<<In Zanzibar the name itself stood for quality. Sayyid Khalifa’s furniture was made by Popat Mulji and even today that furniture is in display at the Palace Museum.>> 

Thanks for sharing your views and providing us with some useful information. Any talk about Zanzibar of yester years touches us all deeply. It is heartening to learn that your father Popat Mulji used to make furniture for Seyyid Khalifa and other distinguished people. The furniture on display at the palace museum signifies the work of a master craftsman. 

Indeed Zanzibar boasted of various artisans and skilled people who had made a strong impression on us. If I recall correctly, Topiwala on Tharia Street made hats that were soft and fitted closely. Those were the days of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, and Jinnah and Nehru hats/caps very much in vogue. We used to get our shoes custom made from the shoemaker on Hurumzi, probably he was the Surti shoemaker you are referring to, later he installed a machine, the only of its kind in Zanzibar. There was also the Gold Smiths Association in Zanzibar. It was made up of various sonis from Kutch and Kathiawad (both Hindus as well as Sunni Muslims). One of its prominent members was G.N.D’silva (a Ceylonese) of ‘Ranti D’silva’ & ‘D’don Millon’ who had started his goldsmith business in Zanzibar as far back as 1920’s. Among the contactors there were the Mawji Nathoo and GAK Patel. However, the oldest in this profession were some of the Kutchi Sunni Muslims. Saleh Rangaro and a Bhatia (one of the Swali brothers) were very popular with the old timers as they painted ‘choka’ and bricked up the ceilings of their stone houses. 

Yes, in Zanzibar we’d a fairly average sized Parsee community. As you understand quite a few of our teachers at ESM were Parsees including the Principal Master Arjani. Earlier the Principal was Master Tata, also a Parsee. You’ve enlightened us about their dead being placed in coffin for burial at Kilimani where they had their ‘Agiari’ and ‘Tower of Silence’, and where they buried the deceased unlike the traditional Parsee way of disposing their corpses. Nowadays even in India many Parsees prefer cremation to their traditional method. Zanzibar even had readership of ‘Gapsap’, their monthly Gujarati publication from India. It’s sad that this great community is dwindling. 

Thanks to Surendra for sharing those beautiful photographs of the Government School. I’m sure some of you must have recognized at least a few of those students. The teachers are mostly recognizable, including the good old Master Naik, Surendra’s dad. Thanks also to Mahmood Fazal and Sheni Dungersi for providing us with links to their beautiful collection of photographs. Mahmood, the Kassams who are portrayed in those photographs are Kutchi Memon, another leading community in Zanzibar. Their grandfather was Haji Tayeb who was held in high repute. His shop on Darajani ‘Haji Abdulla’(now Muzammil) was very popular and dealt in electrical items. 

Also famed for his hair cutting business was ‘Mohans’ who had his shop in the vicinity of the Zanzibar market. Toto Hajam (as he was known, his name if I’m not mistaken was Haji Abdulrehman) opposite Ithnashri mosque on Kiponda enjoyed the patronage of the Ithnashri community. It is said the father of the ‘to be bride’ first consulted him as to the character of the ‘to be groom’ and sought his advice before giving his consent.

 Let us share some more memories.




Last updated November 2007 Copyright © Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved