Historical biography of the Sheik Fareeds of Mauritius

In this historical biography of the Sheik Fareeds of Mauritius, I dived into the intricate and somber lives of my family, and ancestors. The Sheik Fareed was a family of merchant sailors who immigrated from Iran and the Middle Eastern regions in the early 1800s to the island of Mauritius then a colony of the British Empire. In this historical biography, I will chronologically write about my findings on Sheik Nassim Sheik Fareed and Fazila Bibi Sheik Fareed who both had visionary ideas for their time, and because of their struggles paved a brighter future.

Mauritius is a small island off the east coast of Africa, and in the 1800s-1980s had mostly an agricultural based economy, producing sugar and tea for Britain. The country is underdeveloped during British occupation with unfair conditions for Mauritians who despite being born in British ruled Mauritius are not entirely considered British citizens, similar to Indians in the British Raj. In 1968, because of sprouting nationalism movements of the Mauritian people, Mauritius declares independence from Britain while still remaining a Commonwealth nation. The 1980s will see the drastic emergence of textiles factories and hotels, Mauritius is on track to diversify its economy. In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II also referred to as the Queen of Mauritius, is removed as monarch and the Republic of Mauritius is declared with a President and a Prime Minister to democratically rule over the sovereign island nation, and all its territories.

For the sake of explanation, in our culture and tradition, religious marriage supersedes civil marriage, and as such many of the family members were religiously married in weeks long ceremony called the “Nika.” Eventually family members would get a civil marriage certificate when they had their first born, thus legitimizing their offspring and confirming their marital legitimacy. Secondly, everyone in the family is a Sheik. Sheik is the traditional and noble title that they brought with them from the Middle Eastern regions and when they settled in Mauritius the title remained and was passed down the generations to males, and then to both males and females born after the 1940s. Shahzaad Ausman is a Sheik through the lineage of his mother Sheik Amina Sheik Fareed.

The year is 1929, Sheik Younous Sheik Fareed and Sheik Ahbeeda Sheik Fareed tie the knot. They are first degree cousins, had an arranged marriage, and their parents not only believe in primogeniture but also believe that their money should stay within the family. At the time of their wedding, the Sheik Fareed own Bricks Ltd., an industrial stone manufacturing company, and a luxury retail store selling biscuits, chocolates, sweets, teas and sugar, called Carrs Ltd. They also own a lot of properties and land in the city, Port-Louis. Its October of 1937, Sheik Nassim Sheik Fareed is born. In 1940, Sheik Younous contracts a malignant form of malaria and dies as a result of the disease, leaving Ahbeeda and Sheik Djamil Sheik Fareed and Sheik Nassim Sheik Fareed as successors. Sheik Djamil, being the first-born son inherits the whole estate under the tutelage of Sheik Mahmode Sheik Fareed until the age of 18. Sheik Nassim inherits nothing and his brother Dr. Sheik Djamil Sheik Fareed, FRCP will later become the President of the World Health Organization for Africa, privy council of Queen Elizabeth II, counselor of the Minister of Health in Mauritius, and Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992, thus contrasting his wealth advantage over his brother who had to start from nothing and did not achieve an elitist position.

A push for individualism and against the patriarchy enlightens the younger generation of the family who feels cheated, controlled and insignificant. It’s the 1960s, Dr. Sheik Djamil Sheik Fareed is under pressure. A rebellious group of the family successfully pushes the patriarchy until they collapse. The Sheik Fareed’s business empire is scrambled into pieces and liquidated. Bricks Ltd. was the most profitable company they had at the time with contracts to build roads, building, and houses. This was the greatest loss for the Sheik Fareeds who because of inequality, lost an invaluable asset for pennies. Everyone got a share and leaves the ancestral home which marks a new era, and new opportunities for everyone. Sheik Nassim for solidarity to his brother refuses his share of the pie, which stays with his already very wealthy brother. The other members of the family will go to buy their own homes and start their own businesses, most will fail and lose all of their money. Sheik Amina Sheik Fareed was born in 1961, and Sheik Firdosh Sheik Fareed was born in November of 1963 in the British Crown of Mauritius. Sheik Nassim, was so disappointed that he did not have a son to carry the lineage and the family name, thus changing the momentum of the family dynamics, and giving his daughters the title of Sheik.

The first real and sole business endeavor begins in the 1970s. The family is broken and dispersed, and the Sheiks were seeking new opportunities for themselves. They decided to immigrate to the British capital, London which for the time is an extraordinary life-changing move. Sheik Amina and Sheik Firdosh are sent to a boarding school while Sheik Nassim goes to medical school. Fazila did not want to be a stay at home mother and worked at a toy factory, toys made out of wood. The idea came from her childhood at the sawmill of her family and stuck with her throughout time until she had the time and money to build this entrepreneurial enterprise. A first in the family and perceived as scandalous, a woman at work, a woman employer, and a woman to support her family. Fazila is determined, and also she has no choice because her husband is not bringing any income home anymore. She worked in London and trained 7 local women to make handmade wooden children’s toys. London’s business and production environment are booming together with civil right movements which have helped Fazila in her enterprise as a woman. The business is an instant success, the demand is high, and Fazila struggles to meet order deadlines. Nevertheless, Fazila perseveres despite all the odds, determined to succeed and prove everyone else that a woman can run a business in a man’s world. She successfully maintains the toy factory for about 8 years. The Sheiks abroad were feeling homesick and had a sentiment of guilt that their daughters did not have a regular Mauritian style upbringing and that it would be hard to find a suitable husband for them. Sheik Nassim had graduated from his school and the ties keeping them in London slowly but surely faded away. Fazila had to let go of the toy factory and they packed everything they had to move back to the island of Mauritius.

