From Khoja Wiki
For over five thousand years, the Indian Ocean has been the forum for exchange of peoples, goods, and ideas between Africa, Asia, and Europe. Trade specialists and their networks have crossed oceans, deserts, and mountains, linked coasts to their hinterlands, and facilitated transoceanic diplomacy in good times and bad.
— Where Others Fear to Trade: Modeling 10 Adaptive Resilience in Ethnic Trading Networks to Famines, Maritime Warfare, and Imperial Stability in the Growing Indian Ocean Economy, ca. 1500–1700 CE:RAHUL OKA et all [1]

The Khojas in Zanzibar History

By Iqbal I. Dewji, Editor,

'Zanzibar was built by the Kutchis'. Professor Abdulaziz Yusuf Lodhi, Emeritus Professor of (Ki)Swahili and Bantu Linguistics (with East African Social Studies) since end of 2012 at the Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University, Sweden. [2]

The word Zanzibar or as the Kutchis call it “Jangbar” is Persian for "black coast" alluding perhaps to its two indigenous Bantu tribes, although archeological evidence suggests many different races have lived on this close-shore island for over 20,000 years.

From ancient times, traders from Arabia (mostly Yemen), the Persian Gulf region of Iran (especially Shiraz) and Western India (Sind & Gujarat) have visited Zanzibar. The “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea”, a Greco-Roman travelogue of 100 AD refers to Menouthias (Zanzibar) and its then already cosmopolitan trading peoples.

'During those two thousand years, hundreds of dhows would sail across the Indian Ocean every year from Arabia, Persia, and India with the monsoon winds blowing in from the northeast, bringing iron, cloth, sugar and dates. When the winds reversed to the southwest in March or April, the traders would leave with their ships packed full of tortoiseshell, copal, cloves, coir, coconuts, rice, ivory and slaves.'[3]

Zanzibar is a large and splendid island some 2,000 miles in circumference.1 (Marco Polo, late thirteenth century) We came to the island of Mambasa, a large island two days’ journey by sea from the Sawahil country.2 (Ibn Battuta, 1331)[4]

As Kutch was the an important place where the Omani Arabs had their sea-going dhows built, Kutchi sailors and traders followed their conquests and settlement on the East African coast. By the late 1500s, Khojas were also amongst those early visitors to Zanzibar, trading as they also did along with the entire Indian Ocean littoral areas, including the shores of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

From time immemorial, the Khojas and their ancestors seem to have traded on that coast and the early Portuguese annals describe numerous flourishing communities of them established between Sofala and Socotra.[5]

(See also Khoja Shams-ud-din Gillani)

Gwadur/Muscat/Zanzibar Corridor

Gwadar on the Baloch coast of present-day Pakistan was an Omani colonial outpost and many Kutch/Kathiawari Khoja traders had migrated to Muscat and through Muscat to Zanzibar.

SeeAhmedali Nizari Piredina

In the 1500s, during the period of European maritime expansion, the Portuguese man-of-wars entered the Indian Ocean with their ship-mounted cannons, severely disrupting the millennials old trading arrangements.

Eventually, in 1698, Omanis re-conquered Zanzibar and in the late 1700s, Muscat once again became a major maritime trading power in the Indian Ocean.

In the end, the Busaidi overwhelmed their Mazrui rivals in 1828 and with them all Swahili opposition to their claims to dominate the coast. Intimately connected to the rising British power at Bombay and especially indebted to the Gujarati merchant community that linked that port-city to Muscat, Busaidi Zanzibar and Zanzibar Town became (from 1828) the pivotal place for incorporating East Africa into the expanding capitalist world economy [6]

Between 1625 and 1785, a branch of the Hyderabadi Khojas (now called Luti or Luwatiyas) migrated to Muscat.[7]

The Khojas and other Kutchis who were by then some of the most prominent traders in Muscat, sought to grow their trade businesses and their strong presence suggests that they would have begun migration to Zanzibar shortly after 1744 when an Omani governor was formally installed there.

However, the earliest recorded presence of the Khojas in Zanzibar was in 1820, although Musa "Mzuri" Kanji and his brother, Sayyan were reputed to have been living in Mombasa even earlier.

At Mombasa, an old and reliable Ismaili gentleman told Aziz Ismail (in 1965) that Müsa Mzuri had come from Surat about 1820 to join a business already established in East Africa by his brother: the two then penetrated inland.[8]

By 1820, a small community of Khojas was present in Zanzibar: their affairs were administered by two local functionaries. [9]

Despite the restoration of Omani rule, getting from India to Zanzibar posed a substantial risk for the Khojas, because, notwithstanding the patronage of Sultan Sayyid Saīd, his authority often did not extend even to his own Arab subjects.

At first they were obliged to travel to Zanzibar by way of Maskat, (Muscat) in a certain ship which sailed once a year; they were exposed to many hardships and peril; they were often murdered, and when they died at Zanzibar their property was not infrequently seized and divided among the Arab chiefs.[10]

In 1839, Sultan Sayyed Said approved a commercial protection treaty with Britain guaranteeing British subjects freedom to enter, trade and reside within his domains. In an astute move, the Sultan also signed a treaty with the young United States and a US consulate was established in Zanzibar in 1837. [11]

There is some evidence to suggest that the Indian traders including the Khojas (undoubtedly to increase their security) were instrumental in persuading the Sultan to then move his throne to Zanzibar in 1840. [12]

See also Rahimtullah Fadu Dewani, a prominent merchant in Muscat.

The Khoja presence started to grow rapidly in the decades after 1820, according to the records maintained by the British Consul. [13]

Khoja oral history informs that the first Mukhi (mukhia=traditional head of Indian village council) was elected in Zanzibar in 1834 and in

1838: The first Jamatkhana community hall in East Africa is built-in Zanzibar’s Stone Town with a capacity for a few hundred people. [14]

By the 1840s, Khojas were permitted to acquire property and own clove plantations. [15]

It was around this time (1835) that Taria Topan arrived as a stowaway from Kera, Kutch and rose to become “one of the richest man in town” in what is one of the most famous of the many rags to riches stories of Zanzibar and East Africa.[16]

A rough estimate indicates that half of the South Asian business owners, in Zanzibar between 1875 and 1912 claimed to have started their own businesses with no money, or ‘little money'[17]

Another well-known Khoja of this early era was "Sewa" Haji Paroo, a well-liked merchant-philanthropist who was born in Zanzibar in 1851 and went from a small dukawalla to becoming famous in European history for supplying porters and supplies for the expeditions of David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. [18]

As early as 1857, when the explorer, Richard Burton visited Zanzibar, the Khojas were “the chief shopkeepers of Zanzibar.”. [19]

Burton also writes of their extensive networks in the interior of Africa.

The Khojahs of Zanzibar are exclusively engaged in business, wholesale and retail, being the principal merchants and shop-keepers of the place. They have thus extensive business connections with all the ports on the mainland, both in the sale of European goods and in the purchase of native produce; and thus they are brought into intimate connection with the European and American merchants as middlemen, and also with the natives in the city and on the mainland, as retailers.[20]

An example was Mohamed Khalfan who had migrated from Jamnagar in 1855 to start a modest shop and went on to create soap factories in Zanzibar & Mombasa with his family.

The Hansraj brothers, Janmohamed Hansraj and Kanji Hansraj arrived in 1852, worked briefly for Sewa Haji Paroo and moved to Bagamoyo to set up their first store in 1860.

See Alidina Kanji Ramji

By the mid-1860s, we begin to see Kathiawari Khojas from such towns as Jamnagar, Porbandar, Bhavnagar, who would sail by larger dhows to Mombasa and then to Zanzibar. Later Kathiawari migrants were often called “nangarias” from the word "nangar" or anchor because they began arriving in the steamships that plied between Bombay, Porbander. Mombasa & Zanzibar.

"Place of origin in India No. of Families (1871-1872)[21]







The primary reason driving the migration after the 1850s was the persistent and devastating famines during the British Raj as explored more fully in Gujarat Famines & Khoja Migrations.

A decade later, by 1879, a British official was able to confirm:

There are 700 married females in the Zanzibar population of 2,100 Khoja. Thirty-year ago there were here only 165 families and 20 married women, showing that the members of this sect have multiplied six-fold in the last 30 years, and the married or settled part have increased in a still greater ratio. This increase has been of late entirely owing to the arrival of emigrants from Kutch.[22]

By 1890, the Khojas in Zanzibar had numerically overtaken all other Indians combined.

The British Indian colonists or traders in the Zanzibar dominions come under the following designations Hindus, who number about 1000; Parsis, about 100; Khojas, who are the most numerous, reach probably a total of 4,000.[23]

We know from oral family histories that most if not all worked in trading either for family enterprises or for other Khojas and that once settled, they would venture on their own, either on the Zanzibar Islands or on the mainland with loans of cash or goods from established relatives or Khoja wholesalers respectively.

Arriving at his future scene of business with little beyond the credentials of his fellow caste men, after perhaps a brief apprenticeship in some older firm, the Indian entrepreneur starts a shop of his own with goods advanced on in credit by some large house, After a few years, when he has made a little money, he generally returns home to marry, to make fresh of business connections and then comes back to Africa to repeat, on a large scale.[24]

Alarakhia Dossani arrived in 1880 at age 28 in a steamship "AWAKA" and worked for Janmohamed Hansraj for 6 months and then went to work for Sewa Haji Paroo for 11 years. In 1891, he started his own business selling Arab silks, Indian foodstuff and exporting to the mainland.

His son, Moloobhai joined him in 1884 at age 10 and by 13 started a small shop in Soko Mohogo. By 1891, he found a niche, going on board ships/dhows to hawk food, cigarettes, ready-made clothes, curios. In 1903, he started the landmark retail enterprise called Moloo Brothers & Co.

When the Omani rulers themselves went into large scale agriculture production, particularly coconuts and spices, Khoja traders bought and sold at the local markets and then later began buying wholesale and exporting to Asia and Europe.

Ibrahim Ladha migrated from Bhadreshwar, Kutch around the 1890s, started working in a retail store in town, then brokering coconuts, then making copra, finally having his own shambas farms. His business exported cloves and coconut products to Europe and Asia.

Harji Bhanji also from Kutch, became a very successful spice merchant, buying and exporting to Europe and is the grandfather of the British actor, Ben Kingsley of the “Gandhi” film fame.

The Khojas excelled at the opportunities created by the growing importance of Zanzibar as an African entrepot.

Khojas and Banyans insured vessels and often acted as underwriters making a fortune as they avoided paying out unless the vessel was completely lost.[25]

The Stone Town we see today dates mostly from the late 1800s when Zanzibar was at its most prosperous. Dr. Abdul Sheriff, its foremost historian, describes the scene in the 1870s.

Zanzibar was then a cosmopolitan metropolis. Its harbor teemed with square-rigged ships from the West and oriental dhows with their lateen sails from many countries in the East, carrying all the colors of the rainbow. Here Yankee merchants from New England drove a hard bargain with Hindu traders in their large crimson turbans or Khojas in their long coats, exchanging ivory for American cloth; the Marseilles haggled with the Somali for hides and sesame seeds from Benadir; Hamburg entrepreneurs shipped tons of cowrie shells to West Africa, where they served as currency; and Arab caravans rubbed shoulders with their African counterparts from the Mountains of the Moon.[26]

Import Export - Bombay to Congo via Zanzibar

The Omani Sultans had been astute traders in the Indian Ocean prior to the Portuguese disruptions and in Zanzibar, the Sultanate depended extensively on customs duties. They encouraged their Indian subjects to trade far into the East African hinterland and the Khojas, with their extensive "jat" and family networks dominated the interior commerce throughout the century and well into the 1960s.

