fame and reputation made him one of
the most sought after Hunters in Africa
-- Ikram Hassan died recently at the age of 73.
For many of the mourners
present at the simple ceremony in Mombasa they were attending the
burial of an elderly cleric of the Faith, one who had served his
community well and faithfully for many years.
For those who knew him
better, Ikram was ever more than that.
He was also Big Game
Hunter extraordinary, a scholar to the end of his days and one of
natures rare gentlemen.
It is a moving story
that needs to be told.
Ikram was born into an
educational Muslim family in Kenya in 1918, at the end of the First
His father Dr. S.G.
Hassan rose to be the Provincial Vetnary Officer of the Coast and held
the post with distinction for many years till his retirement in 1952.
Ikram's brother the Late
Fez Hassan was a well known lawyer in Mombasa and an avid collector of
rare books of Africana.
- - Ikram Hassan was a Big Game Hunter extraordinary.
Nurtured in this
atmosphere of learning and respectability the young Ikram tried to
study Law and then Vetnary sciences only to give up both as not quite
to his likings.
But the disciplines of
learning gave him a lifelong addiction to reading and his fund of
general knowledge was truly impressive.
Somewhere in the late
forties when the world was changing as fast as it is again today,
Ikram found his African Hunting Safaris: a company for Big Game
Hunting aimed mainly at the lucrative American Market.
In those days, this was
the preserve of White Hunters - an intrepid breed of professionals
renowned for their courage, hunting skills and personal extravagances,
all celebrated in Hemingways novels and romantisiced in Hollywood
It looked like a
But after the first few
years of struggle, Ikram found this nitch.
His safaris were
meticulously planned, his knowledge of the country-side second to none
and his personal charisma, quite unique.
Ikram hid his steel
under a modest, shy and gentle exterior.
He became an instant
success with those who went with him.
By the early sixties
when Kenya was racing towards Uhuru, Ikram’s fame and reputation had
made him one of the most sought after Hunters in Africa.
His clients included
Presidents of famous American corporations and wealthy, self-made men
for whom the adventure and the man leading it were as important as the
elusive trophy itself.
There were always two
sides to this idyllic, overblown “Holiday”.
First, the hunters camp
pitched in the magical African night with its campfires, its green
tents and the faraway cough of a lion hunting its prey in the heart of
Then, the next day with
its long dusty drives, the walk through heavy thorn bush with
camaflough all round where East, West, North and South all look the
same and then, quite suddenly, the moment itself: that split second
when man sees death in the form of a charging lion, a marauding
buffalo or the snarling visage of a leopard just feet away.
A revelation of some
kind can take place.
Some call it die moment
To have gone through
such an experience was to venerate the man who had brought them to it
and then taken them out alive and well.
Ikram Hassan, the brown
hunter, was up there among the finest of such men.
Leo Rothe, a frequent
client wrote about Ikram in a book of African adventures calling him
“A legend in his life time”.
In his heyday lkram was
a handsome, tall, scholarly looking man who discoursed as easily about
Big Game, Guns and Trackers as he did about Religion and Politics.
Since Adventure was a
way of life, he walked continually with death and danger. Inevitably
he had a number of close shaves himself, almost always resulting from
a client's over-eagerness to “bag his trophy”.
There was the memorable
incident with a wounded buffalo.
The animal had rushed
off into deep bush.
The client was told of
the dangers that now loomed just ahead and advised to stay behind.
There was no time for
The buffalo had to be
flushed out. In single file then, the tracker, Ikram and the client
followed the bloodspoor.
The buffalo, perfectly
camafloughed lurked closer than they thought.
It burst upon them,
huge, mad with rage and intent on revenge.
The client fired, missed
and took over.
The unarmed tracker
The enraged animal
caught Ikram and tossed him into the air.
Miraculously he slipped
off its horns and fell wounded to one side as the buffalo, confused by
a torn coat sleeve blocking its vision pawed the earth bellowing with
Somehow in that instant
the tracker handed back the fallen gun to Ikram and it all ended in a
thunderclap as the shot found its mark.
The murderous looking
horns made a fine trophy.
Hunting in Kenya was
always strictly controlled and heavily licenced, bringing in its fair
share of foreign exchange.
As his fame spread,
Ikram was asked to conduct safaris in the Sudan, Ethiopia and the
jungles of India.
But when the ban on
hunting came to Kenya in 1979, he hung up his guns.
A unique way of life had
ended and for many an era was over.
After his retirement
from hunting safaris, lkram looked at the prospect of converting big
ranches into minigame parks.
He and Leo Rothe hit on
the idea of attracting Game to a small natural salt lake in Taita.
This was how the
Saltlick Lodge in Taita was really born from an idea nurtured by Ikram.
Not being a businessman
the opportunity passed him by.
Others, more savvy in
the ways of corporate finance and development turned it info the huge
success that it is today.
Ikram moved on.
With his sense of
fairplay and natural friendliness, he got involved in social work and
put into this, the same zest, honesty and good humour that he had into
everything else in his life.
As the hunters image
slipped from him that of the cleric and social worker took hold.
A characteristic Muslim
cap replaced the hunters hat.
But the lean, striding
figure was the same and instantly recognisable from a distance.
In their big
country-house in Mombasa, life went on as it always had. Friends would
come in and out.
The kitchen never
stopped serving Lights remained on till the small hours of the morning
and, till recently, the front door remained barely closed in an area
where most neighbours now have iron grill and dozing watchmen at their
When the telephone rang,
it could as well be from town as from someone thousands of miles away
simply wanting to inquire after an old friend.
When death came it was
swift and unexpected from a stomach ailment.
The day before he had
been winning at cards with his wife. Ikram's memory lives on and will
be cherished forever in those who know this fine Kenyan gentleman.
Ikram-ul Hassan was perpetual
Chairman of the Muslim Association
- - The Muslim Association of
Mombasa announces with profound sorrow and grief the sudden death of
the Chairman of the Association Syed lkram-ul Hassan which took place
on Monday September 16, 1991.
He was buried the same
day at 5.00 p.m. at the Muslim Cementary.
The burial was well
attended by various Muslim and non-Muslim dignatories amongst them
being His Worship the Mayor of Mombasa Sheikh Ahmed Mwidani and the
Chief Kadhi of Kenya Sheikh Nassor-el Nahdy.
The burial ceremony was
conducted by the Kadhi of Mombasa Sheikh Ali Mwinzagau.
Earlier the coffin was
moved from his residence in Tudor to Sakina Mosque for the
Namaz-e-Janaza which was conducted by the Imam of the Sakina Mosque
Syed Ikram-ul Hassan
aged 73 years was the perpetual Chairman of the Association for the
past 14 years and successfully served the Association from various
problems and made the Association’s work his life partner.
- - Syed lkram-ul Hassan as Chairman of the Muslim
Association of Mombasa.
He was a white hunter by
the profession and retired from his business when the Government of
Kenya banned hunting in Kenya.
He had earlier presided
over the Maulid-un Nabi SAW rehearsal programme and duly approved the
programme for the forthcoming celebration to mark the birthday of holy
Prophet Muhammad SAW.
His death has robbed the
Muslim Community of an upright, courageous and exemplanary personality
who was always at the forefront for the welfare of the Muslim
He leaves behind his
widow Dr Bilquis Hassan and a sister to whom the Association extends
its most sincere condolences. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.
Muslim Association of Mombasa.