Ismaili Community – Uhindini (DAR ES SALAAM) Building Survey And Social History






In February-March 2003 the Assistant Director initiated and oversaw a project examining the historical development and social history of the old Uhindini quarter of central Dar es Salaam. Work on the project was carried out by three graduate students attached to the Institute, Daniel Rhodes, Sayyeda Salaam and Gitanjali Surendran. An initial, comprehensive building survey of the area was performed with all available details regarding date of construction, original owner, original use, and noteworthy architectural features, being taken down. Meanwhile, background research was conducted into the social history of the diverse communities inhabiting the area, both through local archives and more particularly extensive interviewing of inhabitants of the area. A number of interesting features of Uhindini emerged in the course of the research. The phased development of the area was one noteworthy characteristic, with significant expansion occurring in particular in the 1930s-1960s. Much construction happened as a result of the activities of the Ismaili community, whose buildings were often constructed using financial support from an Aga Khan-sponsored building fund. To a lesser extent Ithnasheri, Bohora, Goan and Hindu communities also contributed to Uhindini’s development, with communal concentration often forming a distinctive pattern of the area.

In the postcolonial period the nationalisation of many Indian properties and businesses had a significant impact on its social profile. Although, Uhindini’s population remained overwhelmingly South Asian, the formerly dominant Ismailis began to leave the country in large numbers from the late-1960s. They were supplanted by Ithnasheris (another Muslim group) as the largest community; the Ithnasheri population growing in part as a result of a considerable drift of Tanzanian Asians from more minor urban centres to Dar es Salaam. Nationalisation resulted in a large proportion of buildings in Uhindini being transferred into state ownership (though they are still predominantly occupied by Tanzanian Asians), a status they have retained up to the present. However, more recently haphazard development has threatened the character of the area; nationalised buildings being sold to property developers with the state retaining a stake in the often substantial high-rise redevelopments that have appeared throughout Uhindini. The area today retains much of its historical character, thanks largely to the fact that it remains the principal residential and commercial area of Tanzania’s South Asian population. However, with property prices in central Dar es Salaam having escalated significantly, the financial incentives for the state, as Uhindini’s major property owner, to rubber stamp inappropriate construction projects are great; and it is probable that the area will undergo significant change in the coming decade. The material collected in the course of this project will provide a portrait of Uhindini as it is today. It is to be organised into a museum exhibit, for which a funding application will be made in the forthcoming year. The eventual exhibit will be staged at the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam.

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. I’m student from Ardhi university taking barcheror of building survey. I have read these report which shows the influence on how to rebuild these old buildings, where could lead to tourism attraction in future hence accelerating economic growth.
    I’m a student taking barchelor of building survey hence i hope your plan could build up this firm as well as tourism firm.


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