Understanding Uganda’s Historic Relationship with Oman Sultanate.[Since 1844]

During the reign of Seyyid Said Bin Sultan in Zanzibar, Omani traders travelled deep inside Africa from the African Coast on foot crossing through dangerous swampy landscapes and bushes with high risks of being attacked by wild Animals, Snakes and insect bites.

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Some of the grown up Omanis now living in Oman celebrating Eid with Omani Razfa dance which old Omani forefathers brought to Uganda and East Africa.

By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho

The Omani Arabs are probably among the first settlers in East Africa, tracing back to the 17th Century, Little is known about Omani Arabs settling in Uganda by many scholars, The Homeland Newspaper has since discovered truth and profile the historical achievements and contributions to the development of Ugandan culture, religion and heritage as many still live on.

Like the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said; Uganda is the Pearl of Africa, many foreign races and nationals were attracted to Uganda due to the beauty of the country.

During the reign of Seyyid Said Bin Sultan in Zanzibar, Omani traders travelled deep inside Africa from the African Coast on foot crossing through dangerous swampy landscapes and bushes with high risks of being attacked by wild Animals, Snakes and insect bites.

According to Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi, an elder currently living in Oman and one of the grand children of Mohamed Rshed al-sinawi, an Omani who settled and lived in Busoga in Uganda as well as living in Seh al-Afiya, Ibra Sultanate of Oman.

He said that Uganda the Pearl of Africa is a beautiful country with its favorable climate and fertile soils and welcoming people source of River Nile at Jinja, the fresh water Lake Victoria and the natural forest cover at Mabira are among the natural features that attracted many Omani Arabs and become a habitant for many other Foreigners who came to work and settle in Uganda.

As narrated by Mr. Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi an Elder who was raised and brought up in Uganda currently staying in Oman.

Mr.Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi, Shared his life and experience in Uganda, The Homeland Media gives you the excerpt;

He said, i picked up a pen to put the sweet memories in writing to share his experience with the world, as well as convey gratitude to our ancestors both in Uganda and Oman and to the Ugandan Community that raised him. 

Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi narrates that i was raised and brought up in Uganda before returning to Oman where he presently lives.

The Arab traders from Oman to Africa travelled by Dhow from Oman to the East African Coast and then travelled a distance of over 1200km from Mombasa in Kenya on foot, crossing dangerous swampy landscapes and thickets (forests) hidden with wildlife and insects, seeking business opportunities and introducing of Islam.

“During the reign of Seyyid Said bin Sultan in Zanzibar, Omanis travelled deep inside Africa from the East African Coast and Uganda was one of the major destinations for Omanis.

In 1844, Ahmed bin Ibrahim al Amri, who introduced Islam to the King of Buganda in Uganda, was the first Omani and foreigner to enter Uganda.

As an adult now, the memories of growing up and attaining early education in Uganda, “The Pearl of Africa” are alive and fresh as though it just happened yesterday.

We believe and hoping these mutual Historical Influences would be recognized and recorded with UNESCO.

“True Nations with History have influenced other Nations in many ways and Oman and Omanis have not been an exception in influencing other Nations with benefits to suit their ways of life. One of these nations was Uganda in E. Africa, a landlocked country deep inside the African Continent” Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi said.

Mr.Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi further narrates that, Uganda, which may be lesser known to have historical links with Oman by the new younger generation, is still a safe haven for many Omanis, and the country which hails from a diversity of rich culture, is remarkably hospitable.

Some of the grown up Omanis now living in Oman celebrating Eid with Omani Razfa dance which old Omani forefathers brought to Uganda and East Africa.

Mr. Mohamed Nasser Ammar al-harthi said that other Omanis and other foreigners-Europeans, Yemeni, Somalis, and Indians followed.

“The Omanis in Uganda then received and supported other Omanis and foreigners in their travel to and from Uganda to the neighboring countries – whatever the needs were.

The Omani guests and other foreigners felt secured and encouraged because of them.

“My forefathers also followed suit, some decided to marry and live in Uganda and others brought their families with them,” al-harthi said.

Mohamed al-hathi, 68, who lived in Uganda, says he enjoyed his life there. “I was brought up in Uganda by my Omani family, and frankly, I enjoyed living and studying in Uganda.