The Indian rupee owed its early supremacy in East Africa to the preponderant commercial influence of Indians in Zanzibar, the center of East African trade during the nineteenth century.[27]

In the second half of the 19th century, when Africa was being colonized by the Europeans and greater opportunities began opening up for trade, many Khojas first landed in Zanzibar and then went on create extensive merchant empires on the mainland. Their life stories (mostly oral) is the history of the opening up of East Africa as it joined the global trading networks.

The legendary Allidina Visram came from Kera, Kutch in 1863, aged 12 and penniless. After a brief apprenticeship with Sewa Haji Paroo, he partnered with his cousin, Nasser Virji for their first interior caravan - later Alidina’s his own caravans and branches of his firm dotted Dar es Salaam, Saadani, Tabora, Ujiji and Alima and Tindo in the Belgian Congo and Southern Sudan. He came to know as the “Uncrowned King of Uganda."

Caravans with porters often numbering over a thousand became mobile markets trading imported items such as cloth, beads, and brass wire for ivory and other East African commodities ......Thus, Indian, British, and American cloth delivered to Zanzibar reached markets for more than one thousand kilometers inland.[28]

Nasser Virji was also 12 when he arrived from Kutch in 1877 and over time, the Nasser Virji group went on to operate 70-72 different companies in German East Africa, their main business being the Mwanza Cotton Trading Company Limited.

Another legend Dharamsi Khatau, a later arrival from Bombay in 1890, established 40 branches of his import business throughout East Africa.

Abdullah Ratansi arrived in Zanzibar in 1881 aged 13 and in 1884, also went to work for Allidina Visram, later joining Sewa Haji Paroo and was in charge of supplying goods, porters, guards, guides. When the American explorer Henry Morton Stanley arrived in Zanzibar in February 1887 to arrange the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, Abdullah Bhai was its quartermaster into the interior, well past Bagamoyo.

With the help of the commercially astute Sultans, the Khojas were able to link their African mainland networks to India in effect re-creating the ancient Indian Ocean trade that existed prior to the Portuguese disruptions.

The ubiquity of Indian firms in East Africa ideally positioned Bombay’s textile industry to produce for the East African market. Moreover, in the 1870s, the establishment of a telegraph station at Zanzibar allowed immediate communication between Bombay firms and their Zanzibar agents. Perhaps most important, expanded steamship service between Zanzibar and Bombay substantially lowered transportation costs and, in the late 1870s, Sultan Barghash bin Said of Zanzibar, as part of his vision for the commercial pre-eminence of his sultanate, introduced a line of six steamships to run between Bombay, Zanzibar, and Madagascar. [29]

See Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim of Bombay whose many mills supplied cotton goods to Zanzibar.

An account by a German colonial official sums up Zanzibar's pre-eminent position at in 1880's.

Almost all business which is conducted in our sphere of influence, whether on the coast or in the interior, is done by Indian trading firms, which have either their head office or a subsidiary in Zanzibar, and these Indians are British subjects. Virtually all the Arab caravans which traverse the interior are financed by the Indians. The few caravans which come from the interior as independent traders still find their markets and their suppliers among the Indian firms on the coast, and these are always just subsidiaries of the Indian wholesalers in Zanzibar. In other words, all trade eventually flows through Zanzibar.[30]

Jangbar-the Khoja Entrepot

Hasham Jamal Pradhan's granddaughter writes:

The year was 1900 and with only four rupees in his pocket, Bapaji boarded a steamer bound for the east coast of Africa, sailing through Aden, and then Zanzibar. There, he met Allidina Visram, and it the start of a relationship that was to lead to the financial success of the Jamals in Uganda Protectorate. Allidina entrusted him with a substantial quantity of trade goods, including rolls of the common imported cotton called “merikani”, to be collected from his stores in Mombasa.

Another merchant prince was Dewji Jamal, who was one of the few rich merchants of Bombay to come to Zanzibar in about 1878. In 1885, one of his sons, Nazerali Dewji moved to Lamu and in 1887 to Mombasa to establish branches of Dewji Jamal & Co.

Kassim Lakha, the founder-figure of the Kassim-Lakha clan and a very successful pioneer around Lake Victoria also first landed in Zanzibar in 1878 and used it to launch his business life on to the mainland.

Habib Adat Dewji of Bharapur migrated first to Zanzibar and after few years in “service”, moved to Bagamoyo and then to Dar es Salaam, the new German capital. In 1910, Habib Bhai establishes a well-known import business house that survived until the 1960s.

Other Zanzibari Khojas settled into further into Africa, such as Shariff Jiwa Surti who went to Madagascar to become a major supplier to the French colonial army.

Jina Madhavji moved to Faza near Lamu with the help of Jiwan Lalji a prominent business family that started in Zanzibar, opened branches in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mwanza.

This migration accelerated in the early part of the 1900s when the Germans began to aggressively grow their newly acquired “Deutsche Ost Afrika" colony, reluctantly accepting the enterprising Khojas who moved in on the new opportunities in the rail-head towns along the Central Railway. Jeraj Shariff ended up in Tanga with a bead business. Merali Jiwa's first job was as a rickshaw driver in Zanzibar and after he moved to Tanga, his family opened several businesses there. Mussa Jetha did well after migrating to Zanzibar and his children spread to Tanga, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam in the 1920s.

