BY SULTAN JESSA
MONTREAL: Quebec – History was made in the spice island in 1962 when an enterprising Amirali Hameer became the youngest president of the Ismaili Council for Zanzibar.
He was only 37 then.
According to available information, Hameer’s jurisdiction included Madagascar (now Malagasy), the Congo and also South Africa.
Hameer recently passed away in Montreal at the ripe age of 90.
His wife Zarina died in 2013.
Hameer also holds the rare distinction of hosting Hazar Imam Shah Karim Al-Husseini at his former residence in Zanzibar twice.
The first time was in 1961. The Imam again stayed with the Hameers in 1963 while attending Zanzibar’s independence ceremonies.
Hazar Imam had never stayed with a family on any of his visits to Zanzibar since becoming Imam in July 1957 as he had his own bungalow.
The Hameer residence played host to a number of Ismaili and non-Ismaili visitors including Dilip Kumar’s brother Ehsan who had come to Africa to promote the famed Bollywood movie, Gunga Jamna.
Born in June 1926, Hameer was the son of Hassanali and Laila (Rajabali Gangji), a renowned clove merchant.
He was the only son to his parents.
In 1944, he ventured on the grueling journey by ship to India to study at a boarding college in Poona (pune)
But a year later, ill health and the war forced him to return to Zanzibar to start working with his father at the Majestic Cinema, one of three movie theatres on the island at the time.
While attending Sultan Mohamed Shah’s golden jubilee in Dar es Salaam, he first set his eyes on his future bride Zarina Dina, the daughter of a police inspector.
They were engaged in 1947 and married a year later in Dar es Salaam.
Two charter planes, carrying guests, took the short trip from the island to attend the lavish and grand wedding of the only child.
At the wedding his mom Laila showered the couple with pure gold flowers mixed with rice.
The couple is now survived by three daughters, Shameen (Vancouver), Zubeda (Juby), England and Naseem in Halifax.
In 1954, the Majestic Cinema, a landmark burned to the ground during renovation to modernize the theatre.
This was traumatic for the family.
But, a year later a new cinema was officially opened by the Sultan of Zanzibar.
This project was a new concept as it also housed a restaurant, a small number of hotel rooms and office space.
Today, this imposing structure, with the latest in design and fittings, is being used to host government VIPs.
It was confiscated after the violent 1964 revolution.
The Hameer family relocated to Mombasa, Kenya, starting off as paupers and gradually started building up their lives from a scratch.
After the death of his father in Kenya in 1981, Hameer and his wife decided move half way around the world to Montreal in 1987 where the couple ran a tiny boutique.
The couple sold this business and retired in 1990.
After retirement, Hameer attended night classes to learn about computers.
Zarina attended art and painting classes and became an accomplished artist.
The couple continued to perform seva and played an instrumental role in establishing a Jamat Khana on the South Shore.
The year 2007 was a momentous occasion when Hameer, as a past president of council in Zanzibar, was invited to attend the golden jubilee of the Imam.
I was introduced to Hameer by Anver Talib shortly after moving to Quebec from Ontario about a dozen years ago.
Our last social get together was on Father’s Day when Hameer, Talib and I met for lunch at a Portuguese restaurant in Montreal.
Over his 90 year life span, Hameer experienced life in a way that could be considered envious.
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