Joharali Jamal

Najmudin Kassam Dewji

Sheriff Jiwa

Sheriff Dewji

Gower (Moshi)

Kurbanali Suleman Esmail

Hasham Jessa

Mohamed Alibhai

A Gallery of Colonial Moshi

A Gallery of Khoja Moshi