The trend to use Zanzibar as an entry point continued well into the 1930’s-FakirMohamed Gaidher went from Zanzibar to distant Kyela on the shores of Lake Malawi.

British German Rivalry & Khoja Intrigue

Sultan Barghash who had been exiled by the British to Bombay in 1859, learnt Hindustani and returned to Zanzibar with a deep appreciation of the Subcontinent. Khojas began to rise to powerful positions in his administration. Taria Topan became his “Prime Minister” and Peera Dewjee who started as the Sultan Barghash’s barber eventually came to control the palace finances, the running of the household and stables. Both these prominent Zanzibar citizens accompanied the Sultan on his famous visit to London in 1875 and later Peera was sent back to Europe on a number of occasions to purchase warships, livestock, etc. However, as the struggle for colonial dominance intensified, the Sultan tried to leverage the Germans against the ambitions of the British and Peera, as his vulnerable agent, was arrested and exiled to Bombay, because legally, he was a “British colonial subject”.[31]

Khoja Philanthropy

He(Burton)said they (the Khojas) had many public gatherings and festivities and on Fridays they met in a public building set apart for the purpose, where after prayers, they all ate together. They gather in a Jamatkhana, a building which usually houses a large prayer hall, another hall for social gatherings, plus a large kitchen. [32]

Sewa Haji Paroo is well-known as a generous donor both in Zanzibar and across Eastern Africa. Muhammad Husayn Tharia Topan was the main driving force behind the first Indian school in East Africa - The Sir Euan Smith Madrassa, (SESM) which was founded in 1891. In effect, Tharia’s son finally got to build the school Tharia so fervently desired.[33]

This non-denominational school was the most important Indian school in Zanzibar throughout the colonial period.[34]

Datu Hemani left money for a girls' school which was known as Datu Hemani Kanya Shara.

Buildings called "musafirkhanas" also called "caravanserais", were built by the Indian community in Zanzibar as lodging for visiting members of their Khoja Ismail community or as charitable housing and not for commercial purpose.[35]

Small hospitals were established in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam by Rajabali Hasham Paroo.[36]

In 1900, Nasser Noormohamed bought a building from the estate of Tharia Toppan and left enough money in his legacy for his trustees set up a dispensary on that site. [37]

In 1905, the Ismailis, with a donation from Valabhai M. Nazerali, established a library in Zanzibar and subsequently they built libraries wherever they formed a sizeable community.[38]

The major buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries and include monuments such as the Old Fort built on the site of an earlier Portuguese church; the House of Wonder, a large Ceremonial palace built by Sultan Barghash; the Old Dispensary; St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral; Christ Church Anglican Cathedral commemorating the work of David Livingston in abolishing the slave trade and built on the site of the last slave market, the residence of the slave trader Tippu Tip, the Malindi Bamnara Mosque; the Jamat Khana built for the Ismailia sect; the Royal Cemetery; Mambo Msiige, Chawl building, the Hamamni bath and other Persian baths. Together with the narrow, winding street pattern, large mansions facing the seafront and open spaces, these buildings form an exceptional urban settlement reflecting the longstanding trading activity between the African and Asian seaboards.[39]

Art & Leisure

The Khojas were early contributors in the development of a Zanzibar that was very much accustomed to public leisure.

They (Zanzibaris) had well-established erudite traditions of learning and literature. Zanzibar was actually the second nation in the continent of Africa, after Egypt, to obtain a printing press.[40]

In 1900, Fazal Janmohamed Master set up East Arica’s first Indian newspaper, the weekly Samachar, which began as a single-sheet Gujarati paper and started coverage of politics in English in 1918. It published continuously until 1967.

Fazal Valli Nathu was born in Zanzibar in 1874 and was famous as “Kavi Dilgir”, "Poet Conqueror of the Heart". He wrote poems in Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati, Swahili and Arabic, played the upright harmonium, fiddle and had a melodious voice. He frequently composed poems for the Sultans.

Sultan Barghash himself was an accomplished musician and had weekly public concerts called Taarab where he mixed the music from Arabia, India and Europe. Peera Dewjee was frequently the Master of Ceremonies at these concerts.[41]

Calamities-Natural & Man-made

Between 1869-1870, a great cholera outbreak in Zanzibar devastated the island’s population. Dr. James Christie, physician to the Sultan notes that Khojas were hit hard as they preferred to live in cramped quarters and in general, in unsanitary conditions as both Khoja spouses worked in the family business to the neglect of the home. [42]

They lived in

...the congested old Khoja area of Kiponda behind the market, with its narrow streets and terraces of cramped shop houses. [43]

In April 1872, a cyclone devastated the entire island. All ships in the harbor except for one were lost. In fact, everything but the solid stone houses of Zanzibar was thrown down and the streets for the time were impassable. Dhows, with their crews, sank in the harbor and many of the inhabitants perished in the wreck of their houses. Most of the plantation crop was also destroyed. [44]

In August 1896, British ships indiscriminately bombarded Zanzibar waterfront to impose their choice of Sultan and caused extensive damage. This bombardment, frivolously titled “the Shortest War in History” caused much economic loss to the Khojas.

In this war, many houses and businesses near the Sultan’s palace were bombarded by the British and were destroyed. Consequently, 79 bankruptcies were filed against businesses in 1898, of which 44 were related to the war.[45]

The losses from epidemic and hurricane seemed to have been absorbed because Khoja businesses continued to thrive in the following decades but the bombardment of 1896 appears to have broken the backbone of the business community in Zanzibar and it never regained its former stature.

