Saher Baloch for Dawn.com
AMIDST the rundown homes and shops of the old Shahi Bazaar in Gwadar, a beautiful white structure with blue doors and windows captured our attention. As we clicked away, a barber from a nearby shop asked the purpose of our visit offering to take us there. The barber, who gave his first name as Kaleem Banda-e-Ali, told us that the structure was inside an Ismaili neighbourhood a few steps away from the main market.
Criss-crossing the old lanes of the Shahi Bazaar, where some of the shops were shut, we came across the neighbourhood. As we made our way past old wooden houses whose doors, we were informed, were closed forever, we finally came to the white structure. It was an Ismaili community centre, a jamaat khana. As the doors were locked from outside, we sat near the steps as Kaleem described the jamaat khana and explained the reasons behind the migration of Ismailis.
“A jamaat khana is the first requirement of the Ismaili community,” said Kaleem, who now remains among the 100 families living in a neighbourhood made for over 500 families in Gwadar in the 18th century. There used to be a proper record of the number of families in Gwadar and their ancestors. This was burnt down along with the jamaat khana in 1823, according to writer Shahabuddin A. Gwadari. According to him, soon after moving to Gwadar, the Ismailis built a small community centre, very different from the structure today. It was made of cane and mud. After it caught fire, work on a sturdier building began in 1864. By 1874, a main hall of the community centre was opened for the community. The community centre was, however, completed in 1910.
Click here to read the article: Footprints: A local chapter from Ismaili history – Pakistan – DAWN.COM.