Omanis now living in Oman celebrating Eid with Omani Razfa dance which old Omani forefathers brought to Uganda and East Africa. COURTESY/PHOTO

The Omani customs and culture benefited us in many ways. The Omanis felt responsible for each other and for the up-bringing of their children with the same spirit.”

The locals picked up some useful cultural traditions and maintained them, and vice versa. Omanis also benefited from the locals and other foreigners.

They also had a tendency to speak a number of languages,” he said.

Adoption of Bisht and Dishdashas in Uganga.

In Uganda, dress is determined by the region they come from. Influenced by the outside world some tribes changed their clothing.

The adoption of Omani ‘dishdashas’ (locally known as Kanzu Yo Mulera) and the ‘Bisht’ (Bisuti) senior officials from the traditional clans seen dressed in Kanzu Yomulera. COURTESY/PHOTO

The Kanzu was then adopted as clothing for men in Buganda region and it slowly spread to other neighbouring regions like Toro, Bunyoro and Busoga,” al-harthi disclosed, adding.

“The pattern and design of the original Omani dishdasha, which our Omani Ancestral women used to knit by hand, is still maintained in Uganda and tailored locally and sold in local shops and markets.”

Photos of Kanzuz Yo Mulera and Bisuti in Uganda and below Local Ugandan Tailors making the Kanzuz.

A Ugandan man making the Kanzu locally in Kampala City at a place called Kiyembe. The Kanzu are used mostly on cultural and traditional events and functions by all tribes across the board. THE HOMELAND MEDIA/PHOTO

Interestingly, in Uganda, the men do not use the ‘wizra’ (locally known as Bikoyi) as Omani men do. Instead, Ugandan women use the Bikoyi which are considered as prestigious attire.

The Kanzu being displayed by a local Taylor in Kiyembe Kampala city, the Kanzu was brought by Omani and has since been improved according to taste and fashion. THE HOMELAND MEDIA/PHOTO

Both the wizra (locally known as Bikoyi) and the Omani Kanzus were originally from Oman. The Kanzu was in white and cream colour and the Bikoyi were of different patterns and sizes.

Accordingly the origins of the Bikoyi were from Omani Villages.

In Uganda, the names given to these Bikoyi were similar to the names of the Omani villages where the original Bikoyi were manufactured.

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The Late Old Lady in the Photo from Bukona in Busoga, Nakalama the way to Busembatia holding the Bikoyi with prestige. Courtesy/Photo

Until recently, the older women in Uganda maintained the names of the Bikoyi from the Omani Villages, that is, the Karyati from Quriyat Village, Bula from Ibra Village and Sumaili from Sumail Village.

However, due to demand the Bikoyi are now imported from other countries in beautiful designs and colours and sold in Shops and local markets in Uganda.

These new Bikoyi Clothings are now very common in Fashion Shows locally and internationally.………….

According to Mohamed al-harthi, Omanis also took with them and introduced Omani medicines, like subar, khali, qarfa, filfil aswad, and the incense burning tradition with Luban.

“The Omanis in Uganda became well known by the locals and other Foreigners. They made Uganda to become a focal point for foreigners travelling deep inside Africa and to and from the East African Coast”

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The Bikoyi also a major dress at cultural and traditional functions by all tribes its was since introduced by Omanis in Uganda.

One such focal point was the Unique House, a Landmark in Iganga, “Beit al-Foqi”, which the locals called “House of Arabs.” It was built and   owned by an Omani, Mohamed bin Rshed bin Rshud al-sinawi al-harthi since before 1900.

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND “BEIT AL-FOQI THE UNIQUE OLD HOUSE AT IGANGA DISTRICT (Locally Known as the House of Arabs) in Uganda and BAIT AL-ODD at Seh Al-Afiya in IBRA District in the Sultanate of Oman.

It is probably the Oldest House in Iganga, once a landmark and a focal point for Omanis, Arabs and other Foreigners travelling to and from the African Continent and East African Coast.

It is Old Fashioned, yet the house is Intact and Eye Catching.

The House is old fashioned, yet eye-catching and a center of attraction and heritage in the center of Iganga Town, Busoga Region Eastern part of Uganda.

This house was renovated in 1918, replacing the one built before 1900.

The historical house was built with heavy, old fashioned, 24-gauge corrugated iron sheets, (26 inches width by 108 inches length) and fixed with cap nails. The timber used was extracted from the Milicia Excelsa tree, locally known as Mivule.

The old fashioned structural techniques used makes this house unique and a landmark in the area.

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Beit al-Foqi” at Iganga, the Locals called it “House of Arabs” Old Fashioned, yet Eye Catching. COURTESY/PHOTO

The House was once a landmark and a focal point for Omanis, Arabs and Foreigners travelling to the African continent from the east coast.

The House was also a place for locals to meet and socialize with each other and the Arabs and other foreign visitors.

It is said that in the old days, the house was surrounded by many fruit trees – coconut, pomegranate, and jackfruit, a variety of mango trees and soursop (mustafelli), and shrubs of different species.

It is said that all the coconut and other fruit and other big natural trees at the front of the house were removed when the road from Jinja to Iganga was constructed in the late 1930s.

The Iron Old-fashioned construction, Beit al-Foqi “House of Arabs”house is over 110 years old and looks unique, probably the oldest house in that area.

I thought i will share with you some of the old antique old fashioned items and structures inside and outside beit al-foqi (very Old Water Pots, old Doors and Windows, Shelves, Old Fashioned Wood and Steel Door and Window Locks and Roof Rain Water Collectors, We found some Old East African Coins in this Old Fashioned House, locally known in those days as Jegejege which was the smallest dominion. Some coins had a hole in the centre.

And activities around this House area are endless, with Omanis constantly socializing over Arabic Omani coffee.

One of the old Coins, 1913 with smallest dominion 1 Pence locally known as Jege Jege found at the House of Arabs, Beit al-Foqi at Iganga in Uganda. COURTESY/PHOTO

A coconut tree in the courtyard is probably the tallest and oldest surviving tree in the area, grown before the 1950s. 

The house has a verandah and two big guest bedrooms for visitors.

Public toilets were at the back of the courtyard. There are stories that some guests used to arrive after midnight and always find food and a place to sleep, and could stay for as long as they wished.

Omanis in Uganda were well known for keeping up and maintaining their customs and culture, be it clothing, food, hospitality or cultural traditions.


Photo shows Recent Gathering of people at the Beit al-Foqi, House of Arabs during an occasion. COURTESY/PHOTO

Sinawi, nevertheless, maintained his links with his village in Ibra where he owned Bait al Oud – the biggest house in the village then built with stones and locally made cement. In those days, houses at Seh al Afiya were built with thick mud walls with doors and roofs made of date palm wood and timber

The ruins of this Bait al-Odd can still be seen in the heart of the Seh al Afiya Village at Ibra in Oman.

The Omanis in Uganda then also formed up the ARAB OMANI ASSOCIATION COMMITTEE with intentions to support Omanis living in Uganda. It was very useful and well recognized not only in Uganda but also in Oman and Zanzibar.

Below attached the Arab Omani Association Document.

I am also told that Omanis got together and put up the first Masjid in Bugiri built from Iron Sheets in 1948.

They felt responsible for each other and for the up-bringing of their children with a collective spirit. The Omanis in Uganda became well known among the locals who picked up some useful traditions and maintained them, and vice versa.

During Eid celebrations, many Omanis and the locals used to come with their families and celebrate together, Omani Arsiya sweet mashed rice with meat, locals call it ‘bokoboko’. This trend is still maintained” Harthi said.


Photo shows Recent Gathering of people at the Beit al-Foqi, House of Arabs during an occasion. COURTESY/PHOTO

The Omanis overseas also kept touch with their villages and people in Oman.

He further said that his elders made it a habit to listen to BBC Arabic radio and would then discuss it when they got together for Qahwa (Omani coffee).

“We always stood around to serve them and listen to their discussion.However, when the Late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, Sultan of Oman came to power in 1970, many got thrilled and decided to come back to Oman,” said al-harthi.

The life of Mohamed Rshed Rshud Al-Sinawi

The Late Mohamed Rshed al-Sinawi was is an Omani who lived in Seh al-Afiya, Ibra in Oman.

Mohamed Rshed, like other Omanis travelled by dhow from Oman and then travelled on foot from Mombasa in Kenya and arrived in Uganda in 1885.

He was hardworking and well known for his Honesty and Kindness.

His village is also not far from the Second largest Sand Dune, ALWAHIBA SAND DUNES.

The Seh al Afiya village in Ibra, Oman is located near the famous Masjid Dhu al-Qiblatain in the sultanate of Oman.