At the same time, the European colonization of the mainland created greater opportunities for the Khojas who either left Zanzibar or upon migration, went directly to the new mainland towns. The British, having acquired richer colonies in Kenya and Uganda, lost interest in Zanzibar for the next six decades, holding on to it as a protectorate, only for strategic reasons, as they later held Tanganyika as a “Trust” territory after Germany's defeat in the First World War.


Perhaps the most enduring testament of the Khojas presence in Africa is in the great number of Kutchi loan-words to the Swahili language, which now is not only the lingua-franca of over 300 million Africans but has recently been adopted as an indigenous language to be taught across the whole of Africa.

That Indian words in Swahili previously thought of as Hindi are actually Kutchi. Swahili itself is 40% Oriental, having acquired these in the two thousand years of its history. [46]

Apart from the loan-words, the spoken language of many Zanzibari Khojas is a unique Indo-African dialect popularly called “Jangbari”, which is a source of pride and some amusement among all Khojas.

Judith Aldrick puts it so well in her excellent book on Peera Dewjee

this was a period of history when the Indians of East Africa were in their most powerful and influential and helped shape the modern Africa of today. Foremost among them were the Khojas from Kutch .........Their talents and dedicated business skill lay behind much of the success of Zanzibar as it quickly became the hub of East Africa.[47]

Notes & References

  1. It has also been demonstrated that maritime activities in the Indian Ocean go back to a remoter antiquity than those in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. Chakravarti, Ranbir.Merchants, Merchandise and Merchantmen in the Western Sea-board of India (c. 500 BCE--1500CE)', in Om Prakash ed., Trading World of the Indian Ocean, 1500-1800, New Delhi, 2012 Kindle Location 76-77
  2. Lodhi,Abdulaziz. Oriental loanwords in Swahili. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press East Africa Limited, 2015.
  3. Wikipedia:Zanzibar
  4. Emergences, Volume 10, Number 2, 2000 Indian Ocean Africa: The Island Factor EDWARD A. ALPERS University of California, Los Angeles-Highlight on Location 2-4
  5. Frere, H.B.E - The Khojas: The Disciples Of The Old Mam Of The Mountain, MacMillan's Magazine, Volume 34 1876 342
  6. Indian Ocean Africa - The Island Factor Location 98-103
  7. Allen, Calvin H. "The Indian merchant community of Masqat." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 44, no. 01 (1981): 39.
  8. King, Noel - Towards A History Of The Ismailis In East Africa - edited by Ismail Raji al Faruq (
  9. ibid Chatterji (pp
  10. Johnston, H.H. F.R.G.S. Her Majesty’s Consul, Mozambique - THE ASIATIC COLONISATION OF EAST AFRICA- JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY OF ARTS. [February 1st 1889) 159
  11. , Thomas P and Yeager, Rodger Historical Dictionary of Tanzania Page Number: xviii
  12. Vaughan, J H - The Dual Mandate in Zanzibar, Zanzibar Government Printers, 1935 11-12.
  13. ibid Allen 44
  14. ibid Hopkins 53
  15. (Hopkins, Peter E., and Richard T. Gale. Muslims in Britain: race, place and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. 53
  16. Stanley, H. M. Through the dark continent: or, The sources of the Nile around the Great Lakes of Equatorial Africa and down the Livingstone River to the Atlantic Ocean. New York: Dover, 1988 63
  17. ibid Sheriff 348-349
  18. Aldrick, Judith. The Sultan's spymaster: Peera Dewjee of Zanzibar. Naivasha: Old Africa Books, 2015.
  19. Burton, Richard Francis Zanzibar: city, island, and coast- Tinsley Bros -1871 338
  20. Burton, Richard Francis Zanzibar: city, island, and coast- Tinsley Bros -1871
  21. British and Foreign State Papers- VOL. LXII. Compiled By The Librarian And Keeper Of The Papers, Foreign Office, 1871-1872
  22. ibid
  23. ibid
  24. Frere, Bartle – quoted in “Federation Samachar” Vol 36 No 51 64
  25. ibid Aldrick 56
  26. Sheriff, Abdul, Dr. The history & conservation of Zanzibar Stone Town. London: Dept. of Archives, Museums & Antiquities in association with J. Currey, 1995
  27. Wallis, Henry Richard. The handbook of Uganda. London: Pub. for the government of the Uganda Protectorate by the Crown Agents for the Colonies, 1920 230
  28. , Prestholdt, Jeremy. “Zanzibar, the Indian Ocean and Nineteenth-Century Global Interface.” Burkhard Schnepel and Edward A. Alpers eds., Connectivity in Motion: Island Hubs in the Indian Ocean World. London: Palgrave (2018) 138
  29. Prestholdt, Jeremy. Domesticating the world - African consumerism and the genealogies of globalization. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008 101
  30. Rochus Schmidt Translated (with an introduction) by John W. East - 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 - Location 3952-3956
  31. ibid Aldrick (pp ???)
  32. Aldrick, Judith. The Sultan's spymaster: Peera Dewjee of Zanzibar. Naivasha: Old Africa Books, 2015.Kindle Location 855-860
  33. ibid 166-Sir Tharia had wanted to build a school for Khojas but was denied permission by the British. The foundation stone of the “Tharia Topan Jubilee Hospital” was laid on 8th July 1885, but he died in India in 1891, causing an interruption to the construction. His widow decided to resume the works but her budget was exhausted in 1893 before completion of the building.)
  34. Loimeier, Dr. Roman. Between Social Skills and Marketable Skills: the Politics of Islamic Education in 20th century Zanzibar. Leiden: BRILL, 2009
  35. Kanyika,Home Boy. Final Zanzibar Documentation Project. Documentation of some historical building as part of landmarks building in Zanzibar Stone Town World Heritage Site. pg 19
  36. Gregory, Robert G. The rise and fall of philanthropy in East Africa: the Asian contribution. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction Publishers, 2014. 114 S G Mehta interview. ibid 101
  37. abid pg 166 (This mixed use of the building continued until the Revolution in 1964, when the occupants fled the island and the dispensary fell into disuse. It has now been renovated and used as a cultural center.)
  38. ibid Gregory 103
  39. Kanyika,Home Boy. Final Zanzibar Documentation Project. Documentation of some historical building as part of landmarks building in Zanzibar Stone Town World Heritage Site. pg 19
  41. ibid Aldrick 176
  42. ibid Christie 343
  43. ibid Aldrick 276
  44. Times of India 10th July 1872. pp 3 (
  45. ibid Oonk 86
  46. ibid Lodhi - Abstract: The main conclusions drawn from the present study are: 1) that Oriental loans in Swahili are not satisfactorily documented, and further research is needed to assess their currency in the modem usage, and their socio-cultural importance in Eastern Africa; 2) that Oriental elements are of high frequency and are found in all areas of activity; 3) that contrary to earlier assumptions, Persian and Indie loans in Swahili occur also as verbs, adjectives and adverbs; 4) that most of the Indian loans in Swahili are from Cutchi/Sindhi and Gujarati, rather than from Hindi; 5) that traditional Swahili culture is an Afro-Oriental member of the North-Western Indian Ocean civilization at large.
  47. ibid Aldrick - Introduction

