The Famous Gujurati Trader’s Palace in Barawa – Tharia Topan

Written by Zakaria al Showki

It is one of the most famous monumental buildings in Banadir and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the city of Barawa. It was built by the wealthy Indian trader Tharia Topan of Zanzibar, dating back to the reign of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and most likely during the reign of Sultan Barghash bin Sa’id (1870-1888).

Some sources state that Tharia Topan had a monopoly on all Banadir trade in that period, to and from India. He also had agents in each of the major Banadir cities. According to the Banadir court records, for example in Mogadishu, he had an agent named Awad bin Rajab and in Barawa a man named Ali bin Murad al-Hindi.

Architectural description of the palace

Tharia’s Palace is seen to be combination of both Arabian and Indian style architecture, as seen in many coastal buildings in Arabia and South Asia. When constructing this building, Tharia ensured to preserve the identity and appearance of what comprises the Banadir culture. The building today that was once a palace is designed in a style inspired by Banadir architecture, incorporating Indian elements while maintaining the overall format and essence of the original structure. The palace from the outside is medium in size, it does not exceed two floors and includes a beautiful and well-ventilated central room, no matter how hot the air is outside in the scorching noon hours, you can enjoy the fresh breeze inside, the residence contained large rooms specially equipped for offices, and a balcony overlooking the main square, and it was surrounded by palm trees and next to it an old mosque called Sarmad, an anciet mosque that is counted centuries old.

Location

The palace is located in the Biruni area, near the market and the seat of the court built by the Italian resident Mamini. In addition, on the ground floor there were military guard rooms and weapons and ammunition depots. From the high terrace of the building, you can see the sea with admiration with its endless stretch. At that time, the sand dunes and the coast together formed an exceptional natural painting, the coast, which descends towards the north and south, blends with the horizon to make it look like a piece of art with the feather of nature.

Owners since Thoria Topan

Since its construction, the building has been in several different hands, starting with its main owner, Thoria Topan, mentioned above, then to the wealthy merchant Sharif Abraar, and then to a man from the Arabs of Banadir named Aboud bin Musa’ad from the Umar Ba Umar tribe. The building was finally purchased by the prominent Banadiri family of Al-Siddiqi, the Al-Tahara family.

Written by Zakaria al Showki

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