Nairobi Jamatkhana Building

Built in 1920, the “Jamatkhana” building was the tallest building of its kind in Nairobi when “Moi Avenue” was once called Station road. The Khoja mosque is a Nairobi’s spot for the Ismaili community for both social and prayers.


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Author: ismailimail

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

3 thoughts

  1. It was Government Road – not Station Road. Jan 14 1920 was the Foundation Stone and Jan 14 1922 was the Opening Ceremony. It was funded very largely by Vazir Madatally Suleman Verjee and Alijah Hussein Suleman Verjee, the latter being the President of the Nairobi Council. There was no National Council in those days. Hope this is useful. Ya Ali Madad Dr. Nizar J. Verjee

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  2. There are a lot of interesting anecdotes about this jamat khana, too, that would evoke wonderful memories and images. Granted, it was the inimitable Verjees who donated and arranged to have it built, and what a beautiful building it turned out to be. The blue stone was once blue. I think it got dark during a failed cleaning experiment. I still look up and down and around in wonder at the place from outside and the inside. How it snugly it fitted into the corner that is actually a wide120* corner between Government and River Roads. This enabled the designing of a panel within that extra 30 to 35 degrees that accommodated the grandeur of the stage. In the bangli a steep flight of wooden stairs climbs up to the clocktower which was taken care of, says my mother, by the Ajani family from the earliest days.

    But the constituency it served was magnificent, too: right up to the days, I remember, when I used to give rides to jamati members from Nairobi West in those minibuses and as far as down around River Road and Keekorok and Kirinyaga Roads, all a jolly load of passengers to come to Mowla no Rojo and parodie. On this fast day (7th) we looked forward to the Alu chole, bhajia, chevdo, chatni, aambli and kaatri.

    The central courtyard downstairs was open. The Nairobi light poured in, laced with memories of many a holy deedar. Of those members at the time there are still many loyal, faithful ones who only like to go to ‘big khane’, or ‘town khane’. It was once DARKHANA and, for many of us, still holds this place in our hearts. I regrettably can’t make it anymore – it’s stressful to negotiate the traffic, these days but there are indomitable bus drivers like Shamsher Noorani who will drive through anything to get the jamat to khane on time.

    I just remember the laughter of Sakerbai Madha her two sons and daughter, and the bossy voice of Sakarbai T’heengdi who had seen most of us through nursery school. Nizar Hirji is still around and his charming childhood friend, Farida. Abou Giga just left this world, bless him, and the Dharsi boys, Suleman and Zahir are still around, often coming to bait ul Khayal. On big days jalebi ghaanthia is still on.

    We were all clueless about the kinds of nationally and internationally instigated political skullduggery that would lead to the beseiging of this icon of Nairobi. Look at Nairobi today – a right mess: It is emulating the concrete jungles of Dubai and Mumbai. There were buildings available for sale around Town Khane that position-holders might have bought out, so that we could have turned the place into an accessible and undisturbed enclave that would vibrate and radiate peace to the world outside, the centre of Nairobi.

    Many anecdotes would bring smiles upon the faces of murids who are interested in and remember the place. I would not know where to begin but I might just say that the lift (elevator) had a wooden door that was studded with diamond shaped stained glass windows – if I am not imagining them. What happened to this lift? I wonder if someone had the luck to haul it away as a really precious mechanically endearing antique! Its first ‘modern’ replacement was jinxed and let many a traveller down. I believe that this new one is now working but there is an ominous sign near the touch sensitive button that says, “Children are not allowed to operate this lift” or something like that. But you should see the boisterous dotcom children of today gathering to meet their bai on a Sunday morning. Would they read that sign? Yes and they would find it obsolete.

    Mowla (and Imam MSMS probably also), stood in the venerable old lift’s light brown interior. It lit up softly and would reverently ascend to the jamat khana hall. The door handle locked automatically when the grill was drawn closed and the button pressed to make the lift trundle up, whining playfully just like an old Paris ascenseur that would jig and jog along its way. It would lock in on the first floor and the door would be opened, probably by Shamshubhai jamatbhai, to let Mowla out and proceed to give holy deedar in the hall where he had once led the E’id Namaaz. Often it would stop an inch too high or low but of course that was forgiven, in those days.

    My grandfather and I would use it every morning to be taken up to the 2nd floor (the bangli), at 3 am. The windows would go dark and then light up again and then go dark again and light up again when we reached the top. By 4:30am the fragrance of sukreed would waft up. Shamshubhai made the best sukreed in the world (ok, except, Salima – Sadru Pradhan’s neice’s – and the one made by Nigar, these days right here at big jamat khana, too, whose sukreeds are equally delish).

    I was only 8 when my grandad started taking me to Bait ul Khayal in his old creme Peugot 403. Ebrahim Nathoo (Ebrahim and Co and Wazir House) would be singing hypnotic strains from the ginan ‘Abadoo’ and we could never beat him to this service as he would always be there by 2.30am.

    One fine morning the door of the lift would not open. My grandad panicked, smashed one of the windows with his fist and opened the door with the handle from the outside. Of course they fixed it asap. After jamat khana we would hear the aadhaan from the Jamia Mosque where our very own MSMS had laid the skewback stone. I do not see traces of this piece of history, though, for some reason. Did they cement the citation?

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  3. I lived in Nairobi, and always went to Darkhana Jamatkhana morning and evening. Memories of this beautiful Jamatkhana is still “very” close to my heart. Nairobi is a beautiful city, and of course Kenya is a beautiful country. God Bless Kenya. Thank You.

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