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

Further Readings

1. Zanzibar-A Bibliography Compiled by Ayman Jalloul and Bilal Orfali.

Extract from 'The HISTORY OF THE SAMACHAR 1901-1967' By Arif Roshanali Master (FBDO)

Chapter 7. Historical Events in Zanzibar 1900-1984

January 1901- Tea: the first packet of tea made in East Africa was packed in Dunga, Zanzibar. The leaves were the first products of the garden that was laid out there in 1899. It was manufactured with such appliances as were to hand, rolled on the deal table, sun-dried, and fired with an ordinary charcoal stove.

28th July 1901- Thefirstnewspaperin ZanzibarIslam Samacharwas issued on 28th July 1901. It was then a purely Gujarati newspaper. In August 1903, the newspaper was called Zanzibar Samachar. Later on, several papers were issued in Zanzibar.

August 1901- The first bulk oil installation started in Zanzibar following the completion of a tank and pier at Mtakuja. The tank for receiving petroleum in bulk was erected by Messrs. Smith Mackenzie and Co. the Agent for Shell Transport and Trading Company Limited. The installation was most comprehensive comprising also of a factory for the manufacture of kerosene oil tins.

18th September 1901- The first Zanzibar street band was formed by the local bandsmen who were discharged by the Sultan. The band was available for social events.

26th September 1903- A powerful lighthouse at Kigomasha in Pemba and that of Chumbe were open. The lighthouses were constructed by the Public Works Department. Great improvements took place to the Zanzibar lighthouses from the beginning of 1900 by converting to a flashing system of A.G.A. i.e. the sun valve took control whereby the lights were automatically extinguished shortly after dawn and relit before sunset.

The first modern market in Zanzibar was opened at Darajani and named Estella or, more commonly known as Marikiti Kuu. Estella, Countess Cave, was the sister of General Sir Lloyd Mathews then First Minister and Consul General of Zanzibar. Opened by Sultan Ali bin Hamoud, credit is due to Mr. Bomanjee Maneckjee, the Minister for Public Works, who turned an old ruined site into a building of considerable architectural beauty.

18th July 1904- Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed died and Sayyid Ali bin Hamoud took over the throne. Ali was the youngest Sultan to take over the throne at the age of 18. He was the first Sultan to have a Western education and was very much influenced by the western culture regarding his dress sense, food and language.

August 1904- The French Post Office of Zanzibar was closed. The French Consular post office sold stamps of various denominations of Peace and Commerce which were issued by the French Metropolitan Government between 1876 and 1900.

1905- The first Government School was opened in Zanzibar through the initiative of Sultan Ali bin Hamoud. It accommodated mainly the Royal Family and Upper Class Arabs. This school was later to become The Town Boys’ Primary School at Darajani. The famous Bububu Railway was built by an American firm.

The 7- mile Railway, which connected Bububu and Forodhani, consisted of a 3 ft gauge light track. It was sold to the Government in 1911. The Railway stopped its passenger service in July 1922 and was used for the haulage of stone for the harbour works. The engines and the rolling stock of Bububu Railway completed their last journey on 31st August, 1929.

September 1905- Electric light and power was supplied within a radius of 5 miles from the Sultan's Palace. The plant was installed by Mr J. A. Jones of New York, and thereafter the streets of Zanzibar town were litbyelectricity much earlier than other streets in London, which still had to make do with gas lamps.

4th July 1906- The official switching on of the electric lights in the streets of Zanzibar town. This was the first time in the history of any town in East Africa. Indeed, telephone services were in public and private use, with a switchboard installed at the Old Fort. The facilities were installed by an American Company and therefore were officially opened on American Independence day.

1907- The Zanzibar Army was disbanded and the defence of the country entrusted to two companies of King's African Rifles [KAR].

The official opening of Shangani Post Office. The British Postal Services started in 1873 in the Mackenzie Building and, in December 1895, the service took on a more formal aspect when it joined the Postal Union. Meanwhile the first Zanzibar postage stamps appeared on September 20th 1896, printed by the firm of the De la Rue.

10th December 1907- The official opening of the wireless telegraphy services at Mnazi Mmoja. This first wireless telegraphy in East Africa was opened by Mrs Cave, the wife of the British Consul General at that time. The service connected Zanzibar and Pemba within a few minutes and was another red letter day in the annals of Zanzibar.

