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Lindi Notes - Family - Settlement Stories of Early Migrants


Jaffer Mohamed, Kilwa (1889-1971)
Grand-father of Nizar Mohamed, Toronto

Jaffer Mohamed was born in Gujarat, India in 1889.He came to Africa to escape the harsh conditions of Gujarat without telling his father, Mohamed Somji. He boarded a dhow in 1887. at the age of 8, and travelled to Zanzibar. With his meager savings, he started his life as a vegetable vendor and built a business for himself.

In 1918 he married Khatija d/o Janmohamed Moloo, from Kutch (Mundra) and they moved to Kilwa-Kivinje in a dhow. Their first born was Fatehali, my father, born in 1920. In total, they had 7 children. His house was built adjacent to and attached to Kilwa’s Jamatkhana while on the other side, on the right was his elder brother’s (Ibrahim Mohamed) house. He was president (Mukhi) of Kilwa Jamat for 25 years before handing over charge to his son Fatehali.

In 1942, Fatehali married Roshan, who was born in 1924 and d/o Karim Kanji of Zanzibar. They had 8 children. Me and my sister, Rosy, went to live with my Grandparents in Dar at a very early age. The rest of the siblings stayed in Kilwa and went to Agakhan School run by Dossa Master.

In Kilwa, our business was called Jaffer Mohamed and Sons run by my father and uncle Amir while another uncle, Sherali, had a retail store next door. The business in Kilwa was booming selling beeswax, copra, simsim, skins etc.

During the late 50’s, Jaffer moved to Dar, started a retail shop at Kariakoo, just opposite the present Kariakoo market. The shop had wooden planks (as front wall) which came down in the morning and could be used to keep your wares. In couple of years we moved to the city center at Kati Street-which is currently Kisutu Chicken Market. During those days workers used to assemble bicycles till late at night. My grandfather had a branch office situated in a building behind Cameo Cinema – formerly Azania Cinema. The office was managed by my grandfather and Tajdin chacha who was still a student. During the holidays I would sit in the office while my grandfather went to town to check the Market (Bajar)

During one of the holidays, we went to Kilwa by steamer (M.S. Mombasa). Everybody was on the common deck settling for the night. I would frequently go to Kilwa by a small plane, Dakota – we didn’t have Fokker friendship those days. Later we went to Kilwa by bus and our favorite driver’s name was Sarahani, who later owned the buses.

In 1954, we moved to Changombe, the first Ismailia flats were being built during those days. Upanga areas at that time was just an open grassy land with Gymkhana Club and Ismailia Cemetery on the ocean road. Karimabad area was a “Mango” forest.

During the early 60s, the political changes were afoot. The winds of economic change were also blowing. The cycle spares business had reached its saturation point and was no longer lucrative. My grandfather was already 72 years old and had been retired for some time.

It was quite clear during the Ujamaa episode; the days of produce business were numbered by the introduction of Co-operative Movement.”Jaffer Mohamed and sons” was replaced by “Amirali Brothers” by my Uncle Amir who began opening branch shops in the district to boost turnover. Eventually, the dwindling retail business forced them apart and each started their own shops. Tajdin opened his own shop at Msimbazi round-about.

In 1968, I urged my Father to move to Dar. He finally moved and I went to live with him for support. At the same time my grandfather left Changombe to move back to Kilwa, where it all started. My grandmother (in Dar. with my Fui) passed away in August, 1970 and soon after my grandfather followed in 1971, and was buried at a cemetery across the Indian Ocean.


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