Saifuddin Khanbhai

Born 1966

Owner of Cultural Heritage Centre, Arusha

Name ID 1123

See also

Arusha Times
Extract Author: By a correspondent
Page Number: 313
Extract Date: 25 March 2004

How Tanga survived the ‘Ice Cream War"

Two prominent families of Asian origin have their roots in Tanga. The Karimjee Jivanjee family settled in Tanga in 1830 while that of Khanbhai has a history in that coastal town that dates back to 1836. After many years of neglect, what makes Tanga tick today is only its history.

Tanga is the most important Tanzania port after Dar, and lies just south of the Kenyan border. Like Bagamoyo, it has an air of fading decadence about it and would not feature in any travel guide were it not for the superb beaches which sprawl to the south of the town, and the vibrant night life that transforms the town after dark. It was here that a German expeditionary force led by Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck defeated a joint British and Indian landing force in 1914, aided and abetted by millions of angry bees whose hives had been destroyed by gunfire.

The tragic though comical consequences of that battle shaped the opening chapter of William Boyd’s contemporary novel, ‘An Ice Cream War’. About a thousand years ago persons migrated to Tanga and gave it its name, which in Persian has four meanings: straight, green valley, road beside mountain, farm on mountain or rolling hill.

In 1857 Richard Burton, the explorer, visited Tanga and described it as a patch of thatched pent roofed huts, built upon a bank overlooking the sea".

He estimated the population to be 4,000 to 5,000, which included fifteen Baluchis and twenty Indian merchants. The town was under the rule of The Sultan of Zanzibar. At that time Tanga was trading post dealing mainly in ivory. The annual trade in ivory was about 70,000 lbs. Tanga was a small outlying settlement compared to its more prosperous neighbour, Pangani.

With the coming of the Germans to East Africa in the last quarter of 19th century, the port of Tanga probably offered less resistance to The Germans compared to, for example, Pangani, which was more heavily fortified. The Germans took control of the coastal area from the Sultan of Zanzibar in April 1891 calling their colony Tanganyika. In the same year, Tanga was designated a township.

From then on, large scale developments, pushed by private German commercial interests took place. A wharf with a railway line to the interior was developed, construction of the Railway line started in 1896. The line reached Korogwe in 1902; Mombo in 1904 magnificent Cliff block hospital was built in 1902.

The Usambara Mountains were opened up as reliable roads and bridges were built which are still in use today. Rail line was also planned to go to Lushoto and beyond. A short line was built at Shume; parts of it still exist today. The Tanga town centre was also properly planned and developed. Most of the commercial cum residential buildings in use today are from that German period of 1891 to 1914.

Sisal, a plant that looks like yucca, was introduced into Tanganyika by the Germans in 1893. Sisal produces the longest and strongest natural plant fibres, hence the longest and strongest ropes, everything from the largest ropes to tie battle ships to docks to twine for boxes. Sisal was so lucrative with no competitors that it was then called the ‘white gold of Tanganyika’.

Tanga became the largest producer and exporter of Sisal in the world. In 1913, Tanga exported 20,800 tons of Sisal fibre from its port. In 1914, during World War One, an historic battle between the German and the invading British forces was fought in Tanga. The battle is vividly described in the book "Ice Cream War" by William Boyd. The British forces suffered a serious defeat. However, two years later, the British finally pushed the Germans out. There are three graveyards in town exclusively dedicated to the fallen soldiers from those battles.

The British ruled Tanga (and Tanganyika) till independence in 1961.

The Sisal industry reached its peak during this period exporting 200,000 tons in 1958; thereafter nationalization, mismanagement and the rise of synthetics to replace natural fibres destroyed the Sisal, which today is about 8 per cent of 1958. The rise of the Sisal industry in Tanga brought in migrant labourers from throughout the country and the neighbouring countries. Many of these labourers have stayed on. This has given Tanga a truly African cosmopolitan population, with almost all tribes of Tanzania having a considerable presence in Tanga. The indigenous tribe living around the town is the Digo.

They are mainly Moslems, who live on or near the coast. Fishing and subsistence agriculture is the main socio-economic activity. Tanga is renowned for its powerful presence in the Kiswahili literature scene. It has produced some literacy giants and is in the forefront of pushing the language to new heights. For instance, the legendary Shaaban Robert, an author and poet of many authoritative works, was a Tanga resident and is buried a short distance from the town.