Late Mohamed Rshed al-Sinawi al-harthi , Owner of “Beit al-Fouqi”, “House of Arabs” at Iganga in Uganda and “Beit al-Oud” at She al-Afiya, Ibra in Oman.
COURTESY/PHOTO
 

He was always helpful and took the lead with courage. He was well respected and admired by many in his village and other neighbouring villages.

Like other villagers in Oman, he took up Farming and LiveStock which was one of the Major Activities in the Old Days and it was based on Village Spirit of Cooperation and Togetherness and Well Engineered with Established Irrigation “FALAJ’ Systems.

(Photo below of the Mosque with two qiblas) – One qibla pointing towards Masjid al Aqsa and the other pointing towards Mecca – which eventually became an iconic logo of Wilayat Ibra.

These farms can still be seen in the villages with the old irrigation systems.

In those days, there were also a number of good quality local Wizra Knitting not far from his village (known in Uganda as Bikoyi),

Like other Omani travellers Mohamed Rshed decided to join his relative Ammar Mreshid Al-Sinawi who was already living in Uganda since 1870.

Ammar bin Murshid married and lived in Buganda in the early 1870. He later moved to Iganga and traded in hides and skins and took up some farming.

Mohamed Al-Sinawi got married and settled in Uganda with his family comprising 28 children (9 sons and 19 daughters.

His reputation and kindness had spread far and wide in Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Oman. 

He traded in hides and skins and cash crops, and sold Kanzuz and Bikoyi (Omani Wizra) and Omani medicines and spices.

He later also took up a construction business and built a number of houses during his time. One of these houses was the “Beit al Foqi”, “House of Arabs’’ in Iganga District. 

Beit al-Fouqi” at Iganga, the Locals called it “House of Arabs” Old Fashioned, yet Eye Catching.

Sinawi, nevertheless, maintained his links with his village in Ibra where he owned Bait al OOD – the biggest house in the village then built with stones and locally made cement.

In those days, houses at Seh al Afiya were built with thick mud walls with doors and roofs made of date palm wood and timber.

The Ruins of this Bait al-Od can still be seen in the heart of the Seh al Afiya Village at Ibra in Oman.

How did Omani Arabs contribute to the development of Uganda and East Africa?

Consequently The Homeland Media Team visited the Old House, Beit Al-Fouqi locally known as House of Arabs and met some of the elders in the area. 

For our readers, Busoga Kingdom is located in the Eastern region of Uganda. 

In 2024, it will be exactly 180 years since the first Oman national, set foot on the Ugandan soil to introduce Islam to the King of Buganda Mwanga II.

Origin of Omani Arabs

The Omani Arabs are probably among the first settlers in East Africa, dating back to the 17th Century.

The Omani Arabs are probably among the first settlers in East Africa, dating back to the 17th Century.

The beautiful scenic view of Busoga, with a favourable climate and fertile soils, welcoming people, the source of River Nile at Jinja, the fresh water Lake Victoria and the natural forest cover at Mabira are said to have been among the natural features that could have attracted most Omani Arabs to settle and work in Busoga.

For over two centuries, Omani Arabs have resided among Busoga communities, intermarrying with them, and influencing their lives in a number of ways, while also getting assimilated to them in proportionate measures.

Ugandans Adopt Omani Dress Code

Kanzu’s and Busuuti and Bikoyi, popular outfits among the majority of Ugandan indigenous communities came with the Omani Arabs.

When the King of Buganda (Kabaka), accepted Islam, he became the first person to put on the Omani Dish Dashas (KANZU) and the Bisht (Bisuti), followed by his senior officials.

Buganda regents who went to England to negotiate the 1900 Buganda agreement were dressed in Omani Dishdasha [locally known as Ekanzu Yo ‘mulereera dressed by all chiefs across the country and on special occasions like Burials, Introduction parties and cultural events and functions.

Most commonly used Kanzus are of white or cream colour. The Kanzu was then adopted as clothing in Buganda and it slowly spread to other neighboring Villages Toro, Busoga and Kenya Boarder, as clothing for Cultural functions.

The old original dish dashas, which our great grandmothers in Oman and Uganda were experts and used to sew them by hand are now sawn and put on by tailors in Uganda. However as of recent, some of our Omani tailors in Oman, have taken initiatives to make them in Oman

Wizra, locally known as Bikoyi, came in different designs and colors. Ugandan Women today make clothing from Wizra, as they come in different designs and are very colorful.

