By Sultan Jessa
LISBON – Portugal: A 438 page hardcover book, launched in 2014, outlines in great details the early settlement of Ismailis in Mozambique.
Aziz Merali, the author of Ismailis in Mozambique – South Memories traces back the long history of Ismailis in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, dating back from 1950.
Many of the early settlers lived in southern Mozambique.
There was also a sizeable community in the north.
At this time, it seems there are no plans for another book on Ismailis who once resided in the north.
This book also contains many illustrations, charts, old and never before seen photographs as well as numerous black and white and colour photographs of the Noorani family members.
The book also has old family photos dating as far back as 1884.
It has photos of soccer and cricket teams, maps, old advertisements, stamps and also currency.
Migration to Mozambique began at almost the same time Ismailis from the vast Indian sub continent moved to other parts of East Africa.
Merali could not be contacted for an indepth interview because of ill health.
The author was born in the tiny village of Kutiyana, Kathiavar in Gujarat in 1939.
A year after he was born, he moved to Mozambique with his parents Merali Ismail and Sakina Ismail who hailed from Porbander in Gujarat.
His grandfather Ismail Rauji Rajani was already settled in Mozambique.
He owned and operated a general store where his parents initially worked.
The author also worked at the store but then went on to study agriculture as well as business and administration.
Later, he worked for Ford Motors and then went to Portugal’s capital of Lisbon to work for Ford of Europe.
He retired as chief executive officer with Ford in 1994 at the age of 55.
Merali later served with several Ismaili institutions.
My wife Rosila, who was born in Mozambique and later lived in Portugal, was presented with a copy of the book by the family of Abdul Rassul Ali Devji and his wife Sakar.
The Devji family has numerous years of community service in various capacities.
Their daughter Rosmina and Rosila have been close friends for more than half a century.
Ismailis who settled in Mozambique were engaged in trading activities and dealt in commodities like clothing and food.
Many Ismailis left Mozambique to settle in Portugal after independence in the 1970s.
Some Ismailis have now resettled in Mozambique.
The first Jamat Khana in Maputo, formerly Lourenco Marques, was built in 1941.
As the community grew, a bigger praying facility was needed.
The new Jamat Khana was inaugurated in 1968.
It is unique in design and beauty.