From Khoja Wiki

Arusha was first settled in the 1830s by the agro-pastoral Arusha Maasai, who traded grains, honey, beer, and tobacco with the pastoral Kisongo Maasai in exchange for livestock, milk, meat, and skins.

Demand for Arusha's foodstuffs increased substantially during the 1860s when the Pangani Valley Arab trade route was extended through Old Moshi, Arusha, and ultimately to western Kenya.

Arusha was conquered by the Germans in 1896 and they established a permanent presence in 1900 when a military fort (a boma) was built and soldiers were garrisoned there. Many Maasai were forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands by the Germans and forced to dig lime or carry stones to construct the fort. Business opened up for Indian traders during this time. [1]

"A steady influx of traders and farmers into Arusha in the 19th century, notably Indian traders, private German farmers and immigrant Africans, stimulated economic growth, prompting the German administration to conceive an 'idealistic' vision of a vast white settlement of their own construction. The Germans came up with several schemes to import settlers-from bizarre backgrounds."

Sajan Somji and son, Shermohamed, the first Khoja dukawallas in Arusha

Sajan and Sher travelled to Zanzibar from Bombay via Oman. From Zanzibar they first went to Pangani and then to Arusha on foot with a party of 25 people. They had to carry food stuff and gifts to tribal leaders for permission to march ahead. The gifts which they gave out include items like beads, cigarettes, matches, candles, etc.

When they reached Arusha they were impressed by its beauty and cool weather. They decided to set up their tents near the Themi River to rest for a few days before continuing their journey to Nairobi. The German officials who met them at Arusha convinced them to abandon their trip to Nairobi and instead start business in Arusha. As an incentive, they were asked to choose any plot near the Boma and construct their houses there. They would also be given official permission to start any business related to food, a large variety of strategic products and import and export of most goods. After a long thought, Sajan and Sher agreed to the offer. The German official started calling Sher as Shermohamed after noticing the name on the passport and after being told that it meant the Lion of Mohamed.

Shermohamed chose a piece of land of roughly 20 acres about 200 meters south of the Boma. They built a large six-bedroom house with plenty of space at the back for vegetable farm and living quarters of their workers. The construction of the house was completed in 1902/03 and the family moved into that house in 1903. Thus started the settlement of the first family in Arusha, Tanganyika. Shermohamed started going to Tanga to buy food and other products. They also started importing stuff from India, and exported some agro and other products, including hides and skins to India, UK and Germany.

"Quoted from Khojapedia"

The British captured Arusha from the Germans in 1916 during the European War. German officials fled the area whilst the British deported the remaining German missionaries and settlers and left only a skeletal military administration of the town. During the 1920s', civilian administration was implemented, missionaries from the United States arrived, British and Greek settlers reoccupied the former German farms and the town grew.

More Khoja traders established themselves at this time.

The extension of the railroad from Moshi to Arusha in 1928-29 greatly increased commerce. The prominent Natha Hirji family set up in Arusha during this period. See Mohamedali Natha Hirji

The Great Depression thereafter however squelched commerce and Arusha in 1940 had less than 2,000 residents. Growth resumed during World War II and by 1948 the population had increased to more than 5,000.

In the 1960s', parts of the movie Hatari! with John Wayne were filmed at Momella Game Lodge, later owned by the famed businessman, Akber Mohamedali Rajpar, also known as "Lord Rajpar".

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  1. Skinner, Annabel Tanzania & Zanzibar NotesPage Number: 135c - A gruesome account.

"In 1899 the Germans began construction of a strong fortification, a boma, which they forced the Arusha to build. Maasai in Arusha still remembers the humiliation of this task: the new colonists took pleasure in riding around on the backs of the Arusha and Maasai men, egging them on with whips. One Maasai recorded the growing resentment at this form of transport in his memoirs. He was particularly enraged by an unusually heavy cargo; passing the river with his charge set heavily across his back, his patience snapped and he tossed his 'master' into the water. Fearing the consequences, many Maasai went into hiding in the bush, until a Maasai chief was sent to find them. The chief explained to the mutinous group that he was acting as a mediator and that if the group returned to work all would be forgiven. The runaways marched back into the new town in a column of about 400 men; as they strode down Boma Road, the entire troop was gunned down in the street - one of history's many warnings never to trust a 'safe conduct'. It is said that the 'mediator' was promptly promoted. The bloodstained fort was completed in 1900 and became a barracks for 150 Nubian soldiers, later being made the regional government offices until 1934. when it was turned into the Arusha Museum of Natural History."

Photo Gallery of Colonial Arusha

Photo Gallery of Khoja Arusha