The Omanis took with them and introduced the Luban.

 It was a custom to see that we use Luban in our Omani homes and Masjids and during Marriages and other occasions.

The Omanis celebrating an occasion in Sumbuwanga in Tanzania in 1949.This Oman Celebration trend was the same where Omanis lived, in Uganda it was the same and the locals formed present Matali which is now very common.

This habit is now very popular with Muslims during celebrations in Uganda.

Ugandan women who today wear Bikoyi are considered to be prestigious. The initial old Bikoyi, were originally from Oman with different patterns and types. They were manufactured from different Omani Local Villages.

They were given names similar to the originating villages and these names are still known by the locals, especially the old ladies, Bula from Ibra, Sumaili from Sumayi, Quayati from Qurayat.

It’s believed a number of Omanis, especially youths do not know that in the old days, the Wizra were locally manufactured in Oman and sold in the Omani local markets and exported to other countries like Uganda. 

Omanis also introduced typical Omani Medicines like, the Subar, known to them as Subiri, Khali known as Fujo, Haba Sodo, Qarfa (Karafu), Filfil Aswad. Local communities in Uganda who know the benefits of these medicines still use them.

The Mataali dance, popular among Muslims and non Muslims Ugandans has its origin from Oman, and it’s called ” Razfa. Locals have picked up dance and somehow retained Arabic dance, locally known in Uganda Matali Dances.

The Matali are very common during functions, like marriages and  Eid among others.

Different Local Culture and Customs. 

We were able to learn local and foreign Cultures and Customs, which got us well acquainted and respected with different local people and foreigners such as; Indians, Europeans, Yemeni Somalis and locals from other neighboring Countries. 

 Local and Foreign Foods.

Omanis, especially our mothers became experts in making Local Uganda foods like Matoke and Binyebwa (groundnut sauce) and fish, Cassava (tapioca), Posho(Ugali) and Mahindi ya Kuchoma plus many vegetables and Asian foods and Sweets.

Some Omani mothers were well known for cooking Bans Bread (Mandazi) and Pancakes for Sell. This added income not only for the Omani families but also for the local communities who learnt the skills.

As Omanis, we enjoyed and always looked forward to the Omani Food, Ugandan Local Foods and Foreign Foods. We also introduced our Omani Local Foods to them in Uganda, Bokoboko (ARSIYA during Eid Festivals), the Omani Biryani QABULI, Kubz Muqamsha (SPOON BREAD), Paper Bread  (Khobz AlKhaal) and the Omani Curry etc.

 The Omani Biryani is maintained for Festivals and in some areas in Busoga Region in Uganda, ALARSIYA (known by the locals as BOKOBOKO) is made during Eid Occasions.

Business by Omanis in Uganda:

Omani got involved in different types of Businesses and work to earn a living. They were well known for their honesty and gained good respect from the Locals and other Foreign Business People. The Most common ones were Retails Shops, selling Clothing and Food Stuff.

Some got involved in the Buying and Selling of Cash Crops, Animal Skins and others got involved in the Transport sector.

Transport business included Taxis, Buses, and Lorries among others. You don’t believe but during the old days (1840-1900) our forefathers used to import a number of Omani local products all the way from Oman to Uganda. (As explained in the influence of Omani Heritage and Culture in Uganda, DishDashas, Wizra, local medicines and so on.

They found Ugandans to be remarkably hospitable and hailed from a diversity of high culture. Uganda was known for its Natural Beauty and mind blowing sceneries.

After his arrival in Uganda in 1885, Mohamed Bin Rshed, decided to settle at Iganga in Uganda. He was married with a total of 28 Children (9 Sons and 19 Daughters).

His reputation and kindness was well known in Uganda, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi and Tanzania and Zanzibar and Oman.

During his time and like other traders, He started trading in hides and skins and cash crops. They imported and introduced items from Oman and Zanzibar.  They traded in Omani Dishdasha locally known as Kanzu which was initially adopted as clothing and Omani Wizra locally known as Bikoyis

They also imported and traded in Omani Wizra locally known as Bikoyi and Omani Local Medicines and Spices (Subar locally known as Subiri, Khali (Fujo), Haba Soda, Qarfa (Karafu), Filfil Aswad. Some of the locals who know the benefits still use them.

He later also took up construction business and built a number and owned houses during his time.

One of the houses is the Unique House, “BEIT AL-FOQI” at Iganga District in Uganda. This house was once a landmark and focal point for Omanis, Other Arab and other Foreigners travelling deep inside the African Continent to and from the East African Coast.

It was also a place of get together for the locals. It was called by Omanis and other Arabs as Beit Al-Foqi and Locals called it “The House of the Arabs”.

The house was surrounded by many natural beautiful trees and grown fruit Trees, Coconut, Pomagramade (komamanga) Jackfruit, Purple (Zambarau), Soursop (Mustafelli), and Mangoes of different spices.

It is said that all the coconut and other fruit and other big natural trees at the front of the house were removed when the road from Jinja to Iganga was constructed in the late 1930s.

Mohamed Bin Rshed also kept his links to his Home Village at Seh al-Afiya in Wilayat  Ibra in the Sultanate of Oman where he also owned “BEIT Al-OOD” (means Big House) which was the biggest house in the village then built with stones and local made cement then as seen from the ruins of the house. In the old days many of the houses at Seh-Afiya then were built with thick Mud Walls. Date Palm Wood and Other local available Timber were used for the doors and roofs.

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The ruins of this old house “BEIT AL-OOD,” can still be seen in the heart of the Seh Al-Afiya village in Wilayat Ibra. HISTORY/PHOTO

In the old days it is mentioned that also around this area there was a Quranic School, some shops and an old Majlis for the visitors where villagers got together.

The Majlish constitutes 2000m2 area for a get together and 1000m2 special hall for various occasions for weddings and religious, cultural or national celebrations.

The Majlis was built of thick mud walls.  It was renovated in early 80s with Brick and Cement, photo is attached and as of recent a Modern well-built bigger Majlis with Modern Facilities to cater for all types of functions in many ways photo attached.

The new majlis 3000m2 at the Seh al-Afia, Ibra Village was opened in 2014 with latest technologies. The majlish constitutes 2000m2 area for a get together and 1000m2 special hall for various occasions for weddings and religious, cultural or national celebrations.
The Majlis was built of thick mud walls. It was renovated in early 80s with Brick and Cement, photo is attached and as of recent a Modern well-built bigger Majlis with Modern Facilities to cater for all types of functions, it was inaugurated in 2014.

The Unique Antique House “BEIT AL-FOQI’ which is at Iganga District in Uganda owned by my late Grandfather Mohamed Bin Rshed Bin Rshud al-sinawi.

This unique old house in Iganga Town Busiga region in Uganda served as a focal point for Omanis and Other Foreigners and the Local Community since early 1900.

The Unique Antique House “BEIT AL-FOQI’ which is at Iganga District in Uganda owned by my late Grandfather Mohamed Bin Rshed Bin Rshud al-Sinawi. HISTORY/PHOTO

The house is still intact and a landmark at Iganga District in Uganda, East Africa.

This house was renovated in 1918 replacing an old house built before 1900. The Iron Sheet House is over 110 years and looks unique, probably the oldest house in that area and at Iganga in Uganda.

The house was built with old fashioned heavy 24 gauge corrugated iron sheets of 26 inches width by 108 inches length and fixed with caps and nails which had screw type tips at the end which held into the wood timber strongly which over time the timber hardened.

The wood timber was extracted from Milicia Axcelsa Tree locally known as Mivule

The old fashioned Structural Techniques makes this house unique and landmark in the area.

Its old fashioned design and looks are eye- catching.

Activities around this area are endless. Omani Arabic Coffee, well-liked by many, has never stopped being served at the Verandah where you find get together for old pals and youth and different visitors to date.

 A coconut tree in the court yard is probably the tallest and oldest surviving tree in the area grown before 1950s. You can see it from a distance as you approach the house.

After you come to know about this house’s historical contribution and role in serving mankind you will understand how important it was in the old days.

I believe, those who had the opportunity to sip a cup of the Omani Qahwa and/or visited this house as of recent or in the past, have a lot to say about it. “Beit Al-Foqi ” is in Iganga District in Uganda and on your left as you come from Jinja before the last round about taking you to Busia and Kenya.

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The house you see together with all rooms inside and the verandah was built using the old corrugated iron sheets which are over 100years old.