The year is 1981, the Sheiks are back to Mauritius a place they loved much but soon realize that while they were gone a lot had changed both in societal and economic norms. They were experiencing natal alienation. The island had transitioned from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy. Much effort and help were provided from the State to educate families and encourage them to open small businesses, and the majority of Mauritian youth were pursuing higher education. These local changes in behavior coupled with business expertise acquired by Fazila, overseas, and the fact that Sheik Nassim is a school graduate will create their new businesses. First, Sheik Nassim opened an import of medical cotton and syringes business. Then, Fazila opens a book, paper and stationery store called “Librairie Cardinale.”

First, Sheik Nassim partnered with Indian manufacturer “Sarabhai Chemicals Specialties” to import medical cotton and disposable syringes to Mauritius. A market that is unexploited as doctors and nurses are using washable bandages and glass syringes to treat patients. The idea of this business came from his brother Dr. Sheik Djamil who had been complaining of the lack of innovation in the medical field. Furthermore, Sheik Nassim wanted to innovate in the pharmacy sphere as he was a trained pharmacist by now. His intentions were to become the leading provider of medical consumables in Mauritius using the connections of his brother, Dr. Sheik Djamil. This is a clear example of how the Sheik Fareeds used to operate in the past, a cleverness that Sheik Nassim had forgotten during his years abroad but picked up right where he left to continue the same cycle that had caused they’re dismissed 20 years ago. Sheik Nassim bought the building where he will operate out of in the city of Port-Louis.

Second, Fazila was thinking of the future of her daughters and their access to job security. Knowing that Mauritius is corrupt and does favoritism when employing for Government jobs, Fazila’s idea is to start a bookstore, called “Librairie Cardinale.” The bookstore in incorporated in the last quarter of 1982, having secured a lease in the city of Rose Hill between 4 major secondary schools each of a student population of 5,000 students. Fazila’s bookstore was the smallest bookstore on the island and has a rent of about $35-50 monthly. Sheik Firdosh starts to work full time in the bookstore concurrently with Fazila who is there part-time. Fazila trains Sheik Firdosh in managing inventory, customer service, and accounting amongst others. Sheik Firdosh was extremely passionate about business and was learning very quickly, motivated to grow to multiple locations and into printing. In 1986, Sheik Firdosh pressured under the patriarchy, that had been recently revived, to marry decided to leave Mauritius in quest of her own fortune and moved to San Diego, California. Sheik Amina is forced to step in and starts the daily managerial activities of the bookstore under the supervision of Fazila. Sheik Amina was already married to Issoop at this time and they already had a  daughter, Ashmina, and they were expecting another child which they would name Shahzaad Ausman.

Sheik Amina just had her third child Suhaylah Ausman. Sheik Nassim’s business was very prolific and they expanded in the last 10 years to selling tablets, effervescent tablets, powders, injections, ointments, creams, and gels. Sheik Amina is not motivated to run the bookstore and the business plateaus with the average sale and no innovations. The Mauritian economy is booming, again. Infrastructure is a priority and buildings are popping everywhere. Villages are becoming cities and most rural areas are joining the cities, eliminating the once distinct rural and urban boundaries. Refer to GDP and Population growth graph to show drastic increases in both and also contrast with the CO2 emission graph to show an increase in production and transportation. Sheik Amina and Fazila seemed both very stressed by the lifestyle, and their frustration took a new form when Sheik Amina was diagnosed with cancer and Fazila was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

We entered the new year with the “Y 2000 bug”, and during the years 2000 to 2010 everything changed again. The bookstore had just entered a new era and was actively competing with large trendy self-service bookstores. Sales had significantly declined and the bookstore was barely making enough to remain afloat, yet because of its location remained open. The crime rate in Mauritius was climbing at an alarming rate. Most houses and businesses had impressive burglar bars and alarm systems installed. The declined sales and the health condition of Fazila were enough reason to convince them both to sell the bookstore. “Librairie Cardinale”, was liquidated and sold, thus ending an era of retail history in Mauritius. Sheik Amina and her family had already moved to Los Angeles, California. Fazila passed away in 2010 from her health complications. Sheik Nassim stepped away from his business in 2010 and then sold it in 2015 thus retiring. The end of an era of struggle, of passion, of innovation, of driven individuals in Mauritius and the start of an era of the same struggles, the same passion, the same innovation, and the same driven individuals started when we set foot in Los Angeles, California.

This is the historical biography of the Sheik Fareeds, who had positioned everything they had to succeed financially but omitted to factor happiness and life circumstances into the equation. Today, the name Sheik Fareed is nearly lost with only some distant cousins having the name. This is the story of a family who was very proud of their name and managed to keep it going for over 200 years until today’s ambiguity. Most Sheik Fareed are now all over the world, are under accomplished compared to their forefathers, mostly do not talk to each other. I never talk about raising capital to grow the various businesses in the paper because, at every step of each business, either Sheik Nassim or Fazila had the capital needed to start the business, luckily and conveniently. Sheik Nassim had access to capital through his mother who had access to capital through her other son Dr. Sheik Djamil. Also, they both did not want anyone else getting a foot in their businesses fearing they could lose control.

There definitely is a love and hate relationship with the story of the Sheik Fareed because at times it felt that they were doing good for the greater good of all the Sheik Fareed when in reality, some more dominant members, of the family were greedy and heartless that they could manipulate anyone into believing and granting them the self-imposed generational power that crippled many members at a later stage. The Sheiks lived through the fury and jealousy of Dr. Djamil Sheik Fareed but decided to take it with a pinch of salt and moved in a place where family control was not possible. In that new and free environment, London, they were able to grow and expand their minds necessary for all the enterprises that would follow once they returned to Mauritius. Empowered and independent they then established their own mark on Mauritian history and family history, outside of the shadow that they were both born into.

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