January 1908- The silver Rupee of British India was made the standard coin of the Protectorate and Zanzibar currency notes were issued. Final abolition of the Consular courts of Zanzibar of the various powers. All subjects, irrespective of nationality, thus became accountable to British jurisdiction.

13th May 1908- The Zanzibar Court of Justice at Vuga was officially opened. The building is a fine piece of Saracenic architecture, the creation of Mr J. H.Sinclair. The dome surmounting the clock tower and the vista of arches are a distinct addition to the place.

1908- The first currency Decree was formulated and provided for, resulting in issue of the first Zanzibar currency Notes.

Thefirstcar cametoZanzibar. This Germanymade-car, "theDaimler", was used by Sultan Alibin Hamoud. Motor cars for passengers started in 1927 when a test drive was made for three cars: Morris Cowley, Citroen and Fiat each carrying four passengers to Mangapwani.

December 1911- Sayyid Ali bin Hamoud visited England to attend the Coronation of His Majesty King George V. Whilst in Europe; he abdicated and decided to live in Paris, where he died in 1918. Sayyid Khalifa bin Haroub ascended the throne of Zanzibar and his coronation was held at the "House of Wonder" Bait Al Jaib. He was the longest ruling Sultan in Zanzibar, ruling from 1911-1960.

1913- Control of Zanzibar Sultanate passed from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office. In January, 1914, control of Zanzibar transferred formally from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office.

The new posts of British Resident and Chief Secretary were created. Major F.B. Pearce was made the first British Resident and J. H. Sinclair became the first Chief Secretary.

August 1914- The First World War began. Zanzibar declared war on Germany and the Treaty of Zanzibar with Germany lapsed.

1914- H.M.S. Pegasus, the British Ship, was sunk in Zanzibar Harbour by the German Cruiser "Koningsberg".

July 1915- The Zanzibar Theatre Cinema House at Darajani Bridge was opened on a Saturday. The first instalment of the serial Elmo the Mighty was screened before a crowded house, featuring the sensational adventures of Elmo Lincoln and Lucile Love, a beautiful and talented favourite.

August 1916- The first naval airplane to Zanzibar landed during the period of the First World War. The East African campaign during the War saw the novel use of aircraft in naval operations. The majority of these aircraft had underpowered engines and wooden airframes which were prone to severe problems in the tropical climate. Sultan Khalifa bin Haroub was the first Arab ruler to view his kingdom from the air by flying in an aircraft piloted by Lt. J. Cull of the Royal Navy Air Service.

March 1917- The Darajani Bridge was opened by J.H. Sinclair, then British Resident, replacing the old wooden bridge. The bridge was designed by Mr CrawleytheDirectorof public works. Thebridgewas a connecting link between the town peninsular and the main island. The bridge was of two spans, with a total length of 70 feet and it was 20 feet wide.

1918- The first two-ton-Daimler motor lorry to Zanzibar was bought by the Public Works Department. It was used for the construction of various roads in the countryside.

November 1918- Armistice was signed and the First World War ended.

July 1920-

Zanzibar experienced the closure of the International Maritime bureau, established in 1892, for the purpose of centralisation of information relating to native vessels and slave trade in general.

1923- The new standard measures of weight and capacity were made: a pound measure of weight; a gallon was the standard measure of capacity; a yard became the standard measure of length and the square yard was the standard measure of surface area.

June 1923- Service of two Companies of the K.A.R was discontinued and the defence of the country became entrusted to the Zanzibar Police Department.

December 1925- The first tractor arrived in Zanzibar. The tractor, named the Guy Roadless Tractor, was of 19 horsepower and is what is technically termed a half-track vehicle.

It was used for the construction of roads and its first trials took place at Kidimni-Ndagaa Road.

March 1926- Executive and Legislative councils were instituted and the Zanzibar Protectorate Council, formed in 1914, was abolished. The establishment of these bodies was in line with the British Policy to start with the system of Rule of Law.

The Legislative council later became the Parliament and the Executive Council became the Cabinet of Ministers.

The first session of the Zanzibar Legislative Council was opened by His Highness Khalifa bin Haroud, the Sultan of Zanzibar.

January 1927- The first British Official messages were received at the Zanzibar Station. The receiver installed was built by the Marconi Company Ltd. designed for reception of good headphone signals, in any part of the world, of all high power, continuous wave stations.

March 1928- Siti bi Saad released her first record of Taarabmusic. Siti and her band signed a recording contract with Abdul Karim Hakim Khan, His Masters' Voice Agent in Zanzibar, to go to Calcutta, India, to record their music. Siti became the first woman in East Africa to record her music and the first ever person to record and release songs in Kiswahili.

July 1929- The first step was taken to improve the quality of cloves, for export, by subjecting them to compulsory inspection, in accordance with the provisions of the Agricultural Produce Decree.

October 1929 The Zanzibar census report was published. The harbour works was formally handed over to His Highness on behalf of the Zanzibar Government by Mr H.H.G. Mitchell, the consulting Engineer of Messrs Coode, at a ceremony held at the entrance of the Harbour works in the presence of a large gathering.

November 1929- Malindi Harbour opened. The harbour was designed by Col. G.T.Nicholson - Harbour advisory Engineer to the Union of South Africa. It had many facilities, including a fresh water main, with hydrants to supply water to the ships and a pipe to transfer the oil to and from ships alongside.

December 1929- Commencement of dimming electric lights at 8.00pm to give a time signal.

1930- Zanzibar’s first aerodrome was constructed at Dunga. The strip was 800 yards by 150 yards and was used only for light and medium sized aircraft.