At the verandah two big guest bedrooms were provided for visitors. Public toilets were at the back of the court yard accessed from outside.

There are stories that some guests used to arrive after midnight and find water and food and a place to sleep and continue to stay for as long as they wished.

In the old Days, the varendah was used in many ways, for get together for Omanis and other Arab and foreigners and by the local community for prayers, teachings of Islam and Qur’an and local meetings and celebrations.

It said that in the old days a number of the local musicians used to charm local crowds and Arab traders.  Local musicians continue to come to the verandah. 

 At the main entrance that leads you in the house there was also a room where guests would keep their belongings safely without worries.

As you enter the house through the main entrance you come across a big room attached with two rooms used by family members. As you leave the big room it leads you to the family verandah which leads you to the court yard and other rooms, kitchen, bathrooms and toilets.

In the late 1950s, The iron sheet kitchen and store were demolished and two big rooms and kitchen with chimney were built and interestingly a small store for safe storage of  charcoal and wood was provided to protect them getting wet due  the rains.

The Photo of Omani Arabs in Uganda with locals Government Officials mid 1960s. COURTESY/PHOTO

Omanis in Uganda were well known for keeping up and maintaining their customs and culture be it hospitality, culture, clothing for both men and women plus Omani Dishes. The Omanis felt responsible for each other and for the up-bringing of their children with the same spirit.

As youngsters, it was customary that we have to be with our fathers and elders and the girls with their mothers most of the time, helping them in their daily work with stricted Omani dressing and customs.

Mothers were very skilled in hand knitting Omani Dishdashas for the men and the Omani ladies colourful Kiyata, Omani Cap and sweaters.  Mothers trained the young girls and it was a prestige for them to knit the Omani Designs.

The local people picked up some useful cultures and maintained them and vice versa, Omani also benefited from the locals and other foreigners in many ways.

During Eid celebration many Omanis and the Locals used to come with their families and celebrate  Eid at Beit al-Faqih with Omani  Sweet mashed rice with meat locally known as ” Bokoboko”.  Ma Shaa Allah This trend is still maintained.


The Photo shows the Sweet Rice (Bokoboko) being mashed during the last Eid. COURTESY/PHOTO

He told The Homeland Newspaper, that Mohamed bin Rshed and other Omanis in Bugiri got together and put up the first Masjid in Bugiri built from Iron Sheets in 1948.

The nails used at that time were of cap type nails which interestingly as screw type of thread at the tip. We tried to removed one nail, it was not easy, the nails got stuck and probably over the time, binded by the timber glue.

Interestingly the timber from the local known trees “Mvule Trees” does not rot easily and has a tendency to get strong like stone as time passes

The door locks used outside were of strong steel probably locally manufactured, the lock still looks strong and intact together with timber used. Timber is of heavy type.

The inside top and bottom locks were made of strong steel  and in addition  design of as old designs with  wood handles at the two ends of the doors and strong wood piece is pushed in the between the two big  side locks which give safe firm door lock.”

This photo shows Omani Arab, late Salim Abdullah al-zakwani who played for the regional team of Busoga which won the “Kabaka cup in 1949. COURTESY/PHOTO

The Kabaka cup was the Highest National Tournament at that time in Uganda, East Africa in 1949.

Late Salim al-zakwani seated extremely right in the newspaper cutting was the top scorer of the tournament.

The Late Salim Abdullah al-zakwani who played for the regional team of Busoga which won the “Kabaka Cup in 1949. He died recently in Oman at the age of 95years. COURTESY/PHOTO
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The Late Mohamed Nasser Al-Muharmi an Oman. He died recently in Oman, he was manager and captain of the Tirinyi Ferry which operated in mid 1950s for many years. The ferry was used to load cross vehicles and people across the river to from Busoga and Teso. COURTESY/PHOTO

They have also constructed health facilities, water sources like taps and boreholes, besides offering physical Aid in form of relief food items and meat donations to the Muslim communities during Eid celebrations.

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Late Ahmed Salim Al-Harthi an Omani lived at Kaliro, Busoga. He was well respected and Known Taxi Driver, When Passengers asks him the cost of the Fare, he would reply DOBANADO, So his Taxi drivers, passengers and colleagues knew him as DOBANADO which meant Pay whatever you have. He returned back to Omani in 1975 and took up transportation Business. COURTESY/PHOTO

Late ALI MOHAMED  ELDER SON TO Late MOHAMED RSHED TOOK UP TRANSPORTATION END OF 1950s,  OLD BEDFORD TRUCKS CAN BE SEEN IN THE PHOTO and Next to him Mubarak best Mechanic in Busembatia  THEN. HE LIVED NOT FAR FROM THE BUSEMBATIA RAILWAY STATION WHICH MADE IT EASY FOR HIM TO CONTROL HIS TRUCKS UNLOADING OF COTTON AT THE RAILWAY DURING THE COTTON PEAK SEASON. COURTESY/PHOTO

Late Mr. SAEED HAMUD at his Cash Crops Store business. He was in this business since end 1950s. COURTESY/PHOTO
MANY OMANI GOT INVOLVED IN BUYING AND SELLING OF CASH CROPS INCLUDIND COTTON AND HIDES AND SKIN.
The Driving License in 1956 of late Yusuf bin Said al-Sinawi was well respected Businessman at Namwendwa since mid 1950’s.He returned to Oman end of 60’s. COURTESY/PHOTO
The Omanis in Uganda became well known by the locals and by other Omanis and Arabs living in the neighbouring countries of Oman and Zanzibar.
RECENT PHOTO OF LOCAL SINGER MATA, BLINDMAN WITH HIS COLLEAGUE, LIKE OLD MUSICIANS CONTINUE  TO ENTERTAIN PEOPLE AT THE HOUSE OF ARABS, IN IGANGA, A LAND MARK WHICH WAS ONCE A FOCAL POINT FOR OMANIS, LOCALS AND FOREIGNERS IN UGANDA
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The Ruins of Beit Al-ODD In Ibra in Oman with Quranic Teacher Mualim Hamud Nasser Al-Sinawi with students. Mualim Hamud one of the elders and parents were Business at Namwiwa since end of 1950s. COURTESY/PHOTO
Mr.Ahmed Hamud Saeed al-harthi  worked at the Bugiri Post Office in the early 1960s and later worked with Rayon Textile and Mulco Textile at Kimaka  at Jinja. He later moved to Oman and worked with Shell Petroleum. He is now retired and spends his life at Iganga and Oman
Mr.Ali Nasser Rashid al-Muharmi an Omani was one of the pioneers of Ivukula Cotton Ginnery early 1960s.
He was well respected and was involved in different departments of the Factory, handling the Cotton Purchase, Transport  Cotton used to come in from all over the county.
The finished cotton goods were transported to different railway stations at Kaliro, Busembatia and Iganga for export. The cotton seeds were sent to the Busembatia  Oil Pressing Machine for manufacture of cooking oil.
Both Well known Omani Quranic Teachers in Bugiri late Mualim Mohamed Ali al-Harooni and late Mualim Ali Fresh al-Shukery. They taught Qur’an to Omanis and others and they were well respected. Mualim Mohamed al-Harooni returned to Oman and was made Imam of the Masjid at the Ministry of Information at Qurum.
THIS IS LATE HILAL MOHAMED WITH HIS PRESTIGE CAR. HE IS ONE OF OLD RESIDENTS AND PIONEERS  OF IGANGA, UGANDA.
HE WAS WELL RESPECTED AND LOVED BY MANY YOUNG AND OLD, LOCALS AND FOREIGNERS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AT IGANGA. HE WAS HIMSELF A MECHANIC WAS INVOLVED IN TRUCK TRANSPORTATION BUSINESS.
OLD  PHOTO SHOWS OMANIS BUSINESSMEN AT Kaliro WITH LOCAL OFFICIALS  1960s

Despite the commendable Trans century relation between the two countries, there is no official Diplomatic relations between Uganda and Oman.

The Ugandan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia is currently overseeing all the Gulf countries, safe for Iran and UAE who have independent Embassies.

Recently however, the Sultanate of Oman proposed an ambassadorial appointment to Uganda and credentials presented to President Museveni, pending approval.

This is a move in the right direction, formalizing ties between the countries will be a relief to the many Ugandan migrant workers living in the Sultanate. It will also be good news to Ugandans of Oman origin living in Uganda.

With no direct diplomatic ties, trade figures between Uganda and Oman are scanty in terms of what the country exports, and imports to and from the sultanate.

Email: homelandnewspaper@gmail.com

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