Tanga is today the fourth largest town in Tanzania and the second largest port.

Extract ID: 4706

See also

The East African
Extract Author: Alfred Ngotezi Dar es Salaam
Extract Date: 2000 Oct 5

The Day Clinton Went Shopping in Arusha

The East African (Nairobi) via www.AllAfrica.com

World statesmen who have been hosted by the Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre include King Harold and Queen Sonja of Norway and their daughter Princess Martha Louise as well as South African President Thabo Mbeki and his wife.

Saifuddin Khanbhai, a jovial 34-year-old Tanzanian, has reason to feel on top of the world. On August 28, he became one of the few people in the world to host, albeit briefly, a reigning US president.

Khanbhai got the rare opportunity when American President William Jefferson Clinton paid a short visit to Arusha in Tanzania to witness the signing of a peace accord between Burundi's warring factions.

There was no confirmation of the planned presidential visit, ostensibly for security reasons, until a few minutes to 10 pm, Khanbhai recalls. All that evening, he was pacing up and down the lawns of his cultural centre. If the Burundi peace negotiations had not dragged on until late at night, Khanbhai says, perhaps Clinton would have arrived 'at a more conventional hour.' The American president personally held unscheduled lengthy talks with the Burundi belligerents.

Clinton's extended participation in the talks resulted in a rescheduling of his earlier programme, including a planned 15-minute private shopping session at Khanbhai's curio shop: the Cultural Heritage Centre on Arusha's Nairobi Road.

But to the delight of the young businessman, their friendly encounter lasted a full one hour and fifteen minutes as Khanbhai guided the president and his daughter around the cultural and entertainment sections of his centre.

As soon as Clinton arrived at the centre, Khanbhai presented him with a spear and a shield, the Maasai way of welcoming a respected leader.

The short traditional ceremony was performed in front of one of the tribal huts erected in the sprawling compound of the cultural centre. It was an amusing ceremony, Khanbhai recounts.

'But as warned earlier by security agents, we did not present the president with the spear, but only gave him a shield and gestured to the distant spear,' he says. But a jovial Clinton would not have it that way.

Grabbing the spear, he jokingly threatened his staff, saying, 'I'm the most dangerous person around now,' Khanbhai recalls.

From that moment onward, however, Clinton's itinerary became a private shopping visit, which saw the president and his daughter Chelsea visit every corner of the expansive centre. What impressed him most, says Khanbhai, is the fact that Clinton would stop from time to time to ask searching questions about the ways and values of different ethnic communities in Tanzania.

The American president was so moved by the cultural presentations, the proprietor says, that at one point he could not wait any longer: he joined in a traditional dance.

But where were the American security 'heavies' who had taken Arusha by storm with their sniffer dogs, one may ask. Khanbhai says the centre was swarming with security agents, but they were 'friendly and wanted to make the best of the occasion for us all.'

Indeed, Clinton went to the curio shop unaccompanied by local officials, in a deliberate relaxing of security measures to allow him some freedom to interact with people.

Clinton pulled quite a few surprises during the visit. For example, while earlier on at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), he had not been allowed by his assistants to take a local drink, instead quenching his thirst with a special canned Coke from Airforce One, he readily sipped a glass of fresh juice offered by Khanbhai.

The American president bought art and craft items worth about $1,400 and was given some more as gifts by the Khanbhai family. He promised to display them for a week at a prominent spot in the White House and said that as soon as he moved out of the White House next year, he would be looking for more souvenirs and would contact Khanbhai.

Clinton's visit to the Cultural Centre was missed by the local press and remains a mystery even to the host. 'I certainly would not have dreamt of inviting him,' he says.

Khanbhai says although US First Lady Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea have visited Arusha before, they did not visit the Cultural Centre. Former US Foreign Secretary James Baker visited the centre twice while on a private hunting safari.

Other world statesmen who have been hosted by Khanbhai include King Harold and Queen Sonja of Norway and their daughter Princess Martha Louise as well as South African President Thabo Mbeki and his wife.

What attracts world leaders to the Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre?

Most visitors interested in Tanzania's cultural heritage will look for a place where the past and present of the country's 120-plus tribes can be viewed in a single compound. Khanbhai's project is a clear manifestation of the need for tourism investors in the country to be creative. Beginning with the nearby Maasai and other tribes close to Arusha town in northern Tanzania, he has set out to extend his coverage to other ethnic groups in the country.

