TANGA: Ismaili Construction Legacy
by Rai Hassanali S. Bhanji, (ex-President, Aga Khan Provincial Council, Tanga 1961-63) & Zahir K. Dhalla – The Ismailis of Tanga 1950s, 1960s – theismailisoftanga50s60s.blogspot.com
We lastly come to the grandest building – a land mark of Tanga. It has a long and, for a time, agonizing story.
On April 9, 1956, Prince Aly Khan laid the foundation stone for a new awe-inspiring jamatkhana in whose architecture he took personal interest. Unfortunately, he would not live to see it constructed.
Only a year or so after construction began, it was halted due to contractual problems. Upto that point only the ground floor and its walls were constructed. For several years, it stood in ruins. The only bright light in all this, at that time, was that it was an adventurous playground for children living in the Aga Khan flats!
But before long, the project was revived. The site was excavated and the jamatkhana was built completely from the foundation up.
On Friday, August 9, 1963, it was officially opened by the Honourable Rashidi Jumaane Abdallah, Regional Commissioner of Tanga Region. Prince Karim Aga Khan sent his “best loving blessings for the success you have had in the construction of the new Jamatkhana.” Three years later he gave didar (audience) to the Tanga jamat in this jamatkhana that his late father had ‘started’.
The jamatkhana, its furnishings and adjoining buildings for the jamatbhai (jamatkhana keeper) and the library, cost approximately 800,000 shillings**.
Its chief identifying feature is, not one, but four domes one at each corner of the roof, giving it a distinctive Islamic look. The upper level is the main prayer hall. The east end of the lower level houses the council chamber and office. The west end, (1) a dispensary, (2) a dentistry, (3) an antenatal, postnatal and child welfare clinic. In middle of the lower level is the social functions hall.
The ground in front is green lawned, and in front of the facade are tall coconut palm trees. The large compound to the west, in the middle of which lies a big marble water fountain, is otherwise left bare for dandia ras (Gujarati stick dance) and other programs during celebrations like Imamat Day. Terrazzo-finished concrete benches are lined up along the perimeter wall, which were very popular meeting places (before and after prayers) especially for the senior members of the community.
Read more at the source: http://theismailisoftanga50s60s.blogspot.com/p/construction.html
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/tangaismailis
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