Khoja Mosque


Many call it Khoja Mosque, but its actual name is Nairobi Town Jamatkhana, meaning “prayer house or mosque”. At the junction of Nairobi’s Moi Avenue and the beginning of River Road, stands a three-storey iconic stone building. It was then located on Government road. Built by the Ismaili community led by the Aga Khan, the foundation stone of this mosque was laid in January 1920. Two years later in 1922, its construction was completed. The building of the mosque is credited for stimulating business growth around the area as many people started building business premises hence, the name Bazaar Street, which was later renamed Biashara Street. The building of the mosque was also significant for historical reasons. First, it was prominently situated at the city centre of colonial Nairobi. Its construction and opening made it a ‘high profile’ building for its time. Secondly, it symbolised the permanent settlement of the Ismaili community in colonial Kenya. Online sources indicate that Queen Elizabeth visited the mosque in 1956. The present Imam of the Ismailis (49th), Shah Karim al Hussaini, is said to have visited this Jamatkhana and recited Namaaz (‘congregational prayer’) when he was nine. The mosque is also gazetted as one of Kenya’s historical sites and monuments. Its exterior design of solid stone blocks makes it appear like a huge majestic palace with massive front entrance doors and a huge clock on its dome. The clock tower is an echo of British tradition. From a distance, the clock on the dome, would have been a point of reference for residents, passers-by and tradesmen in the 1920s. The foundation stone was laid on January 4, 1920 by the then HE The Ag Governor Sir Charles C Bowring while HE The Governor Major General Sir Edward Northey opened the building on January 14, 1922. Architectural work was done by K. Virjee Nanji, stone works by Mistris–Gulmohamed, Govind Arjaan & Nathoo Carpenter Mistri-Rood Singh. While the stones were sourced locally, some of the wood fittings may have been imported from India. The public commonly referred to the Jamatkhana building as the “Khoja Mosque” and it is still referred to by this name by many Kenyans as well as tourist maps and guidebooks. “Khoja” commonly refers to Nizari Ismailis of Indo-Pakistani origin, but this can cause confusion because the 1866 and other secessionists also continued to call themselves Khojas. Reference:,d.d24


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