April 1930 The first commercial plane landed in Zanzibar. The plane was piloted by Captain T. Campbell Black, Managing Director of the Wilson’s Airways Ltd. By communicating with the Police Station at Ziwani, the pilot managed to land on Mnazi Mmoja Golf Course.

March 1931- The first overseas air mail arrived in Zanzibar by the inaugurated African air mail services. The letter was posted in London on the 27th February, reached Kisumu on 10th March and arrived in Zanzibar five days later. Likewise the first air mail correspondence from Zanzibar to the outside world was dispatched on Friday 5th June 1931 at 7.00am.

February 1932- The first cinema talkie was screened in Zanzibar at the Royal Cinema.

March 1935- The official opening ceremony of the new high pressure water supply at Mwanyanya (Bububu) by Sultan Khalifa bin Haroub to supply water to the town of Zanzibar and Ng'ambo.

January 1936- The substitution of East African currency for Rupee currency i.e. the new Shilling currency came into force following the establishment of the common East African Currency Board. Postage stamps of new denominations were introduced.

February 1936- A serious riot of Manga Arabs (commonly known as Vita Vya Wamanga or vita vya Mbata) broke out in the town of Zanzibar. The cause of it was due to the application of the Alliteration of Produce Decree. The Inspector of Police was killed, four rioters were killed; and several other people were wounded. Great alarm prevailed in Zanzibar and all shops were closed.

21st December 1937-

The official opening ceremony of Jubilee Gardens at Forodhani took place. The gardens were laid out by the Government to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of His Late Majesty King George V. A memorial was also erected therein, paid for by public donations, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa bin Haroub.

1946- The first African, Sk. Ameir Tajo was appointed to join the Legislative Council to represent the African majority in this law making body.

December 1947- Forthefirsttimein Zanzibar’s historya Bulland Donkeyshow was held at Mnazi Mmoja with the backing of the Zanzibar Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

1948 August- The employees of the African Wharf age Company went on strike and Zanzibar was faced with complete paralysis of loading and unloading shipping cargoes.

September 1948- Zanzibar witnessed an unprecedented strike in its history. All African employees, including domestic employees and Ayahs, went on strike in sympathy with the African Wharfage dock hands. The African Labourers of P.W.D. and Sweepers joined in the Strike. All shops were closed and business was at a standstill.

December 1949- For the first time, the Gossage Cup Football match was played at Sayyid Khalifa Sports Ground (Mnazi Mmoja) between Uganda and Tanganyika. The match resulted in a draw. The following day Kenya beat Zanzibar by three goals to two in an exciting match. Tanganyika beat Kenya two-nil in a final match.

July 1951- A serious riot broke out as a result of the opposition of the cattle owners of Kimbe Samaki against compulsory inoculation against Anthrax, locally known as Vita vya Ngombe. Twenty cattle ownerswere prosecuted and nineteen were sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

A crowd of sympathisers, after making ill-advised attempts to release the prisoners as they were leaving court, hurried to the jail hell-bent on the same purpose and a serious riot took place outside the prison.

1957- The first election was held in Zanzibar. The elections were protested against by both political parties and racial and religious organisations but in the end, the election really became a contest between ASP and ZNP. ASP won five out of six seats.

December 1963- Zanzibar gained its Independence and Mohammed Shamte Hamad becamethefirstPrimeMinister. Constitutionally, however, theSultan was declared the Head of State, giving him more power to appoint his successor.

January 1964- The Revolution took place to topple not only the ZNP/ZPPP Government but also the monarchy, under the leadership of the late Sheikh, Abeid Amaan Karume.

With the establishment of a republic and a new coalition of classes in power, radical changes took place. In fact, with the exception of the Republic of Guinea, no country in tropical Africa changed radically in such a short time.

March 1964- Nationalisation of land took place and this was later distributed to the poor. This was a major reform program to change society and the ownership of land.

April 1964- The Republic of Zanzibar united with the Republic of Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Under this new setup, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere became the first President and Karume became the first Vice-President of Tanzania.

September 1964- Education was declared free for all. The declaration made considerable changes in which the children from the lower class had the opportunity to attend school. Zanzibar today is almost self-sufficient in manpower.

May 1965- A decree to declare Zanzibar a one party state was introduced. Afro Shirazi Party was the sole political party until 1992, following the introduction of a multi-party system in Tanzania.

October 1966- The Bank of Tanzania Act was passed: The establishment of the Bank of Tanzania as the Central Bank to provide for the Currency and other banking functions. The Tanzania Currency of notes and coins was introduced i.e. the Tanzanian Shilling was issued to replace the former East African Shilling.

April 1972- The assassination of the First President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Sheikh Abeid Karume, took place at Kisiwandui, the Afro Shirazi Party Headquarters. Alhaj Aboud Jumbe was appointed as President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council.

February 1977 The inception of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) occurred at Amaan Stadium Zanzibar. Following the unity of Tanzanian Mainland,

Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and Zanzibari Afro Shirazi Party, Tanzania remained a one party state until 1992.

January 1980 The first 1979 Zanzibar Constitution came into force. Thereafter, a member of the first Commissioners of Election was appointed.

November 1980 The appointment of His Excellency Aboud Jumbe, President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary council took place, as stipulated by the new Zanzibar Constitution.

January 1984- The President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Alhaj Aboud Jumbe, resigned from his post, following the political crisis relating to Union issues, and Alhaj Ali Hassan Mwinyi was appointed Interim President.

April 1984-

ZanzibarGeneralElection forPresidentialelection andAlhaj AliHassan Mwinyi was elected with an overwhelming majority and became the third President of Zanzibar. Mwinyi initiated trade by the introduction of the liberation policy in Zanzibar.

Photo Gallery of the Khoja Zanzibar

Photo Gallery of Omani & British Rule

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