The soft-spoken proprietor is also launching an e-commerce enterprise. Customers from all over the world will be able to place orders online for various works of art.

Apart from displaying and storing Tanzania's cultural heritage, the curio shop sells carvings, gemstones, artefacts, clothing and books. The business employs 68 people.

Khanbhai was born in 1966 in Muheza, in the northeastern region of Tanga. He went to school in Tanga and Arusha before going for his A- level education in England. Despite being selected to pursue medicine, he was attracted to the arts and returned home to pursue his studies.

Khanbhai, a Tanzanian of Asian origin, says his immediate business partner is his wife of 11 years, Zahra. Starting with a small store near Clock Tower in Arusha, Khanbhai expanded and opened several other stores around the town. Construction on the Cultural Centre began in 1990, a task that took him four years.

The Clock Tower in Arusha, incidentally, at the halfway point between Cape Town and Cairo.

On the future of tourism in Tanzania, Khanbhai says the industry has a lot of potential but that institutional red tape is stifling its growth.

Khanbhai is critical of the policy of imposing Value Added Tax (VAT) on works of art, proposing that such payments made by tourists should be refunded at the time of departure. He indeed goes on to suggest that the tax be waived altogether.

It may not be a bad idea, after all, for the establishment to listen to a young businessman who has just had the rare honour of hosting the most powerful president in the world.

Extract ID: 1534

See also

Arusha Times
Extract Author: Elisha Mayallah
Page Number: 335
Extract Date: 28 Aug 2004

Clinton adds glamour to Cultural Heritage

Today marks four years since the visit of the former American President William Jefferson Clinton to Arusha. Clinton paid a short visit to witness the signing a peace accord between Burundi's warring factions on August 28, 2000.

The former American President personally held lengthy talks with the Burundi factions at the Arusha International Conference Centre [AICC]. Clinton's participation in the talks resulted in labeling Arusha the "Geneva of Africa".

The Cultural heritage in Arusha got a rare opportunity when Clinton spent some few moments interacting and buying curios. The former American President bought art and craft items worth about $1,400 and was given some more as gifts by the Cultural Heritage management.

To the delight of the owner, Mr. Saifudin Khanbhai their friendly meeting lasted over one hour as he guided the president and his daughter around the cultural and entertainment sections of his centre. The former American President was so moved by the cultural presentations, says Mr. Khanbhai, that at one point he could not wait any longer: He participated in a traditional dance.

As Tanzania’s tourism industry already maximizing, lustre of gems of the Cultural heritage begin to shine brighter in the World. Most visitors interested in Tanzania's cultural heritage will look for a place where the past and present of the country's 120-plus tribes can be viewed in a single compound. The Cultural Heritage in Arusha, so far, is a place to go, says Mr. Khanbhai

Cultural heritage boasts of large and various carvings, gemstones, artifacts, clothing and books – all offered for sale at the centre. In addition, the project is a good example of the need for tourism investors in the country to be creative. Beginning with the nearby Maasai tribe close to Arusha town. The Maasai statutes that you see at the complex depict the true-life of the Maasais. The Maasai tribal huts erected in the sprawling compound of the cultural centre are amazing.

A week ago a group of media experts, who gathered in Arusha for a short course took time off to see, among others, the wealth of the Cultural Heritage. "I must bring my family to see this wonderful collection" said Mr. George Nyembela, a Consultant attached to the Media Council of Tanzania.

Mr. Saifudin Khanbhai is optimistic that expansion of the Cultural heritage, which is on progress, will provide a rare and sought-out unique brand of dining and shopping. "Former President, Clinton would be filled with happiness if he returned to see the new building" says Mr. Khanbhai.

The thoughts of having ‘almost’ rubbed shoulders with a man who was a national leader still thrills most of the staff at the Cultural heritage, most of whom were in the low-income bracket. "When Clinton was here, it was exciting news for most of us who knew him via the media, it was unbelievable to see him at close-range!" Said one of the staff, Mr. Kangai Hiloga. Four years later, the Cultural heritage community still dreams of the reunion with their client, the former ‘famous’ American President Clinton!

Extract ID: 4736
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