Antique photo with three armed Omani men from Bagamoyo, in the middle we see Ismael the Wali of Windi

Armed Omani men Bagamoyo Ismael Wali Windi

Antique photo with three armed Omani men in Zanzibar East Africa wearing Saidi Khanjars and swords taken 1889 or earlier.

The photographer is unknown. Based on the  pencil inscription in German below the photo we conclude that the central figure most probably is Ismael the Liwali of Windi, an area close to Bagamoyo (on the East African coast) This Liwali was killed during the Arab uprising against the Germans in 1889 for details see ref 2


 Antique photo Zanzibar Omani


Who is who on the photo

Albumen photo of three Omani men in Zanzibar.  All men wear  official Saidi khanjars and the two men on the left wear also robes typically worn by Omani officials.  The word Ismael is below the man on the right, is he Ismael?, but his cloths are less posh than that of the men on the left.  Another image of this photo has been published full page on page 3 of reference 1 describing the Winterton Africana collection Album 73 item 38. Our photo, however, has an interesting inscription in German that translates "ISMAEL  Highly regarded rich Arabs from Bagamoyo" (Ismael Angesehene reiche Araber aus Bagamoyo).



Bagamoyo was the town on the coast of the mainland where caravans with ivory and slaves returned from the interior of East Africa. In 1889 still 1305 caravans with  41144 people passed the city. It became the capital of German East Africa.

The name Ismael possibly suggests the men may have been Omani Ismaili.  Ismaili have been reported to live in Bagamoyo since 1840. However there are different groups of Ismaili. The most famous Ismaili in Zanzibar was Tharia Thopan, of Indian origin, and a member of the group that paid tribute to the Aga Khan. However the Al Lawatia who have been living in Oman for centuries and working as important merchants in e.g. Muttrah and Zanzibar  are also Ismaili in origin, but they pay not , already since a long time, tribute to  the Aga Khan. Both groups are Shia moslims, while most Omani are Ibadhi (Sunni) moslims. More specifically the Lawatis converted during the 19th century to "twelver Shia Islam" from "Ismaili Shia Islam" .


1) This photo is also included in the Winterton collection Album 73 Reise Erinnerungen page 38 three Zanzibari officials in Omani dress

2) HGM Tullemans Pere Etienne Baur en d Arabische opstand van 1888-1889 Promotion Thesis 1982 2 volumes University of Nijmegen 

3) Land und Leute in Duetsch Ost Afrika 1890 Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos) This book does not contain the photo but it does contain a description of the Sultans irregular soldiers from around 1888 in the customs area of Zanzibar town page 4: "Sie haben weite gewander in matten abgetonten farben, phantastische turbannen auf dem kopf, und sind mit ein ganzen waffensammlung behangen. Da fuhren sie flinten lang wie blasrohre und reich mit silber beschlagen, zwei, drei krumme dolchen stecken in der leibbinde  dazu kommt ein pulverhorn offt aus silber und in scheneckenhausform gebildet, patronenkartuschen nach art der Tjerkessen (HvW: Circassians)  ein kleiner schildt aus nilpferdhaut, ein krummer Sabel oder ein gerades schwert mit dunner zitternder klinge. Oft stehen sie in gruppen beisammen, sehen uns mit funkelenden augen und spielen mit ihre waffen.


Youtube film of Bagamoyo area: