Updated 16 April 2015
Ismaili Muslims from Eastern and Southern Africa gathered in Mwanza, Tanzania for the 2015 Unity Games, which took place between 3–6 April.
6 April 2015 — Exhaustion from three days of intense sports competition couldn’t stop Unity Games participants from dancing until the early hours of Monday morning. Attendees of the closing ceremonies enjoyed many performances as well as each others’ company before returning to their homes.
Rai Riyaz Kassam, President of the Ismaili Council for Western Tanzania, addressed the crowd before the music began.
“For those who have been here for the first time, I hope you have enjoyed your stay in the Rock City,” he said to the 1 500 Jamati members. “At Unity Games Mwanza 2015, we have had a lot of fun and fare. We have made a lot of friends, enhanced our relationships within the community, and appreciated our brotherhood and sportsman spirit.”
Nairobi singers Sodi Singh and Shaynul Ramji highlighted captivating performances, which featured dancers performing the traditional Tanzanian Sindimba dance.
Trophies were presented for each sport’s winner with the loudest cheer going to the winners, as well as to team Dar es Salaam, who were runners up in men’s soccer. Other champions included Nairobi taking ladies’ soccer and sweeping table tennis, Dar for ladies’ rounders and under-17 soccer, and Kampala, who picked up the most badminton trophies.
Kisumu was recognised for being the newest region to enter the Unity Games, Mombasa for travelling farthest (30 hours), and Tabora for being the most spirited team.
A final announcement made by Asif Padamshi, Chair of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Kenya, drew cheers: the Unity Games 2017 will be held in Nairobi, Kenya.
5 April 2015 — Three women speak about returning to Mwanza after many years away.
Saida Jamal, 82, Dar es Salaam:
“I am originally from Pakistan, but I got married in 1958 and moved to Tanzania. The sports have been super. It’s so nice to see everyone come together for Games. My husband was born here but I never got a chance to visit Mwanza until now. The hospitality, the concern, the organisation has been fantastic — one of the best I have ever seen.”
Khatun Madhani, 80, Dar es Salaam:
“I am coming back to Mwanza after 40 years. At that time, this was a very small town, but things are different now. I have come from Dar es Salaam. When I came for the first time, I was coming from Nairobi, where I grew up. We did not spend so much time here then. That time I came only for a day for specific Council work. Now I am coming on holiday, and it’s so great. People here have been so very friendly. I am really enjoying myself and plan to come back soon. I will not wait 40 years this time.”
Parviz Charania, 60, Nairobi:
“I was originally from here and moved to Kenya many years ago. It has been so nice to come back and to meet old friends and make new ones. Well done to the team here.”
4 April 2015 — While Unity Games spectators took a break from sports, many enjoyed tours of the surrounding areas.
Some enjoyed boat rides on Lake Victoria, while others took guided tours around the town of Mwanza including a visit to the historic Bismark Rock.
A day trip to the world-famous Serengeti National Park, an hour outside Mwanza, gave lucky Jamati members a chance to see the wild animals Africa is famous for. The tourists had more adventure than they expected when relentless rains caused some of the four-wheelers to get stuck.
Don’t worry - everyone arrived home safely.
4 April 2015 —A plethora of talents was showcased by young and young at heart Ismailis at the Unity Games talent show on Friday night. Memorable performances included a classical Indian meets Flamenco dance and a human pyramid built by scouts.
The event, full of energy and colour, had all the audience riveted. Forty items — including dance, singing, skits, instrumentals, skating, and poetry reading — enthralled over 1 000 audience members. After a tiring yet fun day of sports, attendees found themselves energized again. A special performance by Tajik students from Dushanbe had the audience nearly in tears.
At the Unity Games Mwanza, the Jamat's differing backgrounds and skills proved diversity can be a strength when celebrated, and a joy to behold.
3 April 2015 — The Unity Games 2015 Mwanza kicked off with over 1 500 Ismailis coming together from five nations, including hosts Tanzania, as well as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Despite long journeys and late night arrivals, the attendees brought plenty of energy with them.
The Jamat was warmly welcomed by MCs Suad Altaf Hirani and Rahim Jivraj. Kenya’s Aga Khan band led the processional march, playing the Tanzanian national anthem and the Ismaili anthem, in a performance that touched everyone’s hearts.
Representatives from each participating area followed the band into the launch grounds, parading their banners and waving to the audience. Things got wild when paraders dressed as a lion, leopard, giraffe, zebra and several monkeys from the Serengeti National Park joined the procession.
Aitmadi Jehangir Bhaloo, President for Ismaili Council for Tanzania, welcomed the guests, praising attendees for making the 2015 games the largest to date in terms of participation numbers.
“Let friendships extend beyond the Games and may this gathering increase the spirit of brotherhood and friendship between our Jamats,” said the President. He officially opened the Games with the lighting of the torch.
The ceremony ended with Shemina Fayaz Bhojani and Jamil Khakoo performing Sindimba, the Games’ theme song, while balloons were released into the air.
2 April 2015 — “Are we there yet?” ask the children in the bus. Despite their fatigue, they smile, clap and shout in excitement as soon as Mwanza Jamatkhana comes into view.
Bus after bus is lined up at the entrance of the majestic Jamatkhana, as participants and spectators from all over East Africa arrive for the largest Ismaili sports tournament in the region — the bi-annual Unity Games.
Participants and spectators from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda joined together to travel to Mwanza. Many of the buses journeyed for up to 20 hours before arriving to a warm Tanzanian welcome in the middle of the night.
Team Kenya’s contingent of over 300 people aged between 1 and 84 is the largest the country has sent to the Games in years. Travelling from Eldoret, Kisii, Kisumu, Mombasa, and Nairobi through the early morning hours, Jamati members kept their spirits up throughout the drive, filling the buses with singing and laughter.
In Kisii, the small town Jamat fed everyone a breakfast consisting of everything from the jalebi and gathia to eggs and sausages. Before the sports had even started, bonds were forming in the true spirit of the Games.
2 April 2015 — On Thursday, Mwanza welcomed Jamati members from all over Tanzania as well as Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to participate in the four-day Unity Games sports tournament.
Sports enthusiasts from all over the region will compete in cricket, soccer, rounders, throwball, table tennis, badminton, darts and swimming.
The historic Mwanza Jamatkhana, which will serve as the hub for registration all social activities during the Games, welcomed the arrivals with a sumptuous meal followed by dandia-raas.
The Mwanza volunteer team, assisted by the greater-Tanzanian teams, ensured all Jamati members were settled in at their accommodation spaces. Despite the heavy rain hampering some efforts, volunteers worked through the night with little sleep, while still managing to keep smiles on their faces.
Apart from playing sports and cheering on their teams, attendees will enjoy a variety of organised activities. These include a talent show, a mela and a career counseling seminar. For those who want to explore the area, day trips have been planned to the Serengeti and to